The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

Synology DS416j loaded up with drives.

[By Nic Lindh on Monday, 11 April 2016]

Review: Synology DS416j

The DS416j is a nice NAS for light home use. Just don’t expect raw power.

I’ve been meaning to buy a NAS—a small, specialized computer that serves files—for years, but have always been put off by the cost.

This is the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness as coined by the late great Terry Pratchett. Meaning I kept blowing money by buying external USB drives to hook up to my computers and then replacing them as they invariably died early deaths instead of making one larger investment.

A NAS means paying more upfront and then making it back over time as you spend less for upkeep and getting built-in redundancy so if one drive (or two, depending on how you’ve set things up) fails you can replace it and keep on trucking without data loss.

At least that’s the theory. (As a sidenote here, “RAID is not a backup” is a truism for a reason. Do not believe you’ve nullified Murphy’s Law by getting your files on a RAID. End of sermon.)

The DS416j is a great deal: Around $290 from Amazon for a four-drive NAS running the very good and n00b-friendly DiskStation Manager operating system.

Of course, at that price Synology had to make trade-offs. The DS416j is expressly designed for light home use. If that is what you’re looking for, I wholeheartedly recommend it. If on the other hand you want a NAS for your office, you’ll be unhappy with this device.

Some of the trade-offs Synology made include:

  • One gigabit Ethernet port only, so there’s no link aggregation—gigabit is as fast as it gets.

  • 512MB of RAM, which is even less than Apple puts in its products.

  • No support for hot-swapping drives. If you need to replace a drive, you’ll have to power the Synology down and break out your screwdriver. Like an animal.

For a home server that costs less than $300, these are perfectly valid trade-offs. For a business NAS with 50 people on it, they are recipes for misery.

Thanks to the maturation of the software on NAS devices these days, people are using them for all kinds of tasks apart from backups and media drives, which is great. But know that the DS416j comes with an Armada ARM chip, which is not particularly studly. This means two things: Any third-party software you want to use has to be compiled for that chip, and it plain doesn’t have a lot of muscle.

The DS416j could perhaps be used as a Plex server. Maybe. For some files. And I’m not going to test it myself. Why? Because I don’t want to pop my popcorn, grab a chilled beverage and sit down to get entertained, only to find that whatever media file I happen to be interested in pushes the little Armada chip to a nervous breakdown.

In a few years Moore’s law guarantees that whatever NAS you buy will be able to transcode anything you throw at it, but that’s a few years out.

It’s important to note the NAS itself is only a container for drives, and you need to pay attention to the drives. You need to buy drives tuned to live in the cramped, hot, 24/7 environment of a NAS. After some research I decided the sweet spot for my usage was the 3TB Western Digital Red, so I picked up four of them from Amazon and they cost more than the DS416j itself.

It’s kind of nice that when the drives are under load, their thrashing sounds like rain. It’s soothing.

If you’re in the market for a NAS, Synology makes good ones, and the software especially is impressive. If you’re in the market for a light-usage home NAS that will be used mostly as a backup target and media file server, the DS416j is a nice product.

Note: Amazon links are affiliate links. If you purchase something through them I get a tiny kickback. It doesn’t cost you anything.

« Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to...


You like to read about technology? What a coincidence—I like to write about technology!

Impressions moving from an Apple Watch Series 3 to Series 5

Is there reason to upgrade from a 3 to a 5?

Renewing the nerd card: Installing Ubiquiti UniFi in the house

The Internet tells Nic to install Ubiquiti gear in his house, so he does, and now he has thoughts.

A report from surveillance cylinder land as we wait for HomePod

Nic reports his experiences so far with voice computing from Amazon and Google and is a bit mystified at the reaction to Apple’s HomePod.

iPhone X impressions

After a few weeks of using iPhone X I’m ready to join the congratulatory choir.

Smart homes for the wealthy

Nic is interested in smart homes. His contractor let him know how the wealthy are already using them.

The pro market, the nerds, and the vision

Apple’s neglect of the pro market is causing a lot of gnashing of teeth in Apple-nerd circles, but it’s true to Apple’s vision.

What to expect when you’re expecting a Hackintosh

There is unrest in the Mac community about Apple’s commitment to the platform. Some are turning their eyes to building a Hackintosh to get the kind of computer Apple doesn’t provide. Here’s what it’s like to run a Hackintosh.

The car is going digital and that’s a good thing

Car nerds are dealing with some cognitive dissonance as car technology changes.

Review: Kindle Oasis

The Oasis is Amazon’s best e-ink reader to date, but it’s not good enough for the price.

“Tea, Earl Grey, hot”

Nic buys an Amazon Echo and is indubitably happy with the fantasy star ship in his head.

It’s a content blocker, not an ad blocker

The problem isn’t ads. The problem is being stalked like an animal across the internet.

Review: Synology DS416j

The DS416j is a nice NAS for light home use. Just don’t expect raw power.

(Nerd Note) Moving to GitHub Pages

The Core Dump is moving to GitHub Pages. This is a good thing, most likely.

Apple Watch, six months in

Thoughts on Apple Watch after half a year of daily usage.

Magical thinking about encryption and privacy

Predictably, the Paris attacks brought the anti-encryption crowd back out of the woodwork. They're at best being willfully disingenuous.

Building a static site for an investigative journalism project

Things to consider when planning to build a site on a compressed time table.

Digital hygiene for online security and safety

Nic provides some basic not-too-paranoid tips for securing your digital life.

How to install Jekyll on Amazon Linux

Installing Jekyll on an EC2 Amazon Linux AMI is easy. Here are the steps.

Will Apple Watch be a success?

After wearing the watch for over a month, Nic has thoughts on its future. Spoiler: Depends on how you define success.

Let’s all chill out about the iPad sales numbers

Turns out “it's just a big iPhone” is a stroke of genius.

Tech terms you might be misusing

Some technical terms still confuse people who should know better, like journalists.

Naked root domain with Amazon S3 without using Route 53

How to host a static site on Amazon S3 with an apex domain without using Amazon’s Route 53.

New technology requires new thinking

People fear change, so new technology is used as as a faster version of the old. This makes technologists sad.

An HTML, CSS and JavaScript lesson plan

Nic provides a lesson plan for teaching total beginners HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

The glanceable wrist in your future

Nic loves his Pebble and looks forward to the Apple Watch, but realizes he’s in the minority.

It's the words, stupid

Nic loves books, but he loves their content more.

Our technology is bad and we should feel bad

Nic is worried about the fragile state of our technology and thinks you should be as well.

The WATCH is nigh, and I don't get it

Nic tries to understand the WATCH. It doesn't go well.

Apple might enter the home integration field

Nic thinks home integration could be Apple’s next major category. Read on to find out why.

An Apple ebook reader would be nice

Nic is frustrated with his Kindle and would love to see Apple make an e-ink reader.

The iPhone, devourer of technologies

The iPhone was announced Jan. 9, 2007. It now occupies a huge chunk of Nic’s life.

The A7 processor is your friend

Nic is very impressed with the speed of the iPhone 5S and iPad Air.

The 2013 Nexus 7

Nic buys a Nexus 7 to test the Android waters.

On outsourcing comments to Facebook

Nic outlines some of the risks of ceding comments on news stories to Facebook.

Lion and the angst of the greybeards

Nic is bemused by the sturm und drang surrounding the iOS-ification of Mac OS X.

Web publishing made easy

Web publishing used to require heavy-duty nerditry, but no longer.

How to create an e-book

Nic is creating an e-book. He shares what he’s learned so far.