Synology DVA3221 review: Much more than a NAS

This surveillance solution is easy to deploy and packed with useful video analysis tools

A photograph of the Synology DVA3221

IT Pro Verdict


  • +

    Fantastically easy deployment

  • +

    Powerful video analytics

  • +

    Smart data protection & compliance features


  • -

    Facial recognition doesn’t work with masks

If you need to capture, store and manage large archives of security camera footage, the DVA3221 is for you. While it may look like a regular four-bay desktop NAS, it’s designed and configured as a one-stop surveillance hub, so you can simply plug in your IP cameras and go.

In terms of hardware, its key feature is a preinstalled Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card. This provides the horsepower for deep video analytics tasks, allowing you to track people, employ live facial recognition and do plenty more across multiple video feeds.

The DVA3221 is also laughably easy to deploy. After slotting in four 14TB WD Red Pro NAS hard disks and firing up Synology’s web discovery portal, there was almost nothing left for us to do. The portal located the appliance, installed the latest DSM 6.2 software, set up a suitable RAID array, loaded the Nvidia drivers, set up Synology’s own Surveillance Station app and created a shared video storage folder.

Connecting to your IP cameras is handled by the Surveillance Station software. This had no problems finding and identifying our motley mix of Axis, D-Link and EnGenius cameras – the Synology software works with over 7,900 models. The price includes an eight-camera licence, but the appliance can work with up to 32 feeds. The standard live view scales to accommodate however many streams you have set up, but you’re free to switch to a different layout or create your own.

With our cameras connected, we started out by enabling the people-counting feature for a 2MP dome camera mounted on the ceiling by the lab door. It took us a few goes to successfully define the detection zone, but in around ten minutes the software was successfully logging all foot traffic. We could then pull up reports tracking daily, monthly and yearly footfall, and you can also use this feature for live crowd control, triggering an alert if the number of people who have entered exceeds those who’ve exited by more than a preset limit.

A photograph of the rear of the Synology DVA3221

Facial recognition proved easier to set up. We began by importing photos of the people we wanted to track, then assigned each one to an account and configured a monitoring zone in the camera view. As soon as a subject entered that zone, the display zeroed in on their face and tagged the box with their name. Unrecognised individuals were flagged up as unknown, and we were invited to import them into the database; the only hitch, for now, is that we found the system had zero ability to identify anyone wearing a face mask.

Person and vehicle detection works by letting you define up to three polygonal zones on the preview screen, and warns you if anyone enters them. A customisable small object threshold stops birds and the like triggering an alert, while a minimum duration time in seconds tells the software to alert you only if someone lingers in a particular place.

Intrusion detection works in a similar way: for this, you draw a line in the preview window and an alert is triggered if anything crosses it. You can pick whether you’re only interested in people crossing to one side or want to track movement in both directions.

Since the footage you capture will almost inevitably contain personally identifiable information, the DVA3221 also includes some smart features to help you ensure GDPR compliance. The whole system can be isolated on a private network, video storage shares can be encrypted and access can be locked down with two-factor authentication, while Synology’s Evidence Integrity Authenticator app can digitally sign recordings to help prove that footage hasn’t been tampered with.

Yes, you could do all of this with a bog-standard NAS, given the right software and a graphics card – but the DVA3221 is a lot easier to deploy and it’s good value. Moreover, it can still double up as a general-purpose NAS, making it an almost irresistible proposition for SMBs wanting an in-house video surveillance solution without the hassle.

Synology DVA3221 specifications

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ChassisDesktop chassis
CPU2.1GHz Intel Atom C3538
GPUNvidia GeForce GTX 1650 with 4GB GDDR5
Memory8GB DDR4 (max 32GB)
Storage4 x LFF hot-swap SATA drive bays
Network4 x Gigabit Ethernet
Other ports3 x USB 3, 2 x eSATA
Dimensions (WDH)250 x 237 x 166mm
Warranty3yr hardware warranty
Options8-camera licence included, additional 8-camera licence, £252 exc VAT
Dave Mitchell

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.

Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.