Nas drives reviews

Nas drives reviews DEFAULT

Best NAS hard drive of 2021: Network attached storage for home office and small business

Welcome to our pick of the best NAS hard drives. If you have a network attached storage device, then getting a large, fast and dependable hard drive for it is essential.

No matter how much you spend on a NAS device, if the hard drive (or more commonly now, SSD) in it isn't up to scratch, then you could be facing wasted money, and worse, lost or damaged files.

So, how do you pick the best NAS drive for your needs? First of all, you need to think about what you need. Is speed the most important thing? Or would you rather have the largest capacity you can afford to save all your documents.

How about a mega cache – or vibration protection? These are just some considerations to make when checking out the best NAS hard drives.

To help you choose, our pick of the best NAS hard drive for small business and home office environments can be found below. And with our built-in price comparison tool, you can shop safe in the knowledge that you're getting the best price as well.

The best NAS hard drive

Priced at the premium end of the sale, Seagate’s IronWolf’s native NAS optimization makes it worth the cost. Capable of running at a fast 7,200rpm spin rate throughout the day without risk of failure makes this one of the best options for ensuring peace of mind. It runs whisper-quiet with barely any vibration noise, all while delivering excellent file-share performance and general speeds.

It was only a few years ago that Western Digital’s 6TB NAS was the pack leader, offering more storage space than you could get from competing models. While that’s no longer the case, it’s still a unit with capacious storage space. Designed for both business and consumers, it offers fast performance especially in multi-drive environments where it boasts strong large-block sequential read and write speeds.


Top Rated in Network Attached Storage (NAS) Devices

4.8 | 3,657 customer ratings
97% of the ratings are 4-stars or 5-stars

I have thoroughly tested this unit even AFTER it fulfilled my needs and satisfied me, just to make this review as in-depth and accurate as possible. Just so you are aware, I am reviewing the DS220+ 2 Bay Model. There are other models available on this same sale page that do not apply to this review.TLDR: Right off the bat, for those

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By Ryan S

I usually build my own systems, however, this (DS920+) was much cheaper when figuring things up at this size than building new (used may be much different). The only thing I wish this had built in was 10Gb ethernet. I am able to basically get line speed at 1Gb doing file transfers to and from this with 4 8TB seagate drives in SHR-1.

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By amdsupport

Great NAS that I used to replace my Windows 10 workstation for Backup, Plex, and video surveillance duties.Setup was quick, however I did my homework and googled instructions for the tasks I needed accomplished ahead of time.The setup wizard only walks you thru the basic settings of the unit and doesn’t even touch on most of the

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By PieVsCake

See all customer reviews

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Best NAS devices of 2021: top Network Attached Storage for the home and office

The best NAS devices ensure that your irreplaceable files and folders are stored safely away - and can be easily accessed whenever you need them - no matter where you are in the world.

NAS (or Network Attached Storage) devices differ from the best external hard drives and external portable SSDs, due to their ability to connect to the internet, as well as be accessed by other devices on a local network.

So, a NAS can sit in the center of your work or home network, and act as centralised storage. Every PC on the network can use it as if it was an internal hard drive, and if one PC fails, you know that all the data is safely secured in the NAS drive.

Meanwhile, that internet connection allows you to securely access the files on the drive from any internet-connected device. It's quick and convenient, and it's also a heck of a lot safer than lugging an external hard drive or USB memory stick around.

When choosing the best NAS device for you, consider the amount of storage space you need now and in the future, as well as your backup and redundancy needs. Many of the best NAS drives are able to hold more than one hard drive and can mirror that hard drive in case of failure. So, if one hard drive does go, your files are still intact on another. Since price is also a factor, know that some hold multiple hard drives that you can buy separately. This doesn’t just give you more flexibility, but can also potentially save you money if you bargain hunt.

The best NAS devices are your ideal storage solutions if you want access to your files when you need them, wherever you are, while keeping them secure. Take a look at our picks.

Keep an extra copy of your files online with this cloud storage solution

IDrive, the cloud storage veteran, delivers tons of storage online for an incredibly small outlay. 5TB for $3.98 for the first year is unmatched till now and so is the support for unlimited devices and the extensive file versioning system available.

Best NAS devices at a glance

  1. WD My Cloud Personal NAS drive
  2. Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay NAS drive
  3. QNAP TS-251A NAS drive
  4. Buffalo LinkStation LS220D NAS drive
  5. Synology DiskStation DS1817 NAS drive
  6. WD My Cloud Mirror NAS drive
  7. Synology DiskStation DS1517 NAS drive
  8. WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra NAS drive
  9. Western Digital DL4100 NAS drive

1. WD My Cloud Personal NAS drive

Simple, yet fast


Capacity: 2TB, 3TB or 4TB

Interface: USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet

Features: Remote file access, DLNA, iTunes Server

Reasons to buy

+Easy to set up+Good price

Reasons to avoid

-Setup can be fiddly-Apps not great

WD has attained quite significant success with its unashamedly consumer-friendly My Cloud products, which can stream to any DLNA-compliant device and be accessed via mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Advertised as a 'personal cloud,' this WD is one of the best NAS drives by any other name and starts at 2TB of storage (you can also get it in 3 or 4TB). Because it's a one-bay unit, it can't back itself up since there's only one drive. However, it can back up to an external hard drive thanks to a USB port on the back.

Read the full review: WD My Cloud Personal

2. Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay NAS drive

Convenient network storage


Capacity: 4TB, 6TB or 8TB

Interface: Gigabit Ethernet

Features: Remote file access, media server software, RAID support

Reasons to buy

+Easy to use+Good looking

Reasons to avoid

-Not that fast-Not that flexible

Continuing with the 'personal cloud' theme, this unit from Seagate takes its lead from My Cloud, while offering far larger capacities, along with dual bays for two hard drives. This allows the Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay NAS device to mirror the files from one hard drive to a second one, securing your files in case one of those drives fails.

We also appreciate the no-fuss appearance of this unit, meaning it fits easily under a router or on a shelf. Plus, it can work with cloud accounts – like Dropbox and Google Drive – and you can also use an app to share content to streamers, such as Chromecast and Roku.

Read the full review: Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay

3. QNAP TS-251A NAS drive

Feature-packed media NAS


Capacity: N/A

Interface: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0

Features: Remote file access, HDMI out, 4K media transcoding, DLNA

Reasons to buy

+Powerful hardware+Loads of features

Reasons to avoid

-Expensive-Does not come with hard drives installed

The QNAP TS-251A is an extraordinary NAS device that has more features than you can shake a stick – or the included remote control – at. It includes dual Ethernet ports, an HDMI out for connecting it to a TV and respectable hardware like the dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Celeron CPU and 4GB of RAM for hardware transcoding media files.

The QTS OS also lets you effortlessly install a variety of apps, from the Plex Media Server and file sharing apps to, surprisingly, a karaoke app, as well as running Ubuntu Linux for added flexibility.

Long story, short: this is an incredible NAS device, even if you do have to purchase the hard drives separately. Just factor that in to the overall cost.

4. Buffalo LinkStation LS220D NAS drive

A decent dual-bay NAS with built-in BitTorrent


Capacity: 2TB, 4TB, 6TB, 8TB

Interface: Gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0

Features: Dual bay, WebAccess apps, Apple Time Machine support

The Best NAS Drives of 2020 - 8 TB \u0026 14 TB Roundup (WD Red, Red Pro, Seagate Ironwolf, Toshiba N300)

Best NAS drive 2021: The best NAS appliances for homes and businesses

If you're a business owner, it makes perfect sense to invest in the best NAS drive you can afford. But network-attached storage isn't just for big businesses. In most homes today you’ll find a plethora of desktops, laptops and mobile devices – so a central repository for your important files makes sense.

It ensures that you can access your data from wherever you happen to be, even if you’re out on the road, thanks to the easy-to-use remote-access services that come as standard. And, if one of your hard drives fails, it’s good to know that a multi-disk RAID array is keeping your data safe. Better still, modern NAS appliances can also run all sorts of useful network applications, from media servers to databases, wikis and security camera management systems.

No matter what your needs, a NAS can help. We're here to steer you towards the best NAS drives on the market right now, but before we do, here's a guide to unscrambling the acronyms and choosing the best NAS appliance for you.

READ NEXT: Best cloud storage solutions

How to choose the best NAS drive for you

What do all the acronyms mean?

Before we begin in earnest, here's a brief index of confusing acronyms and what they mean (for the newcomers out there):

  • NAS: Network-Attached Storage – a storage device that is attached to a local network. Storage manufacturer Seagate describes NAS as "like having a private cloud in the office", and we think that's spot on.
  • RAID: Redundant Array of Independent Disks – a method of storing the exact same data on multiple disks – in case of hardware/software failure – that also benefits performance.
  • JBOD: Just a Bunch Of Disks – no, seriously. JBOD allows you to take drives of varying sizes and combine them into a single volume.

All of the NAS drives on this list support JBOD and various RAID levels, from RAID 1 to RAID 10. These levels are too complex to go into here: if you want to know more, Tech Target has a good, complicated explainer.

What type of NAS should I buy? And how many bays do I need?

NAS drives all come with a different number of drive bays, with consumer models generally coming in one, two, three or four-bay variants.

A sensible minimum is a two-bay system, using two matching hard disks in a mirrored RAID1 configuration. That way, if one drive fails, you’ll still have a copy of all your data. Don’t be tempted to rely solely on JBOD or RAID0 configurations, however: these offer more capacity, but lack fault tolerance – if one drive fails, all your data is lost.

If you’re willing to spend a bit more, a four-bay NAS drive is more versatile. With four disks, you can set up a RAID5 array, which offers a better balance of capacity and data security. In this arrangement, a portion of each disk is reserved for parity data from the other three drives (which makes it possible to rebuild the array in the event of a failure). For example, with four 1TB drives, you can store up to 3TB of data, and if any single drive should fail, you can simply drop in a replacement and carry on working.

