Date: October 9, 2007
Author(s): Greg King
Looking for a single-drive NAS box that’s feature-packed and looks good? Synology’s DS107e delivers. Though not inexpensive, Synology delivered one of the most solid NAS boxes to cross our desk, which is packed with functionality and also proves to be one of the best looking units on the market.
Techgage has been around for just over two and a half years. In that time, we have just about covered the entire technology spectrum. This editorâ€™s personal favorites, as far as evaluation enjoyment, have been networking gear. With that said, this past August, we looked at the Synology DS207 dual drive NAS box.
If anyone has been busy reloading their product lineup over the past year or so, itâ€™s been Synology. 2007 has seen a completely new design to the Disk and Cube stations, as well as an aggressive push into the minds of anyone in the market for a new NAS with continual firmware releases, each bringing more and more functionality to the Synology devices.
Personally being one for security, I prefer some form of redundancy when it comes to data storage. Most think of a RAID array when this subject comes up but for me, it only means that your data is stored in two separate locations. Obviously Synology is in the business of data storage and they clearly know that not everyone needs a RAIDable NAS box and for users like that, they offer their DS107 lineup of devices.
There are three members of the 107 family, the DS107, the DS107+ and the DS107e. The only differences between the three of these boxes are the processor speeds and onboard memory.
Out of the three boxes, we are working with the DS107e in this review. Marketed towards the small business and home users, Synology intends for this model to fit the needs of most users that fall into these two categories.
We were left quite impressed with the styling, performance and the usability of the DS207 back in August and we are hoping to see the DS107e have a similar outing in our tests. While it lacks the active directory functionality that we found useful on the DS207, this feature really isnâ€™t needed in a home environment. The added features we saw on the DS207 are here as well, including streaming internet radio through USB connected speakers.
Throughout this review, there will be a lot of similarities between the DS107e and the DS207. For anyone looking for a step by step installation walkthrough, please see our DS207 review as the differences between the two devices are so small, from a setup point of view, that we did not see a need to include them in this review once again.
From a packaging standpoint, the DS107e comes in a box similar to other Synology devices. Aside from a different color scheme, the outward appearance of the package differs little from the DS207 we looked at earlier. One thing we do appreciate is the inclusion of a handle. This makes carrying the box quite simple.
The sides of the package are full of information about the device, making sure to point out just what the NAS is capable of doing. In this case, exactly what the DS207 could do, and for that matter, most all of the Synology devices share the same core abilities, and there are a lot of them. More on that later though as we have a picture of a box to look at now.
Upon taking the DS107e out of its packaging, we see that it is wrapped in a protective foam blanket. This is to further protect the device from scratches and bumps encountered in delivery.
The packaging is far from being the important focus here, so let’s take a thorough look at the device itself next.
Once the NAS is out of its packaging, we can see that it looks almost identical to its larger, more powerful brother, the DS207. Basically a single drive version of the DS207, the DS107e also includes a grey face and an eSATA connector on its front. This is to allow another drive to be connected to the DS107e, should it have an eSATA port on its enclosure. This enables further backups to be carries out as you can set the device to back it self up to the eSATA drive.
Taking a closer look at the front of the DS107e, we can see the white finish on the body of the NAS as well as the front LED status indicators, power buttons and USB and eSATA ports.
Taking a closer look at the front buttons, the Synology DS107e gives us the ability to easily backup a thumb drive by plugging it into the front USB port and pressing the â€œCâ€ button directly underneath it. Once pressed, the NAS will write the driveâ€™s information to a selected folder on the DS107eâ€™s hard disk. Just under the copy button is the eSATA port.
As we mentioned earlier, this allows the device to be expanded through the use of another external hard drive. Under that is the power button. Press this once to power the machine on and press it down, and hold it, for a few seconds to safely power down the device when needed.
The back of the DS107e is more of the same if you are familiar with Synology products. With a large cooling fan at the top (large relative to the size of the enclosure), a pair of USB ports below that and a RJ-45 and power port further down, this should remind many of the DS207 that we looked at a month ago.
