Best cheap NAS 2024

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A Network Attached Storage (NAS) server is a great way to store your data in a centralized location. Most servers have powerful software features that let you stream content on all the devices on your home network, back up photos and videos from connected phones, and so much more.

Think of a NAS as a private cloud solution; instead of your data being stored in a remote cloud server somewhere — which is the case with public cloud providers like Google — you essentially have full control of it, and that comes with guaranteed privacy.

NAS servers have evolved considerably in the last three years, and you get plenty of options these days that offer robust hardware and multi-Gigabit connectivity on a budget. So if you’re interested in setting up a budget home NAS, these are the best servers currently available. 

At a glance

Best overall

Best cheap NAS 2024

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

A fantastic overall choice

Reasons to buy

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Comes with 1GB of RAM

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A good choice to store data

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Reliable hardware

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Standout software

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Runs Plex natively

Reasons to avoid

Doesn’t have advanced software features

No upgradability

Single Gigabit Ethernet port

Synology makes the best home NAS servers, and the brand is particularly great in the budget segment, where it continues to deliver a standout value. The DiskStation DS223j is the latest product in the brand’s value-focused portfolio, and it combines a stylish design with a few upgrades. The NAS comes with 1GB of RAM as standard, and that’s double more than its predecessor, the DiskStation DS220j.

When I reviewed the DiskStation DS223j, I found the additional memory to be the biggest differentiator in daily use; it gives the NAS much better headroom to run demanding software utilities. While costlier NAS models let you upgrade the RAM if you want to add more down the line, that isn’t possible here — the RAM is soldered to the mainboard, and there’s no way to increase it beyond 1GB.

While it isn’t enough on a phone, 1GB of memory is adequate to run the brand’s DiskStation Manager (DSM) software. And while the DS223j has decent hardware — the Realtek chip is fast, you get a single Gigabit Ethernet port — it’s really the software that makes the NAS stand out over its rivals.

You get a polished interface, plenty of useful software features like Synology Photos and DS Audio/DS Video that make it effortlessly easy to back up photos and videos from your phones to the NAS, and then stream your media collection and audio library to any device on your home network. The best part is that you can easily connect to the NAS even when you’re outside your home.

The DS223j doesn’t have much in the way of upgradability, and the hardware is on the lower end of the scale. That said, it is a fantastic value at $189, and it is the ideal starter NAS to test the waters.

The runner-up

Best cheap NAS 2024

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Also great

Reasons to buy

+

Powerful hardware

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Plenty of useful software features

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Runs Plex natively

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Good design

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2GB of RAM as standard

Reasons to avoid

No upgradability

Single Gigabit Ethernet port

The DiskStation DS223 is the next step up within Synology’s portfolio, and it uses a different design aesthetic that delivers good passive and active cooling. This NAS is also powered by the same Realtek hardware as the DS223j, but you get 2GB of RAM, allowing it to stand out just that bit more.

In my DiskStation DS223 review, I called the NAS the best value in this segment. The increased memory combined with the easier-to-use design with slide-out drive bays make the DS223 a great choice, and while you don’t get containerization, most of the software features that you get in DiskStation Manager are intact.

The DS223 does a good job with Plex as well, provided you don’t need hardware transcoding. The streaming platform has a native client, and setting it up is about as straightforward as it gets. And just like the DS223j, you can easily store your photos, videos, and other data on the NAS with relative ease, and there are terrific mobile apps that provide access to that data from anywhere in the world.

Best connectivity

Best cheap NAS 2024

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

3. TerraMaster F2-223

Everything you need — for less

Reasons to buy

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Sturdy design

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Two 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet ports

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Hardware transcoding with Plex

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4GB of RAM out of the box

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Dual M.2 slots

Reasons to avoid

Software isn’t as polished

TerraMaster always manages to deliver great budget NAS servers, and that’s no different with the F2-223. The NAS has an aluminum chassis that is built to last, and you get tool-free installation for the two drive bays. But it’s at the back where things get interesting; the NAS has two 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and you can bridge these together via Link Aggregation to double the bandwidth.

There aren’t many budget servers that have multi-Gigabit connectivity, so if you’re in the market for a NAS that’s future-proof, the F2-223 is a terrific choice. The good news continues with the rest of the hardware; the F2-223 is powered by Intel’s Celeron N4505, and it has hardware transcoding — great for use with Plex.

You also get 4GB of RAM out of the box, and there are two slots that let you install up to a total of 32GB of RAM. There are two M.2 slots as well if you want to use NVMe drives in addition to mechanical HDDs, and honestly, this is the best hardware package in this segment by a long margin.

