2-bay NAS systems tested

A NAS can fulfill many functions in the network. You can use it as a backup solution, to stream photos and videos, to host a virtual machine or to build your own cloud with global access to your own documents. The nas with two discs is considered the ideal entry-level because of its price. What do these devices offer and what is the right choice?

What is the best 2-bay nas?

  • Synology DS218+
  • QNAP TS-251B
  • Asustor AS3102T v2
  • QNAP TS-228A
  • Synology DS218play
  • QNAP TS-253Be
  • Asustor AS1002T v2
  • Synology DS218j
  • WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra
  • Asustor AS4002T

The question “which nas should I buy?” is easier said than answered. The choice depends on many factors that the buyer must also weigh individually. It becomes even more difficult if you want to take into account not only your current use but also your future use. A function that you don't know yet or don't think you will use, you may be shy about tomorrow. Sometimes you can just add that function yourself, but not all NAS brands are equally generous with it and, moreover, certain functions are not always available for all models of a brand.

Hardware, OS, packages and apps

A NAS is a close combination of hardware and software. If you decide for a PC which operating system you install and which applications you use, you don't have that freedom with a NAS. The manufacturer determines the operating system, the available applications (apps, packages) and even which apps for your smartphone and tablet you can use in combination with its nas. It is therefore not wise to only pay attention to the hardware specifications of the NAS when purchasing, but it is also not wise to only pay attention to the available software. The basis of the functionality of the NAS is the operating system. And while Asustor ADM, QNAP QTS, and Synology DSM are very similar, there are some differences. We rate DSM from Synology as the most complete and user-friendly NAS operating system, followed by QTS and then ADM. Cloud OS from Western Digital is very user-friendly, but offers little extra functionality. Handy for those who want a NAS for backup and simple tasks, less suitable for those who want more than that.

Not really green

The realization that we should pay more attention to the environment and specifically to the use of plastic does not seem to have really dawned on the NAS manufacturers. An orange environmental container is not a superfluous luxury in a test like this, because the number of useless plastics and stickers is enormous. Power cables are without exception in a bag, just like the LAN cable that is usually folded too tightly for reliable use. Each power supply is wrapped in plastic and QNAP even 'protects' the hard drive trays with foil from scratches, while they disappear behind the door of the NAS after installation.

ARM or Intel

An important difference within all models is the use of an ARM or Intel processor. ARM is often more energy efficient, where Intel offers slightly more computing power. Intel processors almost all offer hardware transcoding of movies so that they can be streamed to a smartphone or tablet in an optimized format. Most ARM processors can't do this, but the first exceptions are the Realtek RTD1295 and the slightly newer RTD1296 found in the QNAP TS-228A and the Synology DS218play. These are 64-bit ARM processors that can play and transcode 4K media. Functions for which you really need an Intel processor are mainly virtualization (with the exception of Docker) and the use of the NAS as a media player via a monitor connected to an HDMI port (as some models from QNAP and Asustor can).

Apps vs Apps

Functions such as document sharing and user creation are included in every NAS operating system. You have to add advanced functions, such as synchronization with OneDrive or Google Drive, a download server or virtualization yourself by installing an app or package. Some of these are available on all brands and of comparable quality, but that is not always the case. You can gain insight into the available extensions for a particular model of NAS by viewing the downloads for that model on the manufacturer's website. It is more difficult to compare extensions, because that actually requires access to a NAS from that brand. The differences can be quite large. For example, the Acronis package with QNAP provides backup for smartphones and tablets, while the one with Western Digital only adds a link to the Acronis webshop. And where the Docker apps from Synology and QNAP help you download a container, Asustor lacks that convenience.

Disk Configurations

To protect the data on the NAS from the failure of the storage in the NAS, it is recommended to configure the two disks in a RAID1. Each file is then written to both disks in the NAS, so that if one of the two fails, you still have your files at your disposal. This may cost half of the total storage, but it does provide security. If you don't need RAID1, you can choose two separate disks: JBOD, where the storage is merged, or RAID0, where the merging is optimized for speed. Each configuration has its own advantages, the risk of losing data when a drive fails is common to all.

Asustor AS1002T v2

The AS1002T v2 is the cheapest NAS in the test. Despite the low price, it offers ample functionality. Although the operating system is slightly less powerful and extensive than that of Synology and QNAP, it certainly offers the novice user more peace of mind. Compared to the previous AS1002T, this v2 is equipped with a slightly faster processor and a USB 3.1 port, otherwise the specifications have remained unchanged. The 512 MB RAM is sufficient for most tasks, as long as they are not all run at once and with only a limited number of users. Hardware transcoding and virtualization are missing. The AS1002T v2 is an ideal entry-level device that stands up to the comparison with the Synology DS218j, with more apps that are sometimes a little less beautiful. You can build your own cloud in no time.