A closer look also reveals a locking hole and a reset button that will set the NAS back to its default settings.
Turned over on its side, the DS107e reveals its ventilation slots as well as four rubber feet to provide a good setting on most any surface, as well as reduce vibrations caused by the spinning hard drive inside. The ventilation holes provide an amble amount of air for the fan to move across the main board and hard drive.
As with any reputable manufacturer, Synology has included everything needed to get your DS107e up and running, sans a hard drive of course. These accessories include a Cat5e cable, power adapter, custom SATA data and power cables as well as a set of mounting screws and a few extra for good measure.
Also included in the bundle are documentation and a startup disk. Found on the disk are the Synology programs needed to get the DS107e working properly. We found the installation and setup to be straight forward but rest easy knowing that should you run into a problem, Synologyâ€™s manual is quite helpful.
To install your hard drive into the DS107e, first we removed the two screws found at the back of the NAS. These essentially allow us to split the device in half, providing easy access to the inside of the NAS.
With the exception of a dual drive NAS; the installation of a hard drive into the DS107e is exactly the same. With the NAS apart, there are two pieces that stick up on either end of the device. These pieces have holes that allow a drive to be mounted to them.
More installation up next…
Taking a quick look around the DS107e, it would appear that this NAS and the DS207 share the same board with the obvious exception of 32MB of RAM that the larger NAS has on it. Both use the same 266MHz MPC8241 CPU and the only real difference, aside from the memory and the lack of dual drives is the DS107eâ€™s eSATA port on the front of the NAS. You can even see where the second power connector has simply been excluded.
The physical installation of a drive into the DS107e is straight forward and simple. While it does take quite a bit longer when compared to the installation of drives into the D-Link DNS-323, the DS107e feels more secure as there are four physical screws to attach the drive to the NAS chassis. With the appropriately cut lengths of power and data cables, connecting the drive to the main board is just as simple as the drives installation itself.
With everything now installed, we are ready to begin testing but before we get too far into it, we would like to touch upon the software side of the NAS. This is where Synology has repeatedly impressed us. They continually release updated firmware for their devices which more often than not add a certain amount of extra functionality to the boxes.
One such release, which we touched upon in our DS207 review, was their latest firmware version that added a slew of multimedia functions. Also released was a remote that can be used to control the before mentioned multimedia functions and uses an open USB port on the NAS itself.
Available now, the Synology remote gives users with an updated firmware the ability to control the song or internet radio station playing through an attached set of USB speakers. Not much larger than a credit card, the remote is designed to fit securely in an available PCMCIA slot on a notebook, or can be stored conveniently in itâ€™s CD slim jewel case sized packaging.
Flipping the remote over, we can see the USB adapter and the small door that holds the included battery in place.
Like we mentioned earlier, the remote itself is meant to be housed in an open PCMCIA slot on a notebook PC and is shaped accordingly. I have personally been keeping the remote in my work issued notebook, a Dell Latitude D820 and â€œtestingâ€ out the internet radio functionality while at work. The ability to tuck it away is nice and showed a decent amount of forethought on Synologyâ€™s end.
The USB adapter is simple to use as it just goes into an open USB port on the NAS itself. Once in place, the link button needs to be pressed, which discovers the remote and syncs up with it. From there, you are ready to use the remote to control your music needs. Assuming you have things setup properlyâ€¦
Time to tackle software!
One the software side of the DS107e, there is little difference between the DS207 that we looked at last August and the single drive variety that we are looking at today. Clearly the DS107e will lack the ability to setup a RAID array but outside of that, the software is identical.
Synology includes a handy tool tactfully called the Synology Assistant that will scan your network for any attached Synology devices. Once the assistant finds the DS107e, there are a few different options when setting up the NAS.
From here, Synology gives you the option to manage the device, which means logging into it the web based GUI; you can map the NAS or add a printer. As the steps are identical to the DS207, we wonâ€™t be going too far into the setup procedures. We would however, like to touch upon the differences between the DS207 and the DS107eâ€™s software package.