The downside? TerraMaster’s software efforts are distinctly lacking, and while the brand is making inroads in this area with the launch of TOS 5, it doesn’t have the same level of polish or extensive feature-set that you get with DiskStation models. That said, TerraMaster does a good job covering the basics, and coming in at just $259, the F2-223 has incredible hardware.

Best software

Best cheap NAS 2024

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

The best software features

Reasons to buy

+

Great as a Plex media server

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Best software features in this category

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Reliable performance

+

Good value

Reasons to avoid

Limited to Gigabit connectivity

No M.2 slots

I reviewed the DiskStation DS224+ shortly after it launched, and while I was annoyed at the lack of multi-Gigabit connectivity and M.2 ports, I liked the NAS quite a bit. Synology doesn’t always provide the best hardware — as is the case here — but the DiskStation DS224+ stands out for its software prowess, giving you the ability to use all the features available in DiskStation Manager (DSM).

The choice of hardware is a good one as well, and the Intel Celeron J4125 has hardware transcoding, making the DS224+ a terrific Plex media server. Most DiskStation models now use AMD hardware and lack transcoding, so it’s good to see the DS224+ continuing to offer this feature.

The NAS has 2GB of RAM out of the box, and you can add another 4GB module down the line if you need to increase memory. You also get dual Gigabit Ethernet ports with Link Aggregation, so while there isn’t multi-Gigabit connectivity, you can at least double the bandwidth.

Essentially, the DiskStation DS224+ stands out solely due to the software, and you get everything that DSM has to offer here. That alone makes the NAS a standout budget choice, and coming in at $299, you get a good value.

Best value

Best cheap NAS 2024

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

The best all-in-one value

Reasons to buy

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Does a terrific job backing up photos and videos from all devices

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Extremely easy to set up and use

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Integrates with Google Drive, OneDrive, and other cloud providers

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Has a 4TB NAS hard drive built-in

Reasons to avoid

No Plex or media streaming

Single variant with 4TB of storage

Very limited software

The BeeStation isn’t a NAS in the technical sense of the word, but it offers a reliable way to back up data, and is easier to set up and use than a traditional NAS. It houses a 4TB hard drive within a plastic shell, and you get a Gigabit Ethernet port at the back.

It doesn’t have DiskStation Manager; instead, you get barebones software that is designed to back up files and photos and videos — that’s it. There is no way to store media on the NAS and stream it using Plex, so if that’s what you’re after, you should consider one of the other alternatives on this list.

But if you don’t want a full-fledged NAS and are instead looking to just get an all-in-one solution to store photos and videos that you take on your phone and back up data from your Windows or macOS machine, you should consider the BeeStation. The product is similar to Western Digital’s My Cloud series, and is aimed at users just looking for an affordable way to back up data without investing in a traditional NAS.

The biggest draw with the BeeStation is the ease-of-use and value; it costs just $219, and that includes a 4TB drive designed for 24/7 use. Head to my BeeStation review if you’re interested in seeing more about the software before you make up your mind. 

Upgrade pick

Best cheap NAS 2024

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

The best 2-bay Plex NAS

Reasons to buy

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Outstanding at Plex streaming

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Powerful hardware that’s great in daily use

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Dual 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet ports

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Four M.2 2280 slots and HDMI 2.0 connectivity

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Good software features

Reasons to avoid

User interface not as polished as rivals

On the costlier side

ASUSTOR’s AS5402T retails for $369, so it isn’t exactly affordable, but it has one of the best overall packages in this segment. The NAS has two drive bays, but what’s great is that you get four M.2 slots, so if you’re looking to augment traditional HDD storage with fast NVMe drives, this is the best way to do so.

As I noted in my AS5402T review, the NAS is powered by Intel’s Celeron J5105 platform, and it does a terrific job as a Plex server — better than all the other models listed here. You also get 4GB of RAM as standard, two 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and there’s an HDMI port at the back that lets you connect the NAS to a TV.

ASUSTOR ticked all the boxes when it comes to the hardware, and there is a lot to like with the software as well. While the UI isn’t as polished or sleek as DSM, you get an extensive set of features, and ASUSTOR tightened up the security of its servers.

If you want a budget NAS with the best hardware potential and the ability to use M.2 drives down the line, there isn’t a better choice than the AS5402T. It is closer to mid-range territory than most of the models in this list, but you are getting a lot of value regardless.

Via: Androidcentral

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