Four-bay NAS appliances also tend to have additional features, such as more ports and LCD displays. But they’re naturally noisier and more power-hungry – as well as generally quite a bit more expensive.

What connections should I look out for?

Most NAS appliances offer one or more USB 3 ports, meaning you can hook up an external hard disk and share files over your network. There’s also often a connector at the front for one-touch copying: simply plug in a USB hard disk and press the copy button, and the contents of the external drive will be copied onto the NAS. If your data is currently scattered across a selection of external drives, it’s an easy way to consolidate all your files into one place.

You may also see HDMI and audio sockets for connecting a monitor and speakers directly to your NAS box. These let you use built-in apps to turn your appliance into a video player or audio jukebox. You may even be able to plug in a keyboard and mouse and run desktop apps on the NAS appliance – but don’t expect blazing performance as NAS hardware is quite lightweight by desktop PC standards.

How do I get the best performance?

Your NAS drive should be connected to a Gigabit Ethernet port on your router. If your router only offers 100Mbits/sec Ethernet, your speeds will be severely limited: upgrading your router would be your first step to getting the best performance.

Even with a Gigabit connection, don’t expect superfast file copies all the time. Speeds can top 100MB/sec for a single big file, but for a folder containing lots of small files, the file system overhead will mean things go a lot more slowly.

Which disks should I use?

All the NAS drives we’ve recommended below can be bought diskless. The manufacturers normally recommend you populate them with specialist NAS disks such as the WD Red series, which are designed for heavy use and high-temperature environments. For a home NAS, though, that’s probably overkill – feel free to buy cheap consumer drives or to reuse disks from decommissioned PCs. Just make sure you have spares on hand for when one inevitably gives up the ghost.

What do I need to know about add-on apps?

Most modern NAS systems include all the basic services you need to work with Windows, macOS and Linux clients. They’ll also integrate with Apple’s Time Machine backup service, and for corporate roles, many support Active Directory and iSCSI, too.

On top of this, it’s well worth having a browse at the apps available, as these can greatly extend the capabilities of your NAS appliance. Most units come with a built-in “app store”, offering dozens or even hundreds of apps that you can install with a click. These invariably include a selection of media server apps, enabling your NAS to stream audio and video to smart devices in your home. You’ll also find business and development tools, surveillance apps that work with IP cameras and even content management systems such as WordPress.

One caveat: if you enable a whole load of apps and services, the hardware might start to struggle. If that’s a concern for you, pick a model with a powerful Intel processor and plenty of RAM, or one where you can fit extra memory as needed. If you’re not sure how much headroom you have, there’s normally an activity monitor within the appliance’s web interface, exposing what’s using its CPU and RAM, so you can spot any services that might be overtaxing your hardware.

Can I access my files remotely?

With the correct setup, you can access your NAS appliance from anywhere in the world. It’s a great alternative to cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Drive, with no monthly fee and a lot more storage. Every provider offers a bespoke service, typically web-based, which makes it effortless to securely access your files from a web browser.

Many providers also offer some degree of integration with third-party cloud services, meaning files in a certain folder on your NAS appliance can be automatically synchronised with your Dropbox account – and vice versa. This is handy if, for example, you want to use a printer or scanner that features Dropbox integration, as it saves you having to mess around moving files back and forth between services.

Is the data on my NAS completely safe?

Even RAID isn’t infallible. Your NAS box could be fried by a serious electrical fault or stolen in a break-in. Many NAS systems come with integrated support for offsite backup systems such as Amazon S3 or ElephantDrive, although these aren't free. Alternatively, if you have access to a NAS appliance in a second location, most units will let you automatically replicate your data over the internet.

The other thing to remember is that a modern NAS is effectively a small computer, which means it’s vulnerable to hackers and malware just like any other computer. Install system updates as soon as they become available – most NAS appliances can do this automatically in the middle of the night to minimise disruption – and make sure your apps and services are up to date. That goes for all the other computers in your home, too – we’ve seen PC-based ransomware that specifically targets NAS appliances and you definitely don’t want to get caught by that.

READ NEXT: Best external hard disks

The best NAS drives to buy

1. Asustor Nimbustor AS5304T: Best NAS drive for streaming

Price: £459 (diskless) | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re looking for a NAS for business or mainstream home use, consider any of the other NAS drives on this list. But if you’re looking for a great four-bay NAS for streaming, media and more, the AS5304T is the best by a country mile; By looking beyond the usually conservative NAS market, Asustor has produced something really special.

Powered by a blazingly quick quad-core Intel Celeron J4105 supported by up to 8GB of RAM, the AS5304T aced our 4K media benchmarks, even when running over a standard gigabit ethernet network. It has space for four drives, and supports a wealth of RAID configurations; you'll even find an HDMI port on the back for those days when you really badly want to use it as a Linux desktop PC.

With dashing good looks (for a NAS drive) and onboard software that's perfect for developers, our only complaint about the AS5304T is the price – if you have the cash to blow on a stunningly good media streaming NAS, this is the device for you. 

Key specs – CPU: Intel Celeron J4105 (1.5GHz to 2.5GHz, quad-core); RAM: 4/8GB; Drive bays: 4; RAID modes: JBOD, RAID0, RAID1, RAID5, RAID6, RAID10; Gigabit Ethernet connectors: 2 x 2.5GbE; Dataconnectors (rear): 2 x USB3.2; Data connectors (front): USB3.2; Other connectors: HDMI; Dimensions (WDH): 174 x 230 x 170mm; Warranty: 3yr RTB

2. Asustor AS6404T: Best high-end NAS drive

Price: £510 (diskless) | Buy now from Laptops Direct

The AS6404T is a high-end appliance with a two-line LCD display on the front and a powerful quad-core Intel Celeron J3455 inside. It’s easy to use, thanks to Asustor’s slick ADM web interface, and it supports all the important network protocols and services. We had no problem accessing our music library through iTunes, nor streaming Full HD video through Plex – although there are plenty of alternative video playback options for those who prefer them, including DLNA, Kodi and Apple AirPlay. Remote access is handled by Asustor’s own Cloud Connect service, while the Surveillance Center app will monitor up to four IP cameras for free.

Thanks to HDMI and twin USB connectors at the rear, it’s even possible to use this NAS as a standalone audio and video centre or run a full Linux desktop. The 8GB of RAM isn’t huge for this sort of role, but it’s enough for lightweight computing.

The only catch is the price: yes, you get a lot for your money, but for everyday NAS duties, there are much cheaper options. Still, there’s nothing wrong with buying more power and flexibility than you need right now – and, with its four drive bays and two Gigabit Ethernet ports, the AS6406T should serve your needs for a very long time.

Key specs – CPU: Intel Celeron J3455 (1.5GHz, 2.3GHz burst, quad-core); RAM: 8GB; Drive bays: 4; RAID modes: Single, JBOD, RAID0, RAID1, RAID5, RAID6, RAID10; Gigabit Ethernet connectors: 2; Data connectors (rear): 2 x USB 3, USB-C; Data connectors (front): USB 3; Other connectors: HDMI, S/PDIF; Dimensions (WDH): 170 x 230 x 186mm; Warranty: 3yr RTB

3. TerraMaster F5-221: Best cheap five-bay NAS drive

Price: £320 (diskless) | Buy now from Amazon

As five-bay NAS appliances go, the TerraMaster F5-221 is an inexpensive option that ticks several important boxes. Courtesy of an Intel Celeron J1800 processor (backed up by 2 to 4GB of RAM), the F5-221 is no slouch, performing admirably in file transfer and media benchmark tests. The headline feature is of course the five drive bays, which are cooled by two 82mm fans; it's a little unlikely that you'll fill all five at once, meaning the F5-221 is good for an upgrade further down the line. 

While TerraMaster’s NAS software isn’t as slick as Asus’s or Synology’s, it’s quite well-designed, giving you easy access to the usual management tools and features, useful dashboards and an app store with a bewildering range of add-on apps. We did experience a few niggling setup issues, but assuming everything goes smoothly, this is a good NAS for big demands and small wallets. 

Key specs – CPU: Intel Celeron J1800 (2.4 to 2.58GHz dual-core); RAM: 2/4GB; Drive bays: 5; RAID modes: Single, JBOD, RAID0, RAID1, RAID5, RAID6, RAID10; Gigabit Ethernet connectors: 2; Data connectors (rear): 2 x USB 3; Data connectors (front): None; Other connectors: None; Dimensions (WDH): 225 x 227 x 136mm; Warranty: 2yr RTB

4. WD My Cloud Pro PR4100: Best mid-range NAS drive

Price: £460 (diskless) | Buy now from Amazon

The My Cloud PR4100 looks pretty swish, with its two-line LCD status display and inset navigation buttons that let you cycle through various bits of system information. The web interface, meanwhile, is clean and accessible, ditching the familiar windowed approach in favour of a simple tab-driven graphical interface

A decent selection of add-ons is supported, including media servers, a surveillance service and a decent selection of productivity and techie extensions. If you want to get ambitious, you can upgrade the RAM to 16GB if you wish – although there’s no way to play media locally, nor any support for desktop apps or virtualisation, which does raise the question of what WD thinks you might need all that memory for.

For a four-bay appliance, £490 is still a relatively competitive price, but we’ve one word to the wise: pre-populated models can work out more expensive than buying the bare enclosure and picking your drives separately, so investigate your options before buying.

Key specs – CPU: Intel Pentium N3710 (1.6GHz, 2.56GHz burst, quad-core); RAM: 4GB; Drive bays: 4; RAID modes: JBOD, RAID0, RAID1, RAID5, RAID10; Gigabit Ethernet connectors: 2; Data connectors (rear): 2 x USB 3; Data connectors (front): USB 3; Other connectors: None; Dimensions (WDH): 170 x 232 x 192mm; Warranty: 2yr RTB (diskless), 3yr RTB (populated)

5. Synology DS1019+: Best five-bay NAS drive

Price: £706 | Buy now from Amazon

Synology’s flagship five-bay NAS drive is a thing of beauty. Installing drives is straightforwardly done via the clip-mounted drive bays on the front of the device – no screwdriver required. Upgrading the DS1019+ is equally simple, and you might be surprised by the options available; this NAS has an eSATA port for a Synology DX517 expansion unit (to effectively double capacity) and space to slot in two M.2 NVMe SSDs for use as a cache. 