Like we said earlier, Synology has quickly set themselves apart from the other players in the NAS market. There are other major contenders like QNAP and Thecus that provide excellent NAS boxes but itâ€™s Synology that has been the aggressor as of late with their continuous attention to software functionality. It should also be mentioned that due to a significant interest of our readers, we will be looking at a few QNAP products in the coming weeks but for now, lets get back to the DS107e and what it offers.
As with all Synology web based control screens, the list of categories is found running vertically along the left side of the screen. By clicking each category, a full list of features is opened up to change, activate, deactivate and setup.
In the System menu, the new firmware has added the ability to setup a PPPoE connection that allows you to connect directly to the device from the internet. This is a nice option but not the most secure choice. This is also were firmware updates can be administered.
In the Network Services section, there is an EZ-Internet tab that allows you to setup and configure Dynamic DNS, making your public IP address resolve to a known domain. For services like FTP and photo sharing apps, this is useful. The network services section is also where the ever popular iTunes server can be turned on or off. It is set to off by default.
The addition of an eSATA port on the front of the DS107e opens up in the External Devices. This allows you to connect a eSATA external drive and use it to expand your storage capabilities, as well as back up the contents on the DS107e itself.
Outside of these differences, there isnâ€™t anything that has significantly changes between the DS107e and the DS207.
Like in our other NAS reviews, we are using a 600 MB file that we will be writing to the DS107e, as pulling it from the devices to get our read speeds. To do this, we ran our transfers three times, read and write, and averaged the speeds of the three.
In our other reviews, we have been evaluating dual drive NAS boxes. Since this is a single drive device, we wonâ€™t be comparing the speeds of each device, but rather, will be giving you the speeds of the DS107e alone. For those interested, we are working on a full list of comparison speeds and should have that up as soon as we finalize our other NAS tests. While this does us no good in this evaluation of the DS107e, it does give you something to look forward to in the near future.
Another test we performed was to use the DS107e as an iTunes server. I took the DS107e to work with me, connected it to our network and had 5 of our users stream music from the device, all the while, the NAS worked wonderfully. Obviously this isnâ€™t an environment most devices like this will find themselves in, but after testing the DS107e and its iTunes serving capabilities in this type of scenario, itâ€™s reassuring to anyone looking for a device with this functionality.
The Audio station options of the DS107e can also be found in the DS207 review but it should be pointed out that there hasnâ€™t been anything changed between the two devices.
In our DS207 review, we came out and stated that the device took â€œour idea of what a perfect NAS would be and raised the bar considerably higherâ€ and while we personally like the redundancy built into a multi drive NAS, for those that do not need, or cannot afford a device like that, the DS107e certainly seems like a perfect product.
Synology continues to impress us with their total lack of exclusives. Regardless of your model, they open up their available features to everyone. By taking this approach, the associate these features with the company as a whole and not the devices on which they run. There are companies out there that force you to choose your device based on functionality and feature set, Synology does not.
While the DS107e is at the bottom of the 107 series of Disk Station NAS, itâ€™s perfectly suited for home users and perhaps small business or workgroup type scenarios. With the DS107e situated at the bottom of its respective class, it lacks the active directory capabilities of its more powerful brothers but in all honesty, unless you are going to use this in a workplace environment, itâ€™s not that big of a deal. However, should this be a priority, we suggest looking at Synologyâ€™s DS107 or DS107+ as both offer AD support.
As good as the DS107e has been, itâ€™s not perfect, however close it might be. As we just stated, we donâ€™t care to give up active directory support but with that in mind, the DS107e is absolutely perfect for home use and itâ€™s there that we recommend the device. Clearly not ones to sit around idly, Synology recently released their DS207+, offering a more powerful hardware list but aside from that, itâ€™s identical to the DS207 that we have already looked at. We have that device in house and are testing it daily. Look for it shortly.
All in all, the DS107e will fit right in at any home office and is more than capable of sharing files across an entire home network. With all this in mind, the Synology DS107e has earned a solid 9 out of 10. While an Editorâ€™s Choice would be easy to award to this device, there are still 2 more powerful single drive NAS boxes from Synology and I personally prefer a dual drive NAS.
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