Tue. May 21st, 2024


Key Takeaways

  • The BeeStation is a low-cost, simple alternative to cloud storage subscriptions.
  • It lacks advanced NAS features but mimics consumer services like Dropbox and Google Photos.
  • Easy setup, quiet operation, and a power-efficient design makes it ideal for basic needs.


Instead of paying month-to-month for a Dropbox or Google Photos subscription, you could make a single payment for Synology’s BeeStation, an entry-level network-attached storage that aims to replace your cloud storage plans.

While the BeeStation lacks the ability to stream media, run virtual machines, or deliver other advanced NAS functionality, it does an amazing job mimicking services like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and Google Photos. It’s also unusually easy to set up and use, making it an excellent option for those who just want to store data.

Synology BeeStation thumbnail.

Synology BeeStation

Store, access, and share files over the web, or from your desktop or mobile devices with the BeeStation. 
Share storage with family and friends so everyone has their own personalized storage space. Back up files from Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, and external drives to one central place.

Brand
Synology

CPU
Realtek RTD1619B

Memory
1GB DDR4

Drive Bays
1 x 4TB HDD

Ports
2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1

Dimensions
5.82 x 2.46 x 7.72in (148.0 x 62.6 x 196.3mm)

Weight
1.8lbs (820g)

Pros

  • Mimics cloud storage experience at a low price
  • The BeePhotos app scans images for faces and location data
  • It can back up data to external drive or cloud service
  • Surprisingly quiet design for a NAS device
Cons

  • Lacks advanced NAS functionality, such as Plex streaming
  • Single HDD design is a poor choice for data redundancy
  • Both USB ports are placed on back of unit

Super-Duper Simple Setup

Setting up a NAS device is not how I’d like to spend an afternoon. Fortunately, the BeeSation setup process only took a few minutes of my time. I connected the BeeStation to my router, logged into a Synology account on the portal.bee.synology.com website, and wandered off as the BeeStation performed a firmware update.


When I came back, the device was ready for file and photo uploads, and it asked if I wanted to import files from Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, a WD My Cloud device, or an external drive.

There are a few ways to interact with the BeeStation. Most of your time will be spent on the BeePhotos and BeeFiles platforms, which are modeled after familiar applications like Google Photos or Dropbox. BeePhotos and BeeFiles apps are available for Android and iPhone, though you can also tap into these services through the web-based BeeSation portal.

Those who want to regularly access the BeeStation from a computer should use the BeeStation for Desktop interface. It lets you set up automatic backups for folders and gives you an overview of BeeStation contents.

The rear side of the Synology BeeStation, which is where all the ports and buttons are located.
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek


However, BeeStation’s SMB capabilities are disabled by default. Those who want a more traditional NAS experience that ties into computers’ file systems need to dig around in BeeStation’s settings and enable SMB.

Realistically, BeeStation is supposed to feel like a cloud storage app, and it’s tailored toward novice computer users. Forcing SMB during setup would just make things more complicated. But LAN access is also disabled by default—an odd choice.

If you don’t enable LAN connectivity, files that you upload to the BeeStation while inside of your home are treated as remote file uploads, which are relatively slow. Also, remote access isn’t available when there’s an internet outage or a problem with Synology’s servers.

I’m compelled to mention the WD My Cloud, an entry-level NAS that’s very similar to the BeeStation. Back in 2023, Western Digital shut down remote access for My Cloud and prompted users to manually enable LAN access. Those who failed to enable LAN were locked out of My Cloud and couldn’t access their files.


Again, I appreciate the BeeStation’s simple setup process. And although I consider myself an “advanced” NAS user, I love that the BeeStation feels like a cloud storage app and not some super-complicated machine. But SMB and LAN access should be offered or explained during BeeStation setup, even if they’re intentionally disabled by default.

Extremely Basic Capabilities, for Better or Worse

If you’ve ever used Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, or Google Photos, you will immediately understand how to use Synology’s BeeFiles and BeePhotos apps. These apps are super straightforward, and they were clearly modeled after cloud storage solutions. Plus, up to eight family or friends can join BeeStation, and you can generate sharable links to any file, folder, or album that you’ve backed up.

Sending files to the BeeStation is a breeze. You can upload individual files through the BeeStation app or portal, though I got more use out of BeeFile’s “sync” and “backup” features, which automatically copy individual folders from your computer or cloud storage accounts. Any changes that you make to a synced folder will be reflected on the BeeStation, while the backup tool simply copy-pastes files into BeeStation storage.


BeeFiles also allows you to back up BeeStation’s contents to an external drive, USB stick, or cloud storage platform. I’m glad that this feature is so easy to use, as BeeStation contains just one hard drive that will eventually fail. For the sake of data redundancy, any important items that are saved to BeeStation should be copied to some other storage media.

As for the BeePhotos app—I was very impressed. It’s like a slimmed-down version of Google Photos, and it can automatically retrieve new photos from your smartphone.