It lacks the HDMI video output and keyboard/mouse inputs of some of the other NAS appliances on this list, but the DS1019+ isn’t trying to be a desktop PC; its feature set is aimed squarely at those who need a powerful, secure server for work purposes. Two Gigabit ethernet ports offer extra protection against network failure, while an impressive showing in our sequential read/write tests guarantees that this NAS can compete with the fastest products out there.

Better still, Synology’s operating software is our favourite of the bunch. From the straightforward setup process to the plethora of supported cloud storage options (including AWS, Microsoft Azure, Dropbox and Google Drive) the OS rounds out an impressive feature set. If you aren’t baulking at the price, this is one seriously versatile NAS.

Key specs – CPU: Intel Celeron J3455; RAM: 8GB; Drive bays: 5; RAID modes: SHR, JBOD, RAID0, RAID1, RAID5, RAID6, RAID10; Gigabit Ethernet connectors: 2; Data connectors (rear): 1 x USB 3; Data connectors (front): 1 x USB 3; Other connectors: eSATA; Dimensions (WDH): 223 x 230 x 166mm; Warranty: 2yr RTB


Reviews nas drives

The best NAS drive in 2021: store ALL your images, and access them from anywhere

Want help finding the best NAS drive? This guide will help you choose the right one, and show you the best prices. But, first, what is a NAS drive?

Network attached storage (also know as NAS) allows your entire photo and video collection to be stored in one physical location in your home or studio, just like a conventional external hard drive.

But the beauty of NAS is that this drive also has a network connection, allowing it to be linked via your internet router to your home network and the web. NAS drives are also loaded with a simple computer operating system, allowing you to browse their file contents, view photos and videos, all from a remote location.

Of course security is paramount with such an accessible device, so you'll need your own login details in order to access the drive remotely, but these credentials can be given to trusted friends and family members if you want to share certain photos and videos.

With cloud storage becoming ever cheaper and more capacious, you may be wondering why you'd choose NAS drive over online file storage. Well, NAS can be more cost-effective over the long term, especially if you need more than 2TB of storage. Then there's the issue of uploading large files to cloud storage, which can be tediously slow on some ADSL internet connections. And of course, with a NAS drive, there are no monthly cloud storage fees to worry about.

Like the sound of a NAS drive? There's just one - rather important - thing you should know. NAS drives are often sold without any actual hard disks inside. The idea is you fit your own so you can choose the right amount of storage space to suit your needs and budget. We recommend forking a bit more for heavy duty hard drives specifically targeted at NAS storage, such as Seagate's IronWolf range and WD's Red drives, as these are built to handle continuous use.

The 6 best NAS drives

1. WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra NAS drive

NAS storage made simple - the perfect choice for photographers


Capacity: 4TB, 8TB, 12TB, 16TB

Interface: Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0

Features: Remote file access, RAID features, My Cloud OS 3 software

Reasons to buy

+Dual core CPU+Dual bay for RAID setups

Reasons to avoid

-Operating system is simplistic-Lack of app support

Some NAS drives can be intimidating if you're new to the NAS game, filled with advanced features you'll likely never need. The beauty of the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra is how easy it is to set up and use, with no unnecessary or confusing initial settings to navigate.

The My Cloud EX2 Ultra is already equipped with hard drives, so there are no unpleasant extra costs to be incurred. The deals we've got are for the base 4TB capacity, which is plenty for most users, but you can spec up to 16TB of space if you're a heavy user.

If you do want to get more techy, the drive also boasts RAID capabilities. This allows you to configure the two hard disks within to operate in parallel, so two copies of your files are automatically stored, one copy on each disk. That means in the unlikely event of one hard disk failing, the other still has a copy of all your files.

Accessing and storing files from a remote location is also no problem as the built-in software  allows you to use the drive as an FTP server, and the drive can be set to make automatic backups.

2. WD My Cloud Home

NAS (network attached storage) made as simple as possible


Capacity: 2TB, 3TB 4TB, 6TB, 8TB

Interface: USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet

Features: Remote file access, DLNA, iTunes Server

Reasons to buy

+Easy to set up+Very good price

Reasons to avoid

-No RAID options-'Only' 8TB max capacity

WD has realized that NAS storage certainly doesn't have to be a gadget for geeks and computer tech guys, as the My Cloud Home is as effortlessly easy to get up and running as you could wish for. Just link it to your home Wi-Fi and you've got a centralized storage drive accessible from computers, laptops and smart devices around your home, or from anywhere with an internet connection.

The drive can be configured so multiple trusted users can have there own private storage space, and you can stream videos from the drive using Google Chromecast, Sonos and Plex. 

Capacities vary from 2TB to 8TB, and all options are very competitively priced. The single hard drive configuration also results in a slim, space-saving design that'll easily sit on your desk, taking up little more room than a conventional external hard drive. The only downside with this single-drive solution is there are no RAID features for duplicating files across two hard disks for extra safety in the event of drive failure. But if that's a problem, consider the bulkier dual-drive WD My Cloud Home Duo which also adds 12, 16 and 20GB capacity options.

3. Synology DiskStation DS218play

A NAS drive with extra media server features


Capacity: Enclosure only (2 drive bays)

Interface: 2x USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet

Features: Remote file access, DLNA, media server, hardware encryption, hardware media transcoding

Reasons to buy

+Extensive media streaming capabilities+Generous processing hardware spec+Wide device compatiblity

Reasons to avoid

-Expensive once you add hard disks

Synology has a reputation for producing top quality, pro-level NAS devices more suited to business use than in the home, but the DiskStation DS218play is a much more accessible option for amateur photographers. While offering typical NAS options, it's also a versatile home media hub that's able to stream images and video to computers and mobile devices, as well as Samsung TVs, Apple TV, Chromecast and DLNA devices. The versatile built-in multimedia players - Video Station, Photo Station, and Audio Station, each of which having a companion mobile app - make it effortlessly easy to access and view your media files.

Though pricier than some entry-level NAS devices on this list, the DS218play adds value with a generous 1GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, RAID capability and hardware data encryption.

Just bear in mind that you'll need to factor in the extra cost of two hard disks to make the DS218play operational.

4. Buffalo LinkStation LS220D

A simple and well-priced dual-drive NAS - it's a bit of a bargain


Capacity: 2TB, 4TB, 6TB, 8TB

Interface: USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet

Features: Remote file access, DLNA, iTunes Server, built-in BitTorrent client

Reasons to buy

+Dual drives for extra peace of mind+Competitive pricing+BitTorrent downloading feature

Reasons to avoid

-USB connection is USB 2.0, not 3.x

Buffalo's dual-drive LinkStation 220 will cost you little more than a more basic single-drive NAS, but with two drives inside comes options for RAID drive mirroring, giving you extra data security in the unlikely event of hard disk failure.

And the features don't stop there. There's easy automatic backup for PCs and Apple Time Machine compatibility, and the drive is DLNA Certified so it can be used as an iTunes media server. But the standout feature is its built-in BitTorrent client that'll allow you to download and upload without needing to use your computer.

2TB, 4TB, 6TB and 8TB capacities are available, with the 8TB model making the most sense for long-term storage, and it's the best value.

5. QNAP TS-251+ NAS drive

A serious NAS device for professionals


Capacity: N/A

Interface: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0

Features: Remote file access, HDMI out, 4K media transcoding, DLNA

Reasons to buy

+Powerful hardware+Loads of features

Reasons to avoid

-Does not come with hard drives installed-Cost of hard drives adds to cost

If you’re after a feature-rich NAS storage solution that will do a brilliant job of safely storing your photos and videos, while also allowing you to access and share them online, then the QNAP TS-251+ NAS drive is a great investment. It comes with two drive bays to allow you to use dual hard drives in a RAID array of your choice, and there’s loads of apps available to make use of its features.

You can access your photos from the QNAP TS-251+ NAS drive on your smartphone using the QPhotos app, and you can easily set it up so that your PC or Mac sees the QNAP TS-251+ NAS drive as if it was a hard drive installed in the PC itself – which makes saving and editing your photos direct from this NAS device incredibly easy.

This drive doesn’t come with hard drives installed, however. It’s easy enough to add your own – and means you can pick drives that suit your needs and budget – but you’ll need to factor in the additional cost.

6. Synology DiskStation DS1520+

For professional photographers with huge amounts of photos


Capacity: Up to 108TB

Interface: 4 x 1GbE LAN, 2 x USB 3.2 gen 1, 2 x eSATA

Features: Quad-Core CPU, dual M.2 SSD cache acceleration

Reasons to buy

+High-end performance+Feature-packed+Huge potential capacity

Reasons to avoid

-Can be daunting for novice users-Expensive-Drives are extra cost (though sometimes included in a bundle)

If you’re a professional photographer that runs a studio or business and you hold a lot – and we mean a lot – of photographs or videos for clients, then the Synology DiskStation DS1520+ NAS drive is an ideal investment. It’s a powerful – and fast – NAS device that will allow you to store and edit photographs remotely.

It can be expanded with the DX517 expansion unit to accommodate up to 15 drives, so you can grow the Synology DiskStation DS1520+ alongside your business. What's more, there are two dedicated M.2 SSD slots which can be used to boost the responsiveness and application performance of the data center.

While its impressive specs are good for pro users, if you’re a casual photographer, this is likely overkill.