Asustor AS1002T v2

Price

€ 159,–

Website

www.asustor.com/en/ 6 Score 60

  • Pros
  • Price
  • Own cloud
  • Cloud Sync
  • Mobile apps
  • Negatives
  • Back power button
  • No hardware transcoding
  • No virtualization

Asustor AS3102T v2

This is also an update of the previous model with a slightly faster processor and a second network port, 2GB RAM and multiple USB 3.0 ports on the front and back. The Intel Celeron processor has an internal HD Graphics 400 graphics processor with which you can directly display TV or movies via the HDMI port or surf the web or watch Netflix via Asustor Portal. The hardware transcoding comes into its own in combination with, for example, the Plex Mediaserver. Backing up, sharing files and folders or setting up your own cloud is quickly arranged. A number of third-party apps are often slightly less beautifully maintained than with QNAP and Synology. Linux Center allows you to use the nas as a Linux PC with Debian 8 installed.

Asustor AS3102T v2

Price

€ 229,–

Website

www.asustor.com/en/ 8 Score 80

  • Pros
  • transcoding
  • Media functionality
  • Virtualization
  • Cloud Sync
  • Mobile apps
  • Negatives
  • Back power button

Not always cheaper

While a 2-bay NAS costs less than a model with four or more drives, the 2-bay version isn't always the cheapest solution. This is due to the hard drives that you have to buy separately. In order to protect the data on the NAS, a 2-bay NAS means that you are locked into RAID1, and that technique halves the storage capacity. Two 10 TB drives do not provide 20 TB but only 10 TB of storage space. If you buy a more expensive 4-bay NAS, you can use smaller drives that leave relatively more storage capacity. Four 4 TB drives provide 12 TB of storage capacity and are 180 euros cheaper together, which is less than the price difference between the Synology DS218j and DS418j.

Asustor AS4002T

The AS4002T has three network ports, one of which is 10 gigabit. To make full use of this, you need at least a 10 gigabit switch and a second device with such a super-fast connection, and that is certainly not yet standard in the home network. If that's all there is to it, then you can achieve speeds well above 300 MB/s with this AS4002T. The AS4002T is equipped with a Marvell Armada 7020 ARM processor and 2 GB of RAM, which is sufficient for most applications. Transcoding is missing, as is the lack of an HDMI port the possibility of use as a standalone media player, Linux machine or Asustor Portal. That makes this NAS especially interesting for fast backups and the central storage of really large files.

Asustor AS4002T

Price

€ 279,–

Website

www.asustor.com/en/ 6 Score 60

  • Pros
  • 10Gbit/s network connection
  • 3 network connections
  • Negatives
  • No hardware transcoding
  • No virtualization

QNAP TS-228A

With its sleek white housing, the TS-228A is nothing like the other devices in this test. Nevertheless, it is a real NAS thanks to the 64-bit Realtek RTD1295 processor and 2 GB of ram. It is striking, however, that the 4K transcoding that this processor offers on paper, does not work on the TS-228A. The reason lies with QNAP, it has not implemented this feature, as it has prioritized supporting snapshots: backups of all storage on the NAS that you can always return to after a disaster. It is probably a marketing choice not to let this budget NAS compete too much with the more expensive models, and that is a shame, because otherwise the TS-228A is fine. QNAP's QTS operating system has been expanded, but still has some rough edges, such as untranslated parts and windows that cannot always be made full screen, so that important options and system information are not immediately visible.

QNAP TS-228A

Price

€ 174,–

Website

www.qnap.com/nl-nl/ 8 Score 80

  • Pros
  • Price
  • Software
  • apps
  • Negatives
  • Window management
  • No virtualization
  • No 4K transcoding

QNAP TS-251B

Where QNAP often stands out with high-quality housings, this plastic TS-251B is a bit disappointing. Fortunately, the content makes up for it, because the Intel Celeron, together with the no less than 4 GB of ram, is an excellent basis for a versatile NAS. Highlights are the 4K transcoding, the audio input and output, the HDMI port and the PCIe expansion slot that fits, for example, a 10Gbit network card or SSD cache. Even without these reinforcements, the TS-251B can be used for virtualization, as a standalone media player, as a Plex Server or for the many other tasks that can be added to the configuration as an app: surveillance station, cloud synchronization with all major storage services and much more. more. The TS-251B leaves little to be desired, except for a different appearance. There is also a TS-251B with 2 GB of ram, but given the many applications that is not a sensible saving.

QNAP TS-251B

Price

€ 368,76

Website

www.qnap.com/nl-nl/ 10 Score 100

  • Pros
  • Hardware
  • transcoding
  • PCIe slot
  • apps
  • Negatives
  • Price
  • Ease of use
  • Window management

QNAP TS-253Be

The QNAP TS-253Be is the plus version of the TS-251B in many respects. For example, the TS-253Be has a slightly faster processor but as much memory, more network ports but as many USB ports, the same audio input and output, but two HDMI outputs instead of one. We cannot immediately find a justification for each of these extras for the average Computer!Total reader, because the TS-251B already left little to be desired. However, the TS-253Be allows more versatile simultaneous use, you can control a TV via one HDMI port and in the meantime just run a virtual machine or the Hybrid Station on the other, with which you can surf the web on a directly connected monitor or can use different applications. For all QNAPs, the range of apps and packages is very extensive and the mobile apps for smartphone and tablet are well taken care of. There is also a 2GB version for the TS-253Be, but that does not seem a sensible choice here either.

