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Two Great Compact NAS Devices
By now it's clear that the Synology DS414slim and QNAP TS-453mini are not direct competitors, despite the fact that both are designed to be compact NAS devices. Comparing them is a bit like comparing the $350 Radeon R9 390 to the $650 GeForce GTX 980 Ti.
Moreover the TS-453mini isn't just faster and more expensive, it is also physically larger. While that is primarily because it can support 3.5" drives, it also has to do with the internal hardware, which requires a lot more cooling than the Marvell Armada 370 used by the DS414slim.
Despite looking slow in comparison, the Synology DS414slim delivers a solid balance of price and performance for home users. For those seeking a truly small NAS the DS414slim is the perfect solution, albeit a very niche one.
Although the DS414slim is affordable at $300, its exclusive use of 2.5" drives means it ultimately isn't that cost effective. Granted the 2.5" WD Red 1TB drives are only a few dollars more than the 3.5" versions, but when looking at the 3.5" range we see that when spending 70% more on a 3TB drive buys a 200% increase in storage.
If you care more about the physical size of your NAS than its overall storage capacity, then the DS414slim fits the bill nicely.
QNAP's TS-453mini is the more mainstream approach and it seems perfect for the average home user. The small footprint means it won't take up much desk space or it can he hidden among your home entertainment equipment as an HTPC replacement.
NAS devices typically have a rather industrial look due to those easily accessible front mounted hot-swap bays. Synology has combated this problem in the past by using a removable front panel to give the device a sleeker look and while this approach works, it isn't practical as getting the panel on and off can be a pain.
The TS-453mini's magnetically-attached top panel is likely the most innovative design we have seen yet for a home NAS. The only downside of course is the price and $530 for the 2GB model is likely going to be too expensive for most home users, especially once you add the cost of storage ($280 for 1TB WD Red drives).
The TS-453mini can be compared to devices such as the Synology DS415+, QNAP TS-451 and Asustor AS-5104T. They all cost $500 to $600 and support four 3.5" drives. Of this bunch, the DS415+ and TS-451 are our favorites but we could never pick which is the best as they have their own strengths and weaknesses.
That said, as a home NAS we prefer the QNAP TS-453mini to both of them. The TS-453mini might be a little more expensive than the TS-451, but you get twice as much memory, a much faster processor and what is without question a significantly better design.
The only true competitor for Synology's DS414slim is QNAP's TS-451S. It features the same dual-core Celeron 2.41GHz processor as the standard TS-451 and only costs $100 more than the DS414slim, though it's also bigger which makes the DS414slim an obvious choice if you're going as compact as possible.
Pros: Extremely compact, a true 2.5" NAS, low powered, silent operation, affordable, excellent software and support.
Cons: Not the most powerful NAS but it's sufficient for 1-3 simultaneous users, capacity is limited due to the 2.5" design.
Pros: Magnetic top cover looks great and is functional, vertically stacked design works well, loads of power for multiple users, small foot print compared to traditional 4-bay NAS devices, memory is quick and easy to upgrade.
Cons: Expensive even for the basic model with 2GB of RAM. Relatively bulky design compared to the DS414slim.