Recommended hard disks for NAS drives

Some of the NAS drives above will not come supplied with the actual 3.5in hard drives that you need. We'd recommend using heavy-duty models, designed specifically for NAS use. These are the top two options we'd consider, offering a good combination of robustness and value…

WD RED 3.5in NAS hard drive

Reasons to buy

+Available capacities: 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, 10TB, 12TB, 14TB+Transfer rate upto 150Mb/s+3-year warranty

Seagate IronWolf 3.5in NAS hard drive

Reasons to buy

+Available capacities: 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, 10TB, 12TB, 14TB, 16GB+Transfer rate up to 210Mb/s+3-year warranty

Read more:
The best photo-editing laptops
The best budget laptops
The best portable SSDs
The best desktop computers for photo editing
The best recovery software for photos
The best monitors for photographers
The 50 best camera accessories
The best photo-editing software
Thebest graphics tabletsfor photo editing

Ben is the Imaging labs manager, responsible for all of the testing on Digital Camera World and across the entire photography portfolio at Future. Whether he's in the lab testing the sharpness of new lenses, the resolution of the latest image sensor, the zoom range of monster bridge cameras or even the latest smartphones, Ben is our go-to guy for technical insight. He's also the team's man-at-arms when it comes to bags, filters and all manner of accessories – his lab is a bit like the Batcave of photography! 

Synology DS220j: The ONLY Budget NAS Worth Considering

After testing five new two- and four-bay network-attached storage (NAS) devices and comparing them against our previous picks, we found that the Synology DiskStation DS220+ is the best home NAS for most people. The fastest NAS we tested, it offers powerful hardware for the price, includes AES-NI hardware encryption acceleration for added security, has upgradable RAM, and comes with software that’s easy to use.

In addition to speed, the Synology DiskStation DS220+ offers a variety of backup and syncing options, plus it has mobile apps for media streaming, file management, and more. It also supports a wide range of third-party apps, such as Plex, BitTorrent Sync, and GitLab. You can use the DS220+ as a home backup device, a media streamer, a mail server, a website-hosting device, a BitTorrent box, or a video-surveillance recorder—nearly anything you can do with a Linux computer, while consuming about as much electricity as a couple of LED bulbs.

The QNAP TS-251D is a good choice if the DS220+ is out of stock, or if you want to display media on a TV. It is about as fast during file transfers as the DS220+ and adds an HDMI-out port so you can hook it up directly to a TV for media playback without using a media streaming box. It uses the same QTS management interface as QNAP’s other NAS devices—we like Synology’s DSM software a little more, but it’s largely a matter of preference.

If you need more storage space, the Synology DS420+ uses the same CPU, hardware encryption engine, and hardware transcoding engine as the DS220+, but it adds two drive bays, for a total of four. Like the DS220+, it adds another Gigabit Ethernet port for link aggregation, which can increase performance if you have a compatible router and multiple people use your NAS at once. You have access to all the same mobile apps for streaming, backup, and everything else the DS220+ offers. Since this model has two more bays than our top pick, you can use different storage configurations that offer better data protection and performance. This NAS is best suited for professionals or anyone who wants to expand a NAS system with more storage down the line.

Why you should trust us

Thorin Klosowski wrote about consumer electronics for more than six years at Lifehacker and has extensive experience with Linux and DIY NAS devices. He has set up more backup systems, from NAS to cloud storage, for family members and friends than he cares to count.

Before joining Wirecutter, Joel Santo Domingo tested and wrote about PCs, networking products, storage, and personal tech at PCMag and PC Magazine for more than 17 years. Prior to writing for a living, Joel was an IT tech and sysadmin for small, medium, and large companies. He has professionally backed up data as diverse as news stories on plane crashes and Mariah Carey album art.

Who this is for

A network-attached storage device, or NAS, is a small always-on computer generally used for backing up computers and serving files to devices on your local network. It includes at least one but usually two (or more) hard-drive bays, a (usually) Linux-based operating system optimized for network storage, and enough CPU power and RAM to do everything it needs to do while using far less power than a repurposed old computer. Unlike a USB drive or an external hard drive, a NAS with two or more hard drives can provide data redundancy, copying the contents of one drive over to the other automatically.

A NAS is great if you have a large media library, because you can store your files in one place and stream them locally to computers, phones, tablets, speakers, or media centers throughout your house (or even outside it). The same goes for photographers storing photos, music producers archiving music files, designers stockpiling massive Photoshop files, and anyone else who needs to access large amounts of data from multiple computers. Most people don’t need to store thousands of raw photo files, terabytes of raw video, gigabytes of lossless digital music, or backups of their Blu-ray collection, but a NAS is a useful tool for the people who do.

You should consider a NAS if you have more than one computer at home, since you can back them all up to the NAS rather than connect an external backup drive to each computer. And if you want to protect your data and backups from theft and natural disasters, a good NAS is capable of uploading files directly to a cloud backup service, too.

A NAS is also useful if you have too much data to store in Dropbox or Google Drive, or if you don’t trust your data to cloud storage providers. When you use a NAS, your data remains in your home and does not go to the cloud unless you tell it to do so. Many NAS devices have even added photo-management tools and file-syncing services that attempt to replicate various cloud storage offerings. While those NAS tools aren’t as rich with features as commercial services from Google, Apple, and others, they can at least provide an adequate alternative to pricey subscriptions.

Most NAS devices can also act as email, database, and virtual private network (VPN) servers. You can use them for BitTorrent, to host CMS, CRM, and e-commerce software, or as DVRs for networked security cameras. A NAS is a computer, so it can do almost anything a Linux computer can do. While that flexibility is great, it can also make some NAS devices confusing to use. Each NAS has its own manufacturer-specific version of Linux, and some are more approachable than others.

You should consider a NAS if you have more than one computer at home, since you can back them all up to the NAS rather than connect an external drive to each computer.

If you want to share and store data on your network, you may not need a NAS. Many routers have a USB port for connecting an external drive, but because routers have slower processors than our NAS picks and because their software isn’t purpose-built for file sharing, this setup will be slow and suitable only for the most basic file sharing and backups. It will also lack data redundancy because you’re backing up to only one drive, so you’re taking your chances in case of a drive failure. Windows, macOS, and Linux also have built-in file-sharing features that make using your computer as a file server easy. But that approach takes up disk space on your computer and is more difficult to manage securely, and your computer has to be on all the time, which consumes more power than a NAS and might make the data inaccessible when your computer goes to sleep.

If you’re an IT professional looking for a business-level NAS, this guide is not for you. Nor does this guide cover more-advanced uses of NAS such as iSCSI targeting, SANs (storage area networks), or RAID configurations such as RAID 5, 6, or 10 for multidrive NAS devices. Websites focused on enterprise network storage, such as Computer Weekly and, can help in those cases.

This guide also won’t cover people who want a NAS that can support 1080p on-the-fly video transcoding via Plex Media Server. Every NAS we recommend supports Plex, which works great if your box is connected directly to your display via HDMI or your videos don’t need transcoding to stream to your devices. Many NAS devices can also manage decent on-the-fly transcoding with their own apps, but Plex transcoding currently requires a lot of CPU power, and none of the models we tested were able to handle transcoding in Plex reliably. NAS boxes that can manage 1080p on-the-fly transcoding through Plex are too expensive for most people—you’re better off running Plex Media Server on a computer or on an Nvidia Shield TV and using the NAS for media storage.

You could make your own NAS with old computer hardware and free software such as FreeNAS or XigmaNAS, but a dedicated NAS device uses far less power (usually about as much as a couple of LED light bulbs), has a better interface and more apps, and comes with a manufacturer warranty and technical support. The benefit of a DIY NAS is customization; you can choose where you spend money and upgrade things basically forever. You can even keep the price pretty low with something like a Raspberry Pi–powered NAS for around $250 (including drives), though even with a Raspberry Pi 4, a NAS like that won’t be very quick. If you’re curious about installing FreeNAS, this YouTube guide walks you through the process, and this forum post includes a list of hardware recommendations.

How we picked

Since this guide’s original publication in 2011, we’ve assembled a list of every two-bay NAS from a reputable vendor. Right now, that includes models from Asustor, Drobo, Netgear, Noontec, QNAP, Seagate, Synology, Thecus, WD, and Zyxel. We’ve read professional NAS reviews on CNET, PCMag, PCWorld, SmallNetBuilder, and, and we’ve also looked at customer reviews on Amazon and Newegg.

Back in 2015, we surveyed 1,094 Wirecutter readers on what they wanted in a home NAS, and most of those requirements still hold true. When deciding which models to test, we paid attention to a number of key features that most home users needed:

