QNAP vs Synology vs FreeNAS vs Drobo: Electronic Storage Compared

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Synology and QNAP are often the cheaper options for an NAS device compared to the others. FreeNAS will work well for the independently minded due to the ability to write your own plugins and the open-source, third party approach. Drobo has some of the bes

Cloud storage devices come in many shapes and sizes these days. You have your pick of many different types, so it pays to check up on what’s available. Here are some options for various storage devices such as NAS and otherwise, including how they compete with one another in various different categories.


Qnap has a number of storage gadgets including the TS-251, which is known for having strong video playback options if you want to use it for a home theater system.


  • HDMI Port-You can connect the QNAP TS 251 directly to a television through an HDMI cord. Reviewers say that a wireless keyboard, mouse or even something through an Android app will serve as everything you need for controlling videos.
  • App Variety-You have a number of apps available through QNAP devices such as their QmailAgent, a Virtualization app, Qsync for file syncing, and Linux Station as well.
  • Drag and Drop Syncing-The QNAP TS-251 I described as having a “DDropbox-like” ability to file sync across both mobile devices and computers. This way, you can share your media and other files with whatever device you want to use to play it.



Synology features devices like the DiskStation which reviewers fairly universally praise as having a huge amount of value for the price, especially if you go with the cheapest varieties that you can. There are a number of tools available through Synology including routers with VPN and surveillance options as well as their famous NAS devices.


  • Scalable to 16 GB-The DiskStation216j lets you get as much as 16 TB of storage if you add in the maximum. It will still work.
  • 4k Transcoding-The device can handle 4K UHD transcoding at 2160p through the hardware.
  • Wide Compatibility-You can connect the device to a Cloud Sync app designed by Synology itself, but you can also connect to many different options for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows. Examples include Google Drive, DropBox, One Drive, Azure and many others.


FreeNAS is specifically an operating system to be used by NAS machines. It’s open source and it’s been downloaded over 8.5 million times.


  • ZFS Technology-This tech makes it so that you don’t have to do a file system check ever. So, you can store whatever you want to without having to worry about system rot. This is specifically for the FreeNAS mini which uses the FreeNAS system but is produced by a different company.  It uses checksums all the way through in order to achieve this.
  • Time Machine Backups-The FreeNAS system supports this type of backup option through machines that run the OS.
  • Snapshot Checking-The ZFS system through FreeNAS can create a snapshot of the entire system that you can access at any time. You can access files at any time a snapshot is made.
  • Many Apps Plus Write Your Own Plugins-You have the ability to write your own plugin apps for this particular OS if you happen to not like those that comes with it. There are plenty that do come with it, however. For example, there’s Mylar for comic book downloader, there’s an automated downloader for video games, there’s the network backup solution called bacula, there’s OwnCloud, there’s Sickbeard and many others.


Drobo, especially through its 5D machine, is known for having units which put out a lot of speed due to its accelerator bays. It does have some of the more expensive options around, but those looking to buy high-end will likely not be disappointed.


  • Accelerator Bay-The 5D from Drobo has this feature which is located at the bottom of the device. The idea is that it allows files to be stored intelligently through A.I. n order to allocate frequently used files here to increase the speed of their access. The claim is that you end up with SSD speed with a storage capacity closer to a more traditional hard drive.
  • Power Outage Protection—Drobo has units such as the 5D that have a small battery in them in order to keep dating moving during a power outage. The idea is that the battery cadn add enough juice so that it can complete writing tasks before going offline.
  • Detailed Status Dashboard-You can get a good sense of how everything is doing on the Drobo unit right from the dashboard. This includes graphic sections that show the green status of each drive include how much capacity it has. It also includes whether the data cache is on, what kind of firmware is running, and other data.

Head to Head


The original price of the QNAP TS-251 was $409, though you can often find it online elsewhere for much less now, including $249 or so on Amazon, for example. This is for 1 GB of diskless memory.

An example of pricing from Synology would include the Diskstation DS216J which goes for around $170 from Amazon. It’s known as one of the more inexpensive options for network attached storage.

FreeNAS is, as the name indicates, a free and open-source system for Network affiliate storage devices. However, there are machines that specifically use FreeNAS. An example is the FreeNAS Mini, by IXSystems, Inc. it sells for $990 on Amazon.

Drobo pricing is definitely not on the cheap side which lower end devices with fewer options such as the 5 bay array Drobo 5D going for $639. The 6TB version of this with Thunderbolt ports go for as much as $985. The other Drobo machines, such as the 5N. are cheaper, at about $500 or so.

Overall, Drobo and some FreeNAS machines tend to be the most costly of the bunch, but you get plenty of extras for the trouble. Those looking for the most economical systems will like Synology better, since you get high value for only $200 or less. QNAP is a bit more middle of the road, although FreeNAS is obviously an OS and not technically a company that builds NAS devices, so a machine running that OS could vary wildly in price.


