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User Interface

If you compare DSM 5's and QNAP's QTS 4.1 "desktops", you'll note Synology's is pretty minimal. Of course, DSM 5.0 allows you to populate the home screen by creating shortcuts for any of its apps.

Synology's DSM 5.0 (left) vs  QNAP's QTS 4.1 (right) default desktops

Synology's DSM 5.0 (left) vs QNAP's QTS 4.1 (right) default desktops

There are a number of similarities between the UI on the two NASes. Both have controls across the top of the screen for admin access and for status of activities such as cloud functions. Both also have a control panel on the landing page and a menu icon in the upper left corner of the screen.

The screenshot below compares the main menu of the two OSes. You'll note that Synology (left) has a flat structure, while QNAP's UI categorizes applications. I found QNAP's structure a little more intuitive to navigate.

Comparison of Synology DSM 5.0 (left) and QNAP QTS 4.1 (right) main menu

Comparison of Synology DSM 5.0 (left) and QNAP QTS 4.1 (right) main menu

The Control Panel, accessible from the landing page, is where you configure many NAS settings. Applications also have their own settings. The screenshot below shows the Control Panel layout.

Like QNAP's control panel, DSM 5.0's control panel is organized into four categories. If you click on any of the icons, the view switches from an icon-based view to a menu view, with each of the categories arranged vertically along the left side of the screen.

The gallery below shows selected screenshots from the control panel including creation of a volume, the user creation wizard, and the report generation wizard. Synology also has live demo so that you can explore all of the features of DSM 5.0.

Synology DSM 5.0 Control Panel

Synology DSM 5.0 Control Panel
Control Panel gallery

Mobile Applications

Synology has an entire suite of mobile applications for iOS, Andorid and Windows Phone. I looked at the majority of applications on both iOS (iPad) and Android platforms (Samsung Galaxy S5 or Nexus 7). Though Synology constantly updates its mobile apps to add new features, some of the apps do require DSM 5.0 for some of the new features.

Synology groups mobile apps into the following categories:

Multimedia - Apps in this category include DS Audio, DS video and DS photo+. These apps have a revamped interface, and share login credentials between apps to facilitate login. Here are a few comments on each:

  • DS Photo - The applications on both iOS and Android allow you to delete files or download files to your mobile device. On iOS, you download them to your camera roll. Sharing options differ somewhat based on the platform. on iOS, you see your traditional sharing options (shown in the gallery). On Android devices, your sharing options depend on what's installed on your device.
  • DS Audio - This application looks very different on the Android platform and reflects the newer, more consistent design that you see being rolled out through the mobile apps. After using both applications, I preferred the Android version. One feature worth noting: Chromecast is supported on both Android and iOS apps. Since I have Chromecast connected to the TV in my office, I found myself listening to music on the DiskStation via the TV since it has much better speakers than my phone.
  • DS Video - DS video is probably the app that has the most new features. DS Video also supports Chromecast on both iOS and Android platforms. I successfully streamed video via Chromecast using both platforms. Multiple file types including .mov, .wmv, .avi, .mp4 and .vob played successfully.

Also new to DSM 5.0 is support for Apple TV, Roku and Samsung Smart TV. While I don't own a Samsung Smart TV, my Blue Ray player is a Samsung with Smart TV capabilities. I upgraded the Smart TV app and then downloaded DS Video. The DS Video app for Samsung has a very fresh 7/31/2014 file date. I was able to view each of the video files on the DiskStation via the Samsung Smart TV player without incident. I also downloaded the DS Video "channel" for my Roku player and all video streamed from the DiskStation through that device, as well.

Mobile Office - The two apps in this category - DS cloud and DS file, make it easier to work away from your office.

  • DS Cloud automatically syncs selected DiskStation folders to your mobile devices. On iOS devices, synced files appear within the application. On the Android platform, you have the choice of where to store the synced items.
  • DS File lets you move, copy and delete, download and share files on your DiskStation. On both platforms, you have the option of a list view or a tiled view. Thumbnails were presented in both tested platforms.

Downloads - DS download lets you manage download tasks that you've created using the companion DiskStation Download Station app.

DS Cam - As with previous versions of DSM, DSM 5.0 enables your DiskStation to also be a video surveillance server using the Surveillance Station app that you can download through the Package Center. The current version in the Package Center is 6.3-3347. The current download count is listed at 9777,000+. The DS Cam mobile app let you access your surveillance station from virtually anywhere. I did not test this feature.

Monitor your DiskStation - The two apps in this category allow you to monitor you DiskStation using mobile devices.

  • DS Finder provides top level status such as storage usage, server temperature, network status and drives. Email, SMS or push notices can alert you of critical events.
  • DS Mobile also allows you to monitor system status. But with this app, you can also perform certain management tasks such as creating users and groups and managing permissions.

I've included a gallery below with selected screenshots from both the Android and iOS platforms.

Mobile gallery

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