  • Two drive bays: Hundreds of NAS devices are available, and you can find models with one, two, four, eight, or more drive bays. For most home users, a two-drive NAS is just right, because it protects your data by mirroring the contents of one drive to the other (a configuration known as RAID 1, or a mirrored array). This setup gives you half the NAS’s actual amount of storage for files. For example, a NAS with two 8 TB drives in RAID 1 still has 8 TB of total space available (equivalent to about 300 Blu-rays), not 16 TB. As a result, your data remains safe and accessible even if a drive fails. Single-drive NAS devices don’t provide this data protection, and NAS boxes with more bays introduce more complex RAID configurations, such as RAID 5, RAID 6, or RAID 10, that require more planning and research to configure.
  • Price: Home users don’t need to pay more than around $250 to $350 for a two-bay NAS (not including the price of the hard drives, unfortunately). More than that and you’re entering more complex and powerful business-class territory. If you opt for a cheaper model, you usually sacrifice read and write speeds or end up with a less-polished operating system.
  • CPU and RAM: We preferred a reasonably powerful dual-core Intel Celeron processor, but we didn’t rule out ARM-based configurations as long as their processing speeds were similar. Most NAS devices released within the past year have at least 2 GB of RAM, so we stuck with that as our minimum.
  • Hardware-level encryption acceleration: File encryption is good to use even if you access your NAS exclusively inside your home network, because it protects your data if someone breaks into your house and steals your NAS or your disks. (It can also protect sensitive data on a NAS that’s on a larger network, or one that attackers could target.) Some NAS boxes can also encrypt data before backing it up to a cloud service, providing an extra level of protection in case the cloud service is hacked. A NAS that includes hardware encryption acceleration offers read and write speeds that are much faster than those of a model that relies solely on software encryption.
  • Easy-to-use software: Each NAS manufacturer has its own operating system. NAS software tends to take a kitchen-sink approach that often makes it confusing to use, but some operating systems, like those from QNAP and Synology, are better than others.
  • Wide support for backups: A NAS should support computer backups via File History or system-image tools on Windows, Time Machine on Mac, and rsync for Linux. It should also allow you to back up easily to a cloud storage service like Amazon Glacier or Backblaze. And a NAS should offer a Dropbox-like file-syncing service so you can sync files across computers.
  • Media-streaming capabilities: Most NAS boxes can stream videos and music to various devices in your home. You can do this using software from the manufacturer or third-party programs like Plex. Music streaming should work via DLNA and iTunes without a complicated setup process.
  • Drive-failure notifications: A NAS should at the very least notify you with beeps and status lights if a drive fails. It’s better if the device can also send you an email or text message.
  • At least two USB ports: Between backups, dongles, and other accessories, it’s nice to have at least two USB ports on a NAS. You should have two copies of every backup. If you plan on doing that on your own instead of with a cloud service, you’ll want to have a USB port on your NAS so you can back everything up to an external drive. It’s also nice to have a USB port on the front of the NAS with a quick-copy function so you can copy the contents of a USB drive to or from your NAS without fussing around with software.
  • Third-party application support: If you want to add features or services to your NAS, you need to do so with third-party software, so support from third parties is key. This includes media center software, Web-server software, analytics, and more.
  • Hot-swappable drive bays: Hot-swappable drive bays are necessary so you don’t have to shut down the NAS to replace a failed drive or increase capacity.
  • Warranty and support: Lack of customer support is one of the most common complaints in Amazon reviews of NAS devices. Most of the models we tested come with two-year warranties. Most also offer some form of tech support, largely through online knowledge bases and forums. Some have email and phone support, and a few vendors also provide detailed, accessible tutorials and videos on their websites.

We also found a few features that were nice to have but weren’t dealbreakers for most people if they were missing:

  • Wi-Fi support: You should connect your NAS to your router with an Ethernet cable if you want the best speeds, but if that’s not possible, you’ll need to be able to install a USB Wi-Fi dongle or PCIe expansion card.
  • IP-camera DVR support: If you have a do-it-yourself home-security camera system, you’ll need somewhere to store all that video. A NAS is handy for this purpose, but the setup and management can be a bit much for an average person, not to mention the confusing licensing schemes (like this one from Synology) that determine the number of cameras a NAS supports. A NAS won’t work with popular DIY home-security cameras like the Nest Cam Outdoor or the Netgear Arlo, as those models save their footage to a cloud service instead.
  • Uninterrupted power supply (UPS) support over USB: Your NAS should be smart enough not to lose everything if the power cuts out, but UPS support will communicate to the NAS to shut down properly before it loses power, which should help secure your data.

How we tested

First we set up each NAS following its included install guide, if it had one. Next we looked at the Web interface’s organization and features. We tested ease of use by configuring user and group accounts, as well as file and folder access permissions. We checked to see if the NAS offered a secure cloud service for remote access, which would avoid having to mess with port forwarding and static IP addresses. We also looked at Android and iOS mobile apps for accessing and administering the NAS.

The easiest way to measure real-world NAS performance, at least for how a home NAS will be used, is to copy files to and from the NAS and calculate the data rate. Since 2015, we’ve run read-and-write tests the simplest way we can: by copying files over Gigabit Ethernet and measuring the elapsed time. We installed 16 TB Seagate IronWolf Pro drives in each NAS, connected each model via Gigabit Ethernet to an Asus ROG GT-AC2900 router, and connected a desktop PC with Gigabit Ethernet to another port. If the NAS has dual Ethernet ports, we connected both to the router, and enabled link aggregation. We used Windows 10’s built-in Robocopy file-copying tool to read and write three datasets to each NAS: a 32 GB music folder with 6,154 MP3 files; and a folder with two large files, an 8.1 GB MKV file and a 7.07 GB Linux ISO file. We ran each test nine times in each direction: three times with encryption turned off, three times with disk or folder encryption turned on, and three times with in-flight SMB encryption turned on.

To simulate drive failure, we pulled a drive from the NAS while it was running. A NAS should beep or flash an LED to alert you that something is wrong, and the interface should show a drive-failure notification. If the NAS allows you to set up SMS or email alerts, that’s even better. If a drive fails and the NAS doesn’t produce a notification, you’re at risk of data loss if the second drive also fails.

Next we replaced the pulled drive with one of equal or greater capacity. A NAS should detect a new drive and automatically re-create the mirrored array. With each device, as it rebuilt the RAID 1 mirror, we confirmed that all data stored on the NAS was intact and accessible.

This process also allowed us to test the quality of each NAS device’s drive bays. A good NAS has drive trays or slots that make the drives easy to remove but are sturdy enough to ensure that the drives fit tightly and securely, with no chance of getting disconnected by a random bump.

We also connected a flash drive to one of the USB ports. A NAS interface should recognize a connected drive and display its make, model, and file system. It should allow transfers between the USB drive and the NAS.

All our NAS picks have some sort of energy-saving feature. We used a Kill A Watt EZ to test the power consumption on each NAS when it was performing a task (such as a file copy), when it was idle, and with its energy-saving options enabled.

Our pick: Synology DiskStation DS220+

The Synology DiskStation DS220+ sitting on a gray table.

The Synology DiskStation DS220+ is the best two-bay home NAS for most people. It typically sells for less than $350 (diskless) as of this writing, its read and write speeds are among the fastest of any NAS we tested, and it includes a modern Intel Celeron processor, hardware-level encryption, and a flexible and easy-to-understand interface with a wide variety of third-party apps. The DS220+ supports media playback through its own apps or Plex Media Server, supports RAID 1 drive mirroring, alerts you to drive failure, has three USB ports (including one on the front), and supports all the features Wirecutter readers have asked about, such as the FTP protocol, VPN server capabilities, IP cameras, UPS compatibility, and SSDs.

Some NAS devices below this price range use slower ARM-based processors from Realtek, Alpine, or Marvell, or older-generation Celeron processors. Some still ship with 1 GB of RAM or less. The DS220+ has a modern dual-core 2.0 GHz Intel Celeron processor and 2 GB of RAM, which you can expand to 6 GB. Our runner-up, the QNAP TS-251D uses a similar Celeron processor running at the same base speed and 2 or 4 GB of RAM, and you’ll welcome that processor's speed when copying lots of files, streaming videos, or performing multiple backups simultaneously. The Linux-based DiskStation Manager (DSM) software isn’t complicated; if you’ve used a Windows or Mac computer, you’ll be able to find your way around DSM and figure out how it works pretty quickly.

A chart of NAS file-transfer speed tests from five different NAS: Asustor AS5202T, QNAP TS-251D, Synology DiskStation DS220+, Asustor AS5304T, and Synology DS420+.

The DS220+ eked out a slim victory in three of the four speed tests, with transfer speeds between 62 and 110 megabytes per second. However, the results were close all around. For example, the QNAP TS-251D and Asustor AS5202T use a similar Intel Celeron j4xxx-class dual-core processor, running at the same base speed (2.0 GHz), so even though the TS-251D was fastest while reading large files, the margin of victory was under one percent.

The gap was a bit wider while we were transferring lots of small music files (mainly mp3s). The DS220+ outpaced the TS-251D by about 7 percent, though you’d probably not notice a difference of 20 seconds when the total transfer takes 6 minutes.

The Synology DiskStation DS220+, with its front panel popped off and replaceable drives exposed.

Speed differences aside, the DS220+ (as well as all other current Synology and Asustor NAS devices) use a different default file system than others, called Btrfs (most other NAS models, including offerings from QNAP, use the ext4 file system). The file system shouldn’t have a huge effect on the file-transfer speeds, but it does introduce some features, such as snapshots, which can protect folders from accidental deletion by making copies of shared folders periodically. Btrfs also features near-instant server-side copying, data integrity checks, and metadata mirroring, which supposedly helps with data recovery in the case of hard-drive damage. Most NAS owners won’t notice the differences between the two. If you do prefer ext4 for any reason, you can set up the DS220+ to use that file system instead of Btrfs when you create a volume.

A screenshot of the Synology's control panel software.

The interface in DiskStation Manager offers an overlay for system health as well as easy access to all the settings you need. Screenshot: Thorin Klosowski

The dropdown quick access menu of the Synology software.

You get quick access to every package you install with DSM’s drop-down menu. Screenshot: Thorin Klosowski

A screenshot of the package center.

You can quickly find and install new applications in Package Center. Screenshot: Thorin Klosowski

The DS220+’s interface, DiskStation Manager, is one of the most user-friendly operating systems on any NAS device. DSM has a toolbar on the top where you can access the main menu, notifications, and login options, search for files, and check on system health. Below that toolbar, you have a desktop where you can access Package Center (a store of sorts filled with add-on software), the file browser, the control panel (which includes all your settings), and a support area offering video tutorials, FAQs, and more. Synology has a demo version of the operating system available online; it’s worth checking out before you make your purchase.

Like most of the NAS operating systems we tested, the DSM interface includes a pop-out dashboard widget that gives an overview of the NAS’s drive health, as well as its processor and memory usage. You can customize the dashboard to include storage, connected users, and more. DSM also includes handy features for novices. For example, if you click on the File Services tab in the DSM control panel, it displays the key command you’ll need to access the file share on your PC (“DS220plus”) or Mac (“smb://DS220plus”). While these commands may be familiar to veteran systems administrators, new users or anyone who has forgotten the server name will welcome the embedded tip.

DSM has an optional cloud service called Cloud Station Server that allows you to access your files remotely. If you don’t want to connect to any cloud service, you can still access your NAS remotely through a virtual private network (VPN) hosted on the NAS itself or Dynamic DNS with port forwarding, but for most people Cloud Station Server is much simpler. DSM also includes Cloud Station ShareSync, which allows you to use your NAS to sync files across devices, similar to a service like Dropbox.