QNAP TS-253Be

Price

€ 456,55

Website

www.qnap.com/nl-nl/ 8 Score 80

  • Pros
  • Hardware
  • transcoding
  • PCIe slot
  • apps
  • Negatives
  • Price
  • Ease of use
  • Window management

Live demo web interface

If you want to gain experience with the NAS operating system before purchasing, use one of these live demos. There is no known Live Demo from Western Digital.

Synology

QNAP

Asustor

Synology DS218j

The DS218j is Synology's budget NAS. This is evident from the Marvel Armada 385 ARM processor without transcoding, the very limited number of ports and only 512 MB of ram. Not a NAS that you can tax very heavily, but it is one with a Synology DSM and everything that goes with it in packages and very useful apps for your smartphone and tablet. The DS218j is especially suitable for storing and sharing files, setting up your own cloud or using it as a download or surveillance server. Synology Drive, its own cloud synchronization, and the word processor, spreadsheet program and presentation programs in Synology Office work fine on this light nas. The DS281j is the ideal NAS for those who have few requirements and who still want a real Synology for a small budget.

Synology DS218j

Price

€ 176,07

Website

www.synology.com/nl-nl 6 Score 60

  • Pros
  • Price
  • operating system
  • Packages
  • apps
  • Negatives
  • No transcoding
  • Few ports
  • No USB copy
  • No virtualization

Synology DS218play

Should you admire Synology for its steadfastness or be despondent that it still hasn't added HDMI and slightly more other ports to the DS218play? After all, this NAS is designed for network storage and multimedia. For Synology, this means that the DS218play features a 64-bit Realtek RTD1296 ARM processor that is powerful enough for 4K transcoding. Regardless of the media you put on the NAS, it can stream and convert it to any playback device, but compare it to the port wealth on the QNAP TS-251B and TS-253Be with one or more HDMI ports each and a separate audio in - and exit, then the DS218play is still meager. The ports and inputs and outputs may not be necessary to be a media streaming NAS, but it would certainly not look out of place with a NAS with the designation play.

Synology DS218play

Price

€ 229,58

Website

www.synology.com/nl-nl 8 Score 80

  • Pros
  • operating system
  • transcoding
  • Packages
  • apps
  • Negatives
  • no hdmi
  • Few ports
  • No USB copy
  • Not usable as a separate media player
  • No virtualization

Synology DS218+

The DS218+ is everything you would expect from a 2-bay NAS. It has enough power for the toughest tasks, even though this nas only has 2 GB of ram compared to some competitors. But because the DSM software with the huge range of extensions can be used on this nas without any problems, it works just fine. There's 4K transcoding, virtualization, an eSATA port to connect additional storage, and much more. The only thing that leaves something to be desired is a second LAN port and perhaps a 10Gbit port to show that a plus really is a plus. Whether the high price is a good investment in a 2-bay NAS is less clear.

Synology DS218+

Price

€ 327,42

Website

www.synology.com/nl-nl 10 Score 100

  • Pros
  • operating system
  • Packages
  • apps
  • Btrfs file system
  • eSATA port
  • Negatives
  • no hdmi
  • Few ports

WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra

If WD doesn't want one thing with its My Cloud series, it's competing with all the other brands in this test. This nas proves that this does not have to be at the expense of the product. It is mainly made for backup and synchronizing and making documents accessible, and it does so with gusto. It is also the only NAS that comes standard with storage capacity and is therefore immediately ready for use. You can give multiple users individual access to the documents on the NAS, also from smartphones and tablets. Once again simplicity and convenience reigns, there is one true WD app for file access and syncing of photos and documents. It is possible to add some extra functionality to the NAS, but the number and quality of the extensions is meager. Compared to the previous test, Arcus Surveillance has even completely disappeared. It is, however, recommended for those who appreciate simplicity and have few further requirements.

WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra

Price

€271.51 (including 4 TB storage)

Website

www.wd.com 6 Score 60

  • Pros
  • ready to use
  • Storage included
  • User friendly
  • Negatives
  • Packages
  • Functionality
  • No USB copy
  • No surveillance
  • No real power button

Conclusion

Buying a 2-bay nas is not easy due to the wide range and diversity. Those who make few demands and especially appreciate simplicity can't ignore the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra. If you want more, it gets harder. If your budget is not an issue, then the DS218+ and the TS-251B are the best choices, whereby we ultimately prefer Synology due to the better software and therefore reward the DS218+ with a quality mark. If you have less to spend, the TS-228A is a good choice, if you can do without 4K transcoding. If you do want to transcode, then the Asustor AS3102T v2 and the DS218play are interesting choices. The Asustor offers more options and we will therefore reward it with an editorial tip.

Test results

This table is an abbreviated version of our total results table.

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