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Synology SA3600 review: A familiar story

A powerful rack NAS with great features and room to grow, but performance is only fair for the price

Price
£6,205 exc VAT (diskless)
  • Four embedded Gigabit Ethernet ports and two 10GBase-T ports
  • Maximum drive count of 180GB
  • Free Active Backup suite included
  • Improvements not significant enough to justify expensive price

The SA3600 heads up Synology’s family of high-end NAS appliances, targeting businesses that want powerful features and plenty of expansion potential. It’s a 2U 12-bay rack mounter that supports SAS 3 as well as SATA drives, and it comes with a meaty 12-core 2.1GHz Xeon D-1567 CPU in the engine room.

This appliance is designed to grow with your workload. The base 16GB of DDR4 memory can be boosted to 128GB using standard DIMM modules, and an external SAS 3 expansion port supports up to seven RX1217sas or RX2417sas expansion shelves, taking the drive count to a maximum of 180.

You won’t run short of network bandwidth either, thanks to four embedded Gigabit Ethernet ports, plus two 10GBase-T ports. A pair of spare PCIe slots permits further expansion, with plenty of industry-standard 10GbE and 25GbE cards on the official compatibility list.

It’s all crowned by Synology’s excellent DSM software, which is crammed with high-quality business apps. The range of backup tools in particular is unbeatable, covering Btrfs snapshots, Hyper Backup for local, remote, rsync, cloud and iSCSI LUN backups, plus the Drive sync app for collaboration and file sharing. Synology’s free Active Backup suite is included too, providing a complete set of apps for securing servers, desktops, numerous types of virtual machine and G Suite and Microsoft 365 data.

Synology’s class-leading Surveillance Station app deserves a mention too. It supports over 7,400 IP camera models, with outstanding recording features, and can even receive live video feeds from iOS and Android devices. It’s a great addition, especially since the SA3600’s high capacity makes it ideal as a CCTV recording vault.

While this is all good stuff, it will seem eerily familiar to anyone au fait with Synology’s existing product lineup: the specification is all but identical to that of the older SA3400, which supports the same number of drives and runs the same DSM software. The only significant differences are the CPU – the SA3400 uses an eight-core 2.1GHz Xeon D-1541, rather than the 12-core model of the SA3600 – and the price, which is around £1,700 less.

Clearly, the question is whether the SA3600’s extra performance justifies that huge price premium. To find out, we configured four 16TB Seagate IronWolf NAS drives as a RAID5 array, and hooked the SA3600 up to a Dell PowerEdge T640 Xeon Scalable tower running Windows Server 2019. With a share mapped to the server, we recorded sequential read and write rates both of 9.3Gbits/sec – identical to the SA3400. We did see improvements when copying our 25GB test file to an encrypted NAS folder, but these were slight: the SA3600 was 5.4% faster and CPU usage was 2% lower.

For IP SAN testing, we added an extra dual-port 10GBase-T card to the appliance and created a quad 10GbE MPIO link on the server to a 500GB iSCSI target. This gave us sequential read and write speeds of 36.4Gbits/sec and 18.1Gbits/sec – again, a negligible performance improvement of barely 1% over the SA3400. However, CPU load settled at around 11% during writes, versus 19% on the SA3400, showing the benefit of the extra cores.

The additional silicon also makes the SA3600 a better bet than the SA3400 for virtualisation duties, and it’s effortless to set up within DSM: we had Windows Server 2019 up and running in a virtual machine in only ten minutes. The app dashboard provides quick access to all VMs, while the vSwitch service isolates them on specific network ports and protection plans can take regular snapshots.

The SA3600 is undoubtedly a great choice for heavy storage workloads and large virtualisation projects. If your requirements are more modest, however, consider the SA3400: it’s a lot cheaper, and only marginally slower. 

Synology SA3600 specifications

Chassis2U rack
CPU12-core 2.1GHz Xeon D-1567
Memory16GB ECC DDR4 (max 128GB)
Storage12 x hot-swap SAS3/SATA drive bays, Synology SAS3/SATA PCIe card
PSU2 x 500W hotplug PSUs
RAID supportsupports RAID F1, 0, 1, 10, 5, 6, JBOD
Network4 x Gigabit Ethernet
Other ports2 x 10GBase-T, 2 x PCIe slots
Warranty5yr limited
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