There’s also the confusingly named Cloud Sync package, which allows you to sync or back up specific folders or your entire NAS to various cloud platforms, such as Backblaze, Amazon Drive, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Openstack, and Dropbox, which makes creating redundant off-site backups very easy. You can set those backups to happen on a schedule and optionally encrypt them before you upload them to another service.

DSM packs in numerous security measures. In the main menu you’ll find a security adviser that alerts you to malware, improper network configurations, out-of-date applications, weak passwords, and any systemwide configuration issues, though you will have to log in to the DSM interface regularly to see its advice. It supports HTTPS for remote access, TLS or SSL secure connections, and two-factor authentication.

For better or worse, instead of having one big app with tons of features, Synology takes a piecemeal approach to its mobile apps. DS Audio, DS File, DS Photo, DS Cloud, and DS Video are for accessing media. DS Finder is for monitoring the stats on your NAS, DS Get is for managing downloads, and DS Cam is for managing IP cameras. There’s also VPNPlus if you’re using the VPN server functions, DS Note if you use Synology’s notes app, and MailPlus if you use your NAS as an email server. Newer apps like Synology Moments and Synology Drive integrate many of the functions in the apps listed above. All of Synology’s apps are available for Android and iOS, and they’re on a par with those of Synology’s biggest competitor, QNAP. Both companies’ mobile apps are best in class among NAS devices—no other NAS provider comes close.

Like most NAS boxes, the DS220+ supports multimedia streaming through Synology’s own apps, DLNA/UPnP, Plex, and iTunes. In our tests, the DS220+ didn’t take long to scan a music and video library and make the files available across a Wi-Fi network on various computers, TVs, game consoles, and phones.

The back of the Synology DiskStation DS220+.

The DS220+ supports on-the-fly hardware transcoding, supposedly all the way to 4K video. It does this using its own Video Station and DS File apps. If you prefer to use Plex, you will not have access to the hardware transcoding features, since Plex’s transcoding is CPU-bound and NAS devices in this price range just don’t have the horsepower to do that. With Synology’s apps, we were able to play several 1080p MKV files on various devices over 802.11ac Wi-Fi without issue, but when we tried the same with three different 4K movie trailers, they were all unwatchable due to stuttering. We also had issues with any 4K video using the DTS audio codec, in which no sound would play. Some formats, such as M4V, wouldn’t play at all. Files that didn’t require any transcoding, like MP4 files, played flawlessly on all devices. On-the-fly transcoding is dependent on the file format, the various codecs, and the device you’re watching the transcoding file on, so your mileage will vary here.

Still, even though Synology advertises the DS220+ as being capable of all kinds of transcoding, you’ll want to use a more powerful computer than the DS220+ (or any other NAS in this price range) if you’re serious about on-the-fly media transcoding. We recommend transcoding your video files ahead of time if you plan on using your NAS as a media server. You can do this with the Offline Transcoding feature in Video Station, though unfortunately you need to manually choose individual videos to convert. If you’re looking for an automated option, QNAP’s software allows you to set up a specific folder that the NAS monitors; the NAS then transcodes any files you drop in.

Power-saving features won’t work if you enable any media server functions, because the NAS needs to be available all the time.

In our tests, the DS220+’s data-protection features worked as advertised. With the NAS running, we pulled the drive out of the second bay and the NAS beeped at us until we acknowledged a drive-failure notification. We also received an email notification at the address we’d set up previously. Logging in to DSM, we found another notification as well as instructions for how to rebuild the drive array in the Storage Manager once we replaced it.

The front of the DS220+ features a removable plate that hides away the drive bays, as well as LED indicators for general status, network connectivity, and the status of each drive. You can adjust the LED brightness or set it up on a schedule so the lights dim at night. The DS220+ has two USB 3.0 ports. A second gigabit Ethernet port in the back will allow the DS220+ to use link aggregation, if your router supports it. Like every NAS we considered for this guide, the DS220+ has two drive bays. The drive bays are tool-less, so you don’t need a screwdriver to install a drive.

A USB Copy button sits on the front of the DS220+, but before you can use it you need to tell the NAS what the button should do when you press it. For example, you can set it up so that when you connect a thumb drive you’ve stored photos on, pressing the button will copy the entire contents of that drive over to a specific folder. Or you can set it to export, say, only video files from a specific folder. It takes a little effort to get the button working how you want, but Synology’s guide should help you configure the feature. While QNAP models often have a front USB port, most other NAS boxes do not, so it’s nice to see on this Synology unit.

When it came to power consumption, the DS220+ consumed about 23 watts during file copy, about the same as the QNAP TS-251D and Asustor AS5202T. This Synology NAS used about 3 watts while in power-saving mode, compared with the QNAP's 7 watts and the Asustor's 6 watts. Power-saving features won’t work if you enable any media server functions, because the NAS needs to be available all the time; you have to disable media servers and a handful of other similar services, such as cloud access and the mail server, if you want the power-saving mode to work. You can also turn the DS220+ on and off according to a schedule, and it supports Wake-on-LAN and multiple fan-speed modes, the latter of which can help reduce the overall noise of the DS220+.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Synology’s DSM software is easier to use than other NAS software, but it’s still not as intuitive as an operating system like Windows or macOS; even if you’re technically inclined, it will take a couple of hours to fully understand how to do anything beyond basic backups. And like most NAS makers, Synology’s customer support can be slow. We’ve see a couple of complaints in Amazon reviews that Synology doesn’t offer truly live chat and is slow to respond to support tickets. If you have problems, you’ll usually need to comb through forum posts to answer your own questions instead of contacting support.

The DS220+ doesn’t support volume encryption to securely lock your entire drive, unlike the QNAP TS-251D, but you can encrypt individual shared folders. Even with the DS220+’s hardware encryption acceleration, you’ll still see a slight ding to read-and-write performance with encryption turned on. In our tests, small-file file transfer in encrypted folders was slowed by about 30 percent compared to non-encrypted folders.

If you plan to use the DS220+ to store video footage from an IP camera, you have to license each camera on your home surveillance system. You get two of those licenses for free, but beyond that you have to pay $50 per camera. QNAP, along with most other NAS makers, has the same licensing system.

Runner-up: QNAP TS-251D

The QNAP TS-251D sitting on a gray table.

If the Synology DS220+ is out of stock or if its price jumps significantly higher, the QNAP TS-251D is an excellent alternative. It also includes an HDMI-out port, which is handy for monitoring surveillance systems or if you want to view media directly from your NAS connected to a TV.

Like the DS220+, the TS-251Duses a recent Intel Celeron processor and 2 GB or 4 GB of RAM (we tested one with 4 GB), which is significantly faster than the older Celeron and ARM-based processors in the older NAS devices we’ve looked at. While the DS220+ is a bit faster when transferring lots of smaller files, like during our music folder transfer tests, they are so close in performance that you’d likely not notice the difference unless you were monitoring both with a stopwatch. Like the DS220+, we recorded speeds of 109-110 MB/s for large multi-gigabyte files, and around 89-96 MB/s transfer rates for folders filled with thousands of music files. Unlike our main pick, the TS-251D can encrypt whole volumes, not just folders. Both the DS220+ and TS-251D are fast for home file storage and background tasks like backing up your family's laptops, downloading torrents, and automatically transcoding videos from a queue.

The QNAP TS-251D with its front panel popped off and its replaceable drives exposed.

The TS-251D is easy to upgrade, thanks to its PCIe-card expansion slot. QNAP offers SSD caching, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and USB 3.1 Gen 2 expansion cards. We don’t think most home users will need these features or even need to know why you’d want them, but they’re nice additions for those who do. While the Asustor and Synology NAS boxes come with dual Ethernet ports for link aggregation, you’ll have to add an Ethernet card to the PCIe-card expansion slot to get the same functionality in the TS-251D. In our tests, we didn’t see a lot of improvement when copying to our single client connected to gigabit Ethernet. You’ll need multiple clients accessing the network simultaneously to take advantage of link aggregation, or a router, switch, and clients that support 2.5 gigabit Ethernet or faster.

QNAP’s excellent user interface, called QTS, is similar to Synology’s DSM and offers the same features, including media streaming capabilities, a file manager, photo and video apps, video-surveillance functions, backup options, and the App Center, from which you can install many more apps such as Plex Media Server. Design-wise, QTS takes at least some of its inspiration from iOS, loading up all your add-on packages as icons on a desktop. As with DSM, it’s a good idea to check out the live demo of QTS before you buy so you can see how it works.

The back of the QNAP TS-251D.

Like the DS220+, the two-bay TS-251D uses RAID 1 to mirror data across disks, and in our tests it adequately reported drive failure by beeping several times and sending a notification to the email address we’d set up ahead of time. When we pulled out a drive and inserted a fresh one to simulate replacing a failed drive, it rebuilt its array without trouble.

QNAP provides a two-year warranty and excellent support both over the phone and via an online forum, plus a knowledge base and tutorials.

Upgrade pick: Synology DiskStation DS420+

Synology DiskStation DS420+, sitting on a gray table.

A two-bay NAS is the best option for most people who want to use theirs for home backup, but if you need more capacity or data protection, get the Synology DiskStation DS420+. This model has the same CPU and memory specs as the DS220+, but with two more drive bays. The DS420+ also has dual Gigabit Ethernet for link aggregation; this feature doubles the network bandwidth available to your NAS, though some home routers will not support that function.

A NAS with four or more bays gives you more storage options than a two-bay NAS does. For starters, you can opt for RAID 5, 6, or 10; those data storage configurations require three or more disks but provide better data protection and (depending on which RAID configuration you choose) can offer better performance. A four-bay NAS also lets you expand your storage capacity more easily since you can start with two drives and add more as needed, whereas the only way to expand the storage space on a two-bay NAS is to replace first one drive and then the other with higher-capacity drives.

