4-Bay desktop NAS are the most sought after NAS servers on the market, based on being the ideal size for many home, small and medium size businesses. Their small footprint has no impact on the stunning features and specification these small NASes can pack. It is quite stunning that we couldn’t pinpoint any major deficiencies or lack in features.
Qnap and Synology have always been in the forefront to offer the most comprehensive range of desktop 4-Bay appliances. In this review, we pitch two of their most prominent models against each other and reveal their pros and cons to help you make the right buying decision.
As well as serving and managing files centrally, these NAS devices are well endowed to handle a broad range of business applications, and for the professional home user, a vast array of multimedia applications. We suggest you get the best specified unit that your money can buy.
Synology’s DS920+ is powered by a quad-core 2GHz Intel Celeron J4125 CPU with a variance of 4GB and 8GB (DDR4 non-ECC) grade memory. The maximum upgrade is 8GB as that is what the CPU and Chipset supports, 2 Slots to feature a maximum of 8GB (2 x 4GB). The CPU is a new variance in the Intel armor, and the performance is not half bad. The unit replaces the DS918+, which featured the Intel Atom C3538 quad-core, so it’s a decent jump up.
Qnap’s TS-453D is powered with the same processor as the DS920+ with options of both 4GB and 8GB memory, same Intel chipset restriction applies- maximum memory supported is 8GB (SO-DIMM DDR4).
Priced from $579
Priced from $549.99
Both the DS920+ and the TS-453D offer support for SATA LFF and SFF hard disk and SSDs. In that sense, these are just standard and expected. The compatibility list provided by both vendors for supporting HDDs and SSDs is good, but the downside for Synology is the lack of support for many of the Enterprise drives that are available. Seagate’s popular Exos drives are listed from 2TB up to 8TB, not sure what happens after that. Maybe an omission that may be corrected at a later date? Best to check the compatibility list before buying.
The QNAP TS-453D, on the other hand, is admirably supported on NAS, Enterprise, and Surveillance HDD’s as well as SSD’s. One of the fastest configurations we have used has been with 16TB Seagate Exos drives, which is sadly lacking from the Synology DS920+ support.
The DS920+ does have an ace in the hole though, as its motherboard offers a pair of M.2 SSD slots which support 2280 length NVMe or SATA cards. M.2 NVMe devices offer far greater performance than SATA devices and make the DS920+ a great choice if you are running I/O intensive apps as they can be used as a high-speed cache. They are sadly missing in the QNAP but their QM2 expansion cards can remedy that situation at a cost, however, that is above and over what you pay for the initial system.
With the advent of data being constantly on the increase and the need to pass that data quickly, it is important that any NAS must be able to handle what you have today and expand to handle the increased traffic for the future. For businesses, increasing the number of users for file sharing may create a bottleneck and to be able to pop in an expansion card to accelerate both bandwidth and performance maybe be the ideal solution.
The QNAP TS-453D is supplied with 2 x 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet Ports (2.5G/1G/100M) allowing for up to 5 Gbps transfer speeds with port trunking the two built-in 2.5GbE ports. With the new-gen Wi-Fi 6 demanding higher bandwidth this is an ideal platform for increasing bandwidth.
The TS-453D also sports a single PCIe expansion port that can be used to house a Multi-Gig 10GbE or 5GbE network card, or a QM2 card to add M.2 NVMe or SATA SSDs for caching. That would truly sum up the future performance that can be had from the TS-453D.
The Synology DS920+ has a pair of RJ-45 1GbE LAN Ports with Link Aggregation / Failover support to provide for connectivity, and alas there is not a provision for any expansion slots, so adding internally is not possible.
The DS920+ does have 2 x M.2 Drive Slots to provide for M.2 2280 NVMe SSDs. That in turn, would help to increase performance substantially for caching purposes.
Both manufacturers provide for increasing capacity and volumes by adding various expansion units that are offered anywhere from 4-bay for Synology, right up to 16-bays for QNAP.
We do recommend not being hung-up on just hardware, it’s not the be-all and end-all for selection criteria. Software, along with Storage, is an integral part of choosing the best NAS for your needs. It’s fair to say that QNAP and Synology are miles ahead of the competition as their respective QTS (Qnap Turbo Station) and DSM (DiskStation Manager) operating systems are jam packed with a tremendous plethora of features and apps.
The list is insurmountable to mention in a single session. So, maybe we just cover the most important and frequently used by all users.
First up is Synology’s Active Backup Suite which offers apps for securing servers, workstations and virtualized environments plus G Suite and Office 365.
Along with server and workstation protection, the Active Backup for Business (ABB) app offers agent-less backup for VMware vCentre and ESXi hypervisors. The latest version brings Hyper-V into the mix as it can protect virtual machines (VMs) created on Windows Server 2016/2019 hosts and the best aspect is the entire suite is free.
QNAP is our pick for virtualization duties as its Virtualization Station can host just about any OS you want and it links up with the Network & Virtual Switch app allowing VMs to be isolated on selected ports. More options are provided as QNAP’s Linux Station can run Ubuntu alongside QTS while the Container Station supports LXC and Docker apps in lightweight containers.
Synology gets our vote for video surveillance as its Surveillance Station app has consistently been a standard setter. It supports over 7,000 IP camera models, its recording features are unsurpassed and it can even receive live video feeds from iOS and Android mobile devices.
QNAP is a great choice if you want to bring cloud storage into the network equation. QTS can boost performance as the HybridMount app allows you to mount storage from a range of cloud providers as NAS shares and assign a local cache to them.
The Qnap VJBOD Cloud add-in snaps into the Storage & Snapshots app and allows cloud storage from providers including Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure to be presented as block-based NAS, iSCSI or Fibre Channel volumes and have SSD caching assigned to them.
Other standout business apps include Qnap’s Hybrid Backup Sync (HBS) 3 app for automated data backup and deduplication, Synology’s smart Security Advisor for keeping your NAS secure and Qnap’s Qtier 2 for migrating data blocks between HDD and SSD storage pool tiers based on usage.
QNAP has come a long way since the their launch in 2005 – Synology were firm favorites for many years in the software section, and even today Synology still excels in some parts, but QNAP has come a long way, and may even edge out Synology in the business arena. QNAP seems to always be a arm and a length ahead of Synology with their hardware, at every level. Consider both at all times as these are the two leaders within the Home and SMB sectors.
Both units are more than capable with very little to set them apart. Your choice will come down to what you want to do with it and for that we have tried to provide a clear software section. As for hardware, QNAP is well ahead, with many attributes that are simply missing from the DS920+. Now if these attributes are important to you, then the QNAP TS-453D will be your choice of storage.
In performance testing we found both units too close to call. The DS920+ with 256GB M.2 NVMe installed and the QNAP with no NVMe performed as expected on the 1GbE network. Add the NVMe card and SSD’s in the QNAP, then you are looking at a decent jump over the DS920+ and even more so if you charge up the 2.5GbE ports. Warranties provided are alike so no difference there.
So, its down to what you want to spend and whether you want a fully-fledged NAS loaded with all the bells and whistles, the QNAP TS-453D, or just a NAS with NVMe installed, the DS920+, and what software best suits your needs. These choices will drive your ultimate decision of what to buy.
While there may not seem to be much separating these NAS, we feel that the specifications and performance of the TS-453D slightly edges out the DS920+ to be the better choice of the two.
The Ideal Choice if you wanted 2.5GbE ports and require more bandwidth, require to expand in the future with a PCIe slot, and need support for larger Enterprise drives.
Perfect to install NVMe M.2 and get going, no fuss of upgrades, decent software and not half bad in performance – the no nonsense 4bay NAS.