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Synology DS213j Your Own Cloud Entertainment Starts Here

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Synology sent us a couple of two-bay network boxes, a sample of the very many on offer from a company which specialises in this area.

There seem to be several variations of the DS213, with the DS213j being the lowestcost version. It is distinguished by having a lesser processor and lacks such features as hot swapping of disks or the ability to be expanded to additional boxes. Nonetheless it still features the security of RAID 1, and it’s a bit prettier than usual, in a nice white box. And internally it can support two 4TB drives.

Synology DS213j in a nice white box

Oddly Synology provided the review unit — remember, you normally purchase them empty of disks — with just one hard drive installed. And, almost incredibly, it was just an 80GB drive. I didn’t realise you could still get those. Anyway, that meant that it wouldn't accommodate my full 118.8LB load of tracks. So I left out about three quarters of the FLAC tracks for this test, bringing the load down to 49.3GB. File transfers seem to be faster with fewer big files rather than many smaller files, so this likely under-represents the speed a little. Nonetheless it managed this in 17 minutes and 33 seconds for an impressive speed of 47.9MBps.

File transfers seem to be faster with fewer big files rather than many smaller files, so this likely under-represents the speed a little

In this field there is some tension between ease of use and power. This system leans towards the latter. The media server is not pre-installed. But installing it is easy and takes only a moment (it’s downloaded from the internet by the unit). And once I’d done that, I had to go to the Media Indexing Service and tell it where I’d put the music. Once I’d done that it started indexing it all to create the necessary lists.

So a little more fuss than with some. But what you get as a trade-off is exceptional control over the thing. You can set whether it serves up cover art in low or high resolution, and whether it converts FLAC or AAC on the fly to some other format if your client can’t cope with them. Indeed, you can even choose what menu items it presents. Choose the fuller menus and you have can have 14 options, including composer and year. For accessing your music, this is simply brilliant.

It also organised albums in track number order, regardless of file name.

When I tested the transcoding it chose WAV (rather than MP3) as the format, so full quality was preserved, yet the track information and cover art was still dutifully conveyed. This converted for all clients, though, regardless of their ability to read FLAC natively. If you are mostly listening using a FLAC-capable client (of which there are many these days) then switching off conversion will reduce network load. One other nice thing — you can choose which folders the media player serves up, so if you’re using back-up software that simply mirrors content from a computer onto the network drive, it need not be indexed.

Connections: 1 x LAN (Gigabit), 1 x USB 2.0

 

Synology DS213j

Price: $235 + drive/s

·         Firmware when tested: DSM4.2-3236

·         Music access options: Configurable, the maximum list being By Folder, All Music, Playlist, Smart Playlist, By Artist, By Genre, By Album, Artist\Album, By Album Artists, Genre\Artist\Album, Genre\ Artist, Composer\Album, Year\Artist\Album, Recently Added

·         Connections: 1 x LAN (Gigabit), 1 x USB 2.0

·         Dimensions (MM): 100w x 165h x 226d

·         Weight: 0.91kg (plus drives)

·         Warranty: Two years

 

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