Like Google Photos or iCloud, the BeePhotos app can sort images by faces, objects, locations, and other metadata. You can even use search terms like “cat” to find certain photos. (BeePhotos isn’t perfectly accurate when identifying people or subjects. It thinks that I’m four different people, and it confuses cartoon characters for real faces. However, I run into the same problems with Google Photos.)


It’s worth noting that the BeePhotos iPhone app isn’t great at uploading images in the background. I had to keep the app open to finish uploading images. This shouldn’t be a huge problem if you use BeeStation as your gallery app, as you will regularly interact with it.

However, the BeeStation isn’t designed for advanced NAS functionality. It can’t stream media with Plex or run virtual machines. You can’t even install Synology’s DiskStation apps. BeeStation may replace your cloud storage subscription, but it isn’t a stand-in for a full-fat NAS device.


I was surprised to learn that the BeeStation runs on a Realtek RTD1619B processor. This is the same processor that you’ll find in Synology’s DiskStation DS223. It’s fairly powerful, and it’s capable of running advanced applications like Plex. Synology simply chose to omit media streaming and other advanced functionality—it’s a philosophical constraint, not a hardware constraint.

Predictably, the BeeStation’s performance is pretty solid. It writes and retrieves data at a reasonable rate, and it never crashed during my testing. Just know that the BeeStation runs on a single 4TB Synology HAT3300 drive and uses a 1GbE port.

Uploads and downloads are slower than that of a more expensive NAS device, and if you upload more than a few hundred images at once, you’ll receive a “BeeStation is busy” warning while the system races to scan metadata and create image thumbnails.

If I had to guess, Synology’s HAT3300 drive is responsible for these minor performance pitfalls. A two-drive version of BeeStation would probably experience less of a bottleneck when indexing images, barring any thermal constraints.


A Quiet, Power-Efficient Machine

The BeeStation is unusually power efficient, even for a NAS device. It runs at just 7.86 watts when writing or retrieving data, according to Synology. And, impressively, its power consumption dips to a cool 1.65 watts when idling. All in all, BeeStation should add less than $1 to your electric bill each month. And if you want to keep the BeeStation online during a long power outage, it’s perfectly suited for a small or cheap uninterruptible power supply.

More surprisingly, the BeeStation is fairly quiet. It relies on passive cooling, so there’s no fan noise, and Synology’s HAT3300 drive is far quieter than most other NAS drives I’ve tested. I can hear the HAT3300 spinning, but it’s quiet enough that I’d be happy to keep it in a bedroom or studio apartment—I can’t say the same for the WD Red Pro drives I use in my big-boy NAS.

The Synology BeeStation next to a Microsoft Surface tablet.
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek


According to a B&H listing, the HAT3300 drive runs somewhere between 23 and 27 decibels, meaning that it’s quieter than the ambient noise in my home. The WD Red Pro drive that I mentioned earlier can reach 34 decibels, which is 70% louder than 27 decibels. (An increase of 10 dB is perceived as a doubling of loudness.)

This may be the least annoying NAS device on the market. It’s easy to set up, it has an intuitive interface, and it doesn’t make much noise. If I didn’t need any advanced functionality, I’d sell my old NAS and switch over to the BeeStation, although I’d probably wait for a model that contains two HDDs for data redundancy.

Should You Buy the Synology BeeStation?

The Synology BeeStation and its packaging.
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek


At its core, the Synology BeeStation is a low-cost alternative to services like Dropbox or Google Drive. It’s easy to set up, it’s easy to use, and it can automatically back up and organize files. There’s a big trade-off for all this simplicity: BeeStation lacks many of the advanced features that you might expect from a NAS device.

Those who require advanced NAS functionality should skip the BeeStation. But if you just need a replacement for Dropbox or Google Photos, this is clearly a good option. The 4TB BeeStation that’s featured in this review costs $200. For reference, I’m currently paying $10 a month for my 2TB Dropbox plan. If I canceled Dropbox and switched to BeeStation, it would pay for itself in less than two years. And that’s for 4TB of storage—twice the storage of my Dropbox plan.

However, I need to reiterate that this is a single-drive solution. It only contains one HDD, which will eventually fail. If you care about your data, you need to regularly copy the BeeStation’s contents to an external drive, a computer, or a cloud storage service.


I strongly suggest waiting for a two-bay version of the BeeStation. That way, you can get 4TB of storage mirrored across both drives. When one drive fails, the other will continue working as you search for a new NAS solution or send the BeeStation off for a new HDD. Of course, you’re free to ignore my suggestion if you aren’t concerned about file redundancy.

Synology BeeStation thumbnail.

Synology BeeStation

Store, access, and share files over the web, or from your desktop or mobile devices with the BeeStation. 
Share storage with family and friends so everyone has their own personalized storage space. Back up files from Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, and external drives to one central place.

Brand
Synology

CPU
Realtek RTD1619B

Memory
1GB DDR4

Drive Bays
1 x 4TB HDD

Ports
2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1

Dimensions
5.82 x 2.46 x 7.72in (148.0 x 62.6 x 196.3mm)

Weight
1.8lbs (820g)



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By John P.

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