QNAP has a number of different devices available, with many different options on each. An example is the TS-251 dual core Personal Cloud NAS, which you can get with 1 GB of diskless memory. It also comes with up to 4 GB of diskless memory as well, albeit for a higher cost. The gadget can play videos on 5 different devices at the same time. It can play videos of all types, even if you don’t have support for that file type on the device you’re using. This uses apps like the Video Station or Qfile app, usable through both iOS and Android.

Synology NAS devices like the 216J are vastly scalable machines, going all the way up to 16 TB. They can also connect to many different online services such as DropBox, Google Drive, and others. The features that the lower end devise have for the company are often thought of as superior to other devices that cost more money, such as some of those through QNAP, according to reviewers.

FreeNAS has a number of features as an operating system that NAS machines can make use of, such as their ZFS encryption. Apparently, they are the only one source project that can use encryption for ZFS. This includes the AES-XTS encryption option, for example. Additionally, you can use either Windows Backup or Apple Time Machine with the OS, if you so choose. rSync and TrueOS Life Preserver are available as well. Additionally, FreenAS gives you many plugins right from the getgo. You can use BitTorrent for private file sharing, Plexmediaserver, Transmission also for bit torrent, or even write your own plugins, if you want.

Drobo has plenty of extra features to justify its higher cost, such as a built-in battery backup that makes sure that anything left in memory during a power outage is written to disk before the device shuts down. Reviewers really liked this feature and went so far as to lament its lack in other devices. The Drobo 5N, for example, is also known for having a highly quiet operation and hardware plus software setups that are intuitive in nature.

Overall, QNAP devices are known for having a lot of possibilities through their app diversity. They can play videos both through HDMI and otherwise through their sync app. You can use it to allow your entire family to play videos individually and separately at the same time through the 5-gadget feature that makes it superior for this than other options. FreeNAS also has a versatile number of options for apps like QNAP and Synology, but the difference is that FreeNAS actually lets you write your own plugins and even distribute them if you want. It’s definitely a strong option for entrepeneurs who want to innovate with anything NAS related.


Individual reviews for NAP devices include a 4 out of 5 for the QNAP TS-251 from PC Mag, and a 3,5 out of 5 from Tech Hive  for the QNAP TAS-268. Amazon also gives the 251 a 4 out of 5 with well over 250 reviews. Positive reviews talk about the HDMI port which is especially useful if you’re going to use it as a network storage device for a home media center. It will actually function as a computer for this purpose if you want to use it to play videos. PC Mag in particular says that it’s well-priced for the functionality you get, especially the dual drives, for example. The downside to this option is that it apparently wears out quickly in many instances.

Synology reviews include the 4 out of 5 rating from PCMag for the Diskstation DS216J, for example. PCWorld gives it a 4 out of 5 as well.Reviewers like how inexpensive it is compared to what it does. It’s also highly scalable, making it a good choice for higher level business functioning since you can go as high as 16 TB of storage. In general, the DiskStation appears to be well-liked on the Internet. You have positive reviews of 9 out of 10 from Trusted Reviews, for example, as well as a 9 out of 10 from Tech Spot. The main negatives include that reviewers are less than enthusiastic about having to use a screwdriver to gain access to drives. It’s apparently also an issue that you have to do a lot of work to get services going, including for each of them separately. Reviewers also dislike how slow the video app is and that there’s no USB 3.0 port on the outside of it.

FreeNAS is more often reviewed inside of other machines than separate from it, since it’s an OS and not a company that creates the machines itself. The machines that do use the OS get some strong reviews, however. For example, there’s the FreeNAS mini which gets strong ratings online, approaching 5 out of 5 on Amazon with 30 or so reviews, for example. People praise the ZFS option, as well as the 8 core Avoton processor, specifically in comparison with a QNAP, actually.

Drobo reviews start with the Drobo Gen 3 review from PcMag that hands them 3.5 out of 5. There’s also the Drobo 5D review for 8 out of 10 from Trusted Reviews and 3.7 out of 5 from 300 reviews at Amazon. Tech Radar gives a 4 out of 5 for the Drobo 5N.Positive reviews laud the USB 3.0 speed, and the fact that the device is easy to setup.The Trusted Reviews take was that it was a quiet machine in its operation.

Overall, FreeNAS gets some strong reviews, with the FreeNAS mini, made by a different company but still using the OS, being compared favorably to a QNAP server because of its 8-core processor in comparison to the dual process of the QNAP. Many reviewers seem to equate Synology and QNAP machines as being similar, with Synology being the better option at the lower price and Synology having a better option in terms of scalability. There’s definitely a sense in which FreeNAS is well-suited for those who are independent-minded, even if they aren’t going to buy their own or put together their own machine to sell. Many people like this type of option for using as their own file sharing machine that can both download files and disseminate them to the local server, especially when it comes with so many options for customization. In other words, if you prefer to set up everything yourself according to your own specifications, any FreeNAS machine is probably for you.