Four-drive NAS devices are typically more suited to professional settings—and if you want to use one, having a good understanding of RAID storage management will help. But if you have the extra dollars, want additional data redundancy and space, and don’t mind learning more about RAID, the DS420+ is a good bet.

NAS care and maintenance

A group of different NAS systems arranged on a wooden desktop.

When you first set up a NAS, it prompts you to log in to its interface via a browser, typically with the “admin” account and no password. Very few NAS devices prompt you to change or reset the admin password—doing so, however, is a crucial security step, because the NAS connects to the Internet and is thus a ripe target for threats. So the first thing to do with any new NAS is to change the password on the admin account (both Synology and QNAP prompt you to do this during the initial setup).

Creating a unique user account for each person who accesses your NAS is a good idea. You can do so on any of the NAS devices we tested by going into the user settings in the interface. Be sure to give each user the appropriate permissions—you don’t want everyone to have god-level admin access to your NAS! If you want to give someone the ability to upload files to the NAS, give that user write permissions as well as read permissions. If someone should only download files, make them a read-only user.

Maintaining a NAS doesn’t take much effort, but you should keep a few things in mind. Because a NAS is almost always on, place it in a location that doesn’t get too hot, and ensure that it gets sufficient airflow—confirm that the back panel has a few inches of clearance so as not to obstruct the exhaust fan. When something goes wrong with a NAS, the culprit is usually drive failure, and according to this infographic from Seagate, temperature extremes are one of the top five causes of hard-drive failure.

Data corruption is another big issue with hard drives. Because most NAS devices ship diskless, you’ll have to provide and install your own drives. Be sure to check the compatibility list of hard drives on the NAS vendor’s website so that you install supported drives. Otherwise, if something goes wrong with the NAS, you may have problems getting customer support—or worse, you may discover that you voided the warranty.

The same rule applies to memory: If you buy a NAS that allows you to add RAM, check with the vendor to make sure that you purchase supported memory.

What to look forward to

As with Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, NAS manufacturers are promoting the latest fast technology, in the guise of 2.5-, 5-, and 10-gigabit Ethernet (aka 2.5 GbE). The Asustor AS5202T and AS5304T we tested has 2.5GbE ports, but our testing was limited to 1 gigabit Ethernet, which is much more prevalent in homes. We are starting to see 2.5 GbE and faster ports on some high-end routers and switches, but we don’t anticipate 2.5GbE or faster standards becoming common for a few years.

QNAP introduced the four-bay TS-451D2 in late 2020. Like the TS-251D, it also uses a recent generation Intel Celeron processor and includes HDMI, plus it adds an additional gigabit Ethernet port. It was released after our recent test period, but we will consider it next time we update this guide.

Other NAS makers have been playing catch-up to QNAP and Synology on the operating system front, and while those other competitors are still nowhere near the usability of either in that regard—and most still have terrible customer support—they’re at least getting closer with their operating systems. If you’re curious, nearly every NAS maker, including Asustor, Thecus, and Zyxel, offers a live Web-based demo of its operating system that’s worth checking out.

The competition

As we mentioned above, both Synology and QNAP sell many, many NAS devices, all of which run the same software but vary in processor type and speed, RAM, number of drive bays, and features. Our picks offer the best combination of performance, features, and price for most home users, and Synology’s and QNAP’s respective software offerings are more powerful and polished than those of other NAS makers. Our testing over the years has reinforced this conclusion, as has AnandTech’s two-part dive into NAS operating systems and features.

Since 2015, we’ve tested a lot of NAS devices, including many that are now discontinued, such as the QNAP TS-251A, QNAP TS-251, Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay Home Media Storage Device, Synology BeyondCloud Mirror, Synology DiskStation DS214, Synology DiskStation DS216play, Synology DiskStation DS216+II, Asustor AS-5002T, QNAP TS-231P2, Apollo Cloud 2 Duo, Asustor AS-202TE, Synology DiskStation DS216, and WD My Cloud EX2. Some are still available but use older CPUs, are priced too high, or fail to meet our memory requirements.

The WD My Cloud Home Duo is WD’s take on a beginner NAS, but the simplified design of the operating system introduces more problems than it solves. The My Cloud Home Duo needs to be connected to the Internet if you want to use all its features, even within your home network. You’re also required to use the WD Discovery software to mount a user directory on the My Cloud Home Duo, and it needs an Internet connection to do so, for some reason. You can mount the Public folder directly to skip over WD’s software, but in that case you lose access to any files stored in the user directory, which for most people is everything. And in our tests, reading and writing to a user folder was far slower than using the Public one: When we mounted the Public folder on the My Cloud Home Duo, we saw write speeds at a little less than 80 MB/s, but when we ran the same write tests on the user folder—the method most people will use—the speeds dropped to 15.62 MB/s. WD’s support page doesn’t offer any explanations or solutions.

We also looked at the Apollo Cloud 2 Duo. Like the WD My Cloud Home Duo, the Apollo Cloud 2 Duo is a simplified NAS and comes packed with hard drives already installed. Unfortunately, it lacks basic features and third-party app support, including stuff like Plex, which even the WD model has. Its read and write tests were also extremely slow compared with the results from other NAS boxes we tested. When we reached out to Apollo for clarification on these results, representatives replied that the Cloud 2 Duo uses in-flight encryption by default and the user cannot disable it. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially since the WD My Cloud Home Duo doesn’t support encryption of any kind, it is unfortunate that you can’t adjust those settings in exchange for a speed boost when you’re in a secure environment.

The Buffalo LinkStation SOHO is a NAS with two 4TB or 8TB drives already installed. It’s sold as a quick solution for home office users who need to keep all their data in one place. We found that the LinkStation SOHO misses most of our must-have criteria: It has an underpowered ARM processor, a scant 256MB of RAM, lacks hardware encryption, only has a single USB 2.0 port, and its drive bays are not hot-swappable.

Synology’s DS419slim interested us because it is one of the few compact NAS boxes that supports only 2.5-inch (laptop-style) hard drives and SSDs. It seemed a possible fit for folks with small home offices or as a NAS you can stash out of the way, next to your wireless router. However, 2.5-inch NAS drives are usually more expensive than 3.5-inch drives, 2.5-inch drives already work in all of our picks, and the DS419slim’s 512MB of non-expandable RAM is a bit thin for the price.

We looked at the QNAP TS-230 as a budget-priced two-bay NAS, but its ARM-based processor is not recommended for Plex media service beyond H.264-encoded videos. So while it may be fine for a single stream of highly compressed videos, a NAS array with an Intel or AMD x86 processor is better for home use.

We tested the Asustor AS5202T two-bay NAS and the Asustor AS5304T four-bay NAS and compared them to the latest from Synology and QNAP. While both were competitive on our performance tests, included dual 2.5GbE ports, and had longer 3-year warranties, the Asustors’ administration interface wasn’t quite as polished. The admin interface features a red motif and a dragon logo that feels more at home on a gaming PC than on a home office NAS. Also, we disliked that Asustor buries security fix info in their ADM update notes. QNAP and Synology have centralized security update pages that are, to us, more transparent when you’re trying to stay ahead of specific public threats like the new versions of the QSnatch malware. Centralized access to updates makes it easier to react to malware threats as they are discovered.

Samara Lynn contributed to a previous version of this article.


  1. Craig Ellison, QNAP TS-X51A Series Reviewed, SmallNetBuilder, August 30, 2016

  2. Chris Finnamore, QNAP TS-251A, Trusted Reviews, November 4, 2016

  3. Jon L. Jacobi, QNAP TS-251A NAS Review: More media features than you can shake a stick at, TechHive, January 26, 2017

  4. 5 Top Causes of Hard Drive Failure, Seagate, January 17, 2014

  5. Orestis Bastounis, Western Digital Red 6TB review, TechRadar Pro, November 20, 2014

About your guides

Thorin Klosowski

Thorin Klosowski is the editor of privacy and security topics at Wirecutter. He has been writing about technology for over a decade, with an emphasis on learning by doing—which is to say, breaking things as often as possible to see how they work. For better or worse, he applies that same DIY approach to his reporting.

Joel Santo Domingo

You will also be interested:

Choosing the best NAS drive in 2021 isn't an easy task, with so many excellent models out there to pick from, but we've got you covered – we'll guide you carefully through all the best NAS specs, features and prices on this page.

For the uninitiated, Network Attached Storage drives do a lot more than store files like traditional hard drives do: they're personal cloud services and media servers, backing up data as well as storing it, and enabling you to get hold of your files from any computer you're using, anywhere, any time, on demand.

These NAS drives are even able to work their magic when your main computer is switched off, regardless if you are using one of the best laptops, best 2-in-1 laptops or best lightweight laptops, as these drives connect directly to your router. They cost a bit more than a regular hard drive because of that, but you'll find them well worth the investment, with all the extra functionality that they offer.

One of the best NAS drive use cases is for media playback – viewing your personal video library on your TV over your Wi-Fi network, without having to connect to anything, couldn't be any simpler. In short, having a NAS drive rocks! It's like being able to store and access your data on one of the best SSDs no matter where you are, or even if your main computer is shut down.

You can even store and access footage from one of the best webcams on a NAS drive if you so wish.

NAS drives, as we note in our back to school guide, are also great for students. Letting you store and access all your files, be they coursework or personal movies and pictures, anywhere you want. If you are a student shortly about to head back to school, college or university, it's well worth checking out our guide, as we've stuffed it with this year's top student tech. Tablets, phones, laptops, headphones and more.

If you're shopping for a NAS – and we think it's a smart buy for all kinds of reasons – then we've picked out the best NAS drives of 2021 right here for your consideration. You've got plenty of other options too, with our best external hard drives for Mac guide just one example.

The best Black Friday deals can be a brilliant way to get a NAS for an, ahem, NAS price: while TVs tend to hog the Black Friday headlines you'll often find that the best deals are on hardware that's designed to do its job in the background, which of course describes a NAS.

The best NAS drives you can buy today

(Image credit: QNAP)

1. QNAP TS-231P3

The best NAS drive for most people


Bays: 2

CPU: Quad-core 1.7GHz


Reasons to buy

+Plenty of features for the price +Variety of connection options 

Reasons to avoid

-Software could be more intuitive

There's a whole lot to like about the TS-231P3 from QNAP, which makes some of the best NAS drives in the business: if you're wanting to get started with a NAS drive without spending too much money, then this is definitely up there among the top picks. You get plenty of features and versatility, and it looks pretty stylish too.

The drive has two Ethernet ports and three USB ports, giving you a better-than-usual range of connectivity options, and there's built-in support for AES 256-bit encryption as well as many of the most popular cloud storage options. As with any QNAP drive, the software support is excellent, and the NAS isn't difficult to set up at all.

From snapshots of the system state to the easy photo management features, the QNAP TS-231P3 is a more capable device than you might think from the price. Another useful feature here is the ability to hot-swap lower capacity drives for larger capacity drives as and when needed, making upgrades a breeze.

(Image credit: Synology)

2. Synology DiskStation DS920+

The best premium NAS drive


Bays: 4

CPU: Quad-core 2.0GHz


Reasons to buy

+Lots of space and power+Smooth, quiet performance

Reasons to avoid

-It'll cost you

The DiskStation DS920+ from Synology is going to set you back a significant amount of money, but it's a premium-level NAS drive that justifies its price and its packed with features that power users can take advantage of – there's even a dedicated expansion unit (the DX517) for this NAS if you need one.

With 225 MB/s encrypted sequential reading and writing performance, this is a piece of hardware that isn't messing about, and there are two built-in M.2 SSD slots you can take advantage of too. You don't get these sorts of features on cheaper models, and they can make a significant difference to performance.

From backing up your computer(s) to having a media streaming library that the whole family can share, the Synology DiskStation DS920+ is capable of doing it all, and you can mix together up to a whopping 108TB of storage here as well. You've also got two USB ports and an eSATA port to make use of besides Wi-Fi and Ethernet.

(Image credit: TerraMaster)

3. TerraMaster F2-210

The best budget NAS drive


Bays: 2

CPU: Quad-core 1.4GHz


Reasons to buy

+Appealingly affordable price+Covers all the NAS basics

Reasons to avoid

-Not the most stylish

Here's a 2-bay NAS drive for not very much money at all from TerraMaster, a brand that's worth a look if you want something a little different from the norm (and want to save yourself some cash too). While its specs can't match more premium models, it covers all the NAS basics nicely, which will be fine for most people.

You do get read and write speeds up to 114 MB/s thanks to the quad-core 1.4GHz processor and 1GB of on-board RAM, and the drive also supports 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch disks (HDD and SSD). It's possible to pack the TerraMaster F2-210 with as much as 16TB of storage, which the majority of users should be happy with.

Add in support for Emby and Plex media servers, and this is a perfect NAS drive for beginners or for those who won't be placing too many demands on their hardware while it's in operation. If someone tells you that getting started with a NAS drive is expensive, then show them this.

(Image credit: QNAP)

4. QNAP TS-431X

The best NAS drive upgrade


Bays: 4

CPU: Dual-core 1.7GHz


Reasons to buy

+Plenty of capacity+High-level performance

Reasons to avoid

-Overkill for some users

If you've already done a bit of dabbling in the world of NAS drives – maybe you're looking for a second one, or you want to replace and upgrade your current one – then may we suggest the QNAP TS-431X? A 4-bay, high-performance NAS enclosure that's going to be able to take care of a multitude of tasks at the centre of your home (or office) network.

With encrypted read and write speeds of up to 312 MB/s, the TS-431X gives you a serious amount of speed to play around with, as well as a serious amount of security (there's also built-in fast disaster recovery). There are three USB ports, two Ethernet ports, and even a 10GbE SFP+ port for the fastest network needs.

You can upgrade the RAM to 8GB if you need to, which is another sign of the premium level we're at with this NAS drive. Of course there's a premium price attached too – and for a lot of users this is going to be way more than they actually need – but we'd recommend it as one of the best NAS drives for those who need a substantial upgrade.

(Image credit: Synology)

5. Synology DiskStation DS218

Excellent all round performance


Bays: 2

CPU: Quad-core 1.4GHz


Reasons to buy

+Easy installation and usage+Speedy performance

Reasons to avoid

-Not the biggest capacity

If you're in the market for a reasonably priced NAS drive then Synology is absolutely one of the brands you should be checking out, and the DS218 is a model suitable for those with more modest needs and a more modest budget. If you need an affordable 2-bay device that's one of the best NAS drives around, it's worth a long look.

That 2GB of on-board RAM gives you a little bit more headroom when it comes to applications and file operations, while the 112 MB/s sequential read and write speeds are decent enough for the amount you're paying. With two USB ports here as well as Wi-Fi and Ethernet, you've got a choice of options for transferring data.

You can fit drives up to a total capacity of 16TB in capacity with the Synology DiskStation DS218, so there's a huge amount of flexibility in that regard too. As always with a Synology product, it's simple and straightforward to set up, and comes with a selection of useful software tools for managing files, streaming video files, and so on.

6. My Cloud Expert Series EX2 Ultra

Perfect for your first NAS


Bays: 2

CPU: Dual-core 1.3GHz


Reasons to buy

+Smooth, simple operation+Compact and reliable case

Reasons to avoid

-Faster options are available

Western Digital has been in the hard drive game a long time, and its NAS drives are polished, reliable, and user-friendly (especially in the case of the EX2 Ultra). In fact, user-friendliness is one of the unit's key strengths, so it's worth a look if you're just getting started with networked storage.

You get two 3.5-inch drive bays, 1GB of RAM, and a dual-core 1.3GHz processor. Around the back are two USB 3.0 ports for plugging in additional drives. Allowing access to different users is a breeze, transfer speeds are quick, and it looks quite nice too, which helps.

To see how this stacks up against top competition, then check out the T3 QNAP TS-332X vs WD My Cloud Expert EX2 comparison feature. Whatever your budget, there are going to be quite a few top-notch NAS drives to pick from.

(Image credit: Synology)

7. Synology DiskStation DS120j

The best NAS drive for getting started


Bays: 1

CPU: Dual-core 1.0GHz

RAM: 512MB

Reasons to buy

+Doesn't cost much at all+Quality software support

Reasons to avoid

-Only one bay

If you go for a NAS drive with just a single bay, there are no options for data redundancy: you've essentially just got an external hard drive that also offers network connectivity (so all of your devices can access it). Make sure the data on the drive is backed up somewhere else for safe keeping.

All the usual Synology benefits apply here, from solid construction and durability to the quality of the associated software, but as RAM and CPU speed are more limited, this isn't a NAS drive you can rely on for high-end tasks (like encoding video on the fly). If you need an all singing and all dancing NAS, you'll need to look elsewhere.

Still, not everyone needs high-end performance from their NAS, or multiple drive bays, and if the DS120j suits you then you can get it for a very respectable price. There's an Ethernet port and two USB ports around the back for extra connectivity options.

(Image credit: QNAP)

8. QNAP TS-253D

The best NAS drive for creative professionals


Bays: 2

CPU: Quad-core 2.0GHz


Reasons to buy

+Lots of connection options+Stylish casing

Reasons to avoid

-On the expensive side

Here's a stylish, compact, powerful NAS from QNAP that would suit someone who needs a drive that's comfortably above the budget end of the market without getting into the heavy duty, business models that can cost a significant amount of money. This is quite a pricey drive, but it's not that pricey in the grand scheme of NAS drives.

You get a couple of drive bays here, 4GB of RAM, a quad-core 2.0GHz processor, five USB ports, two Ethernet ports, and all the usual and excellent software that QNAP bundles with its hardware. Add all of those specs up together, throw in looks that are better than the average NAS, and you can see how the TS-253D more than justifies its price.

There's also Wi-Fi 6 here, PCIe expansion options, and 4K HDMI output and encoding, so it sets a pace that the more affordable NAS drives on the market can't keep up with. Being from QNAP, you also know the drive is going to be well put together and well supported with software updates in the future.

(Image credit: Asustor)

9. Asustor AS4002T 2-Bay NAS Enclosure

A top-class 2-bay NAS drive enclosure


Bays: 2

CPU: Marvell ARMADA 1.6 GHz CPU (dual core)


Reasons to buy

+2 x gigabit Ethernet+Supports Plex media servers+3-year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-Expensive for a 2-bay

If you want a premium NAS drive enclosure and are happy with a 2-bay arrangement then this stylish unit from Asustor is well worth scoping out. It costs more than a lot of rival 2-bay enclosures but you get plenty of performance for you money.

This model comes with compatibility for both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch SSD/HHD drives up to 36TB in total capacity (18TB x 2), 2 x gigabit Ethernet with an additional 10gbE port,and support for Plex media servers, too.

The enclosure is powered by a Marvell ARMADA-7020 dual core 1.6 GHz CPU and 2GB of DDR4 RAM, and it comes with a 3-year manufacturer warranty.

How to choose the best NAS drive for you

The first thing to consider when picking the best NAS drive of 2021 iscapacity: that's how much data your drive can hold, set by the number of bays and the maximum drive sizes you can afford, so check these details carefully.

Go for a NAS that offers as much room as you need – some units come with hard drives fitted, some don't, but all will have a maximum capacity in their specs, so make sure you check. When comparing prices, make sure you're including the cost of the drives.

Also look for RAID configuration options, which is how a NAS allows you to configure the drives you're installing. Several RAID configurations offer some kind of data redundancy, so if one disk fails, another can step up – all of this happens automatically, once you've configured it.

Of course, you’ll also want to go through the plethora of extra features available, like powerful on-board processors that can get your media files into different formats as you stream them. Take your time and use our guide to the best NAS drives of 2021 as a starting point.


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