Synology DiskStation DS220j

Best cheap NAS in 2024

Network-attached storage (NAS) can get really expensive, especially if you want more premium features. You don’t need to spend much to buy something truly special, however. We’ve rounded up some excellent enclosures with the most affordable costing less than $200. Here’s our collection of the best cheap NAS.

What’s the best cheap NAS?

It’s important to factor in price when picking a NAS enclosure. The more you spend, the better features will be made available, but you shouldn’t write off cheap enclosures altogether. They’re still exceptional for storing files and running a few lighter services.

We’d recommend buying a NAS with at least two drive bays, unless you don’t require data redundancy. Having more than one drive bay allows one to use RAID, which effectively groups multiple drives together to create one storage pool. This helps to shield yourself from data loss should a drive fail.

Some of these enclosures have been featured in our main best NAS buyer guide. Usually, when NAS brands come out with budget-friendly enclosures, there are some serious corners cut in order to keep manufacturing costs as low as possible. You’ll frequently find ARM processors instead of Intel chips and non-upgradeable RAM.

The cheaper the NAS, the less powerful the specifications will likely be. At the bare minimum, you can expect to see an ARM processor, 512MB of RAM, and up to two drive bays. These won’t blow your mind, but they will be more than good enough for storing data.

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My recommendations for the best cheap NAS

Synology DiskStation DS223j
Front of the Synology DiskStation DS223j.

Synology DiskStation DS223j

Best budget NAS

Synology DiskStation DS223j
Synology DiskStation DS223j. (Source: Synology)

The DiskStation DS223j from Synology is a great affordable NAS. It’s cheap and still manages to allow you to store up to 36TB of data if you don’t use the drives in a RAID configuration.

CPURealtek RTD1619B
(4-core, 1.7 GHz)
GPU
RAM1 GB DDR4
(1 GB max)
Bays2 (SSD/HDD)
Expansion
Cooling1x 92 mm
Ports1x 1GbE
2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1
Power draw~16.31 W
  • Realtek RTD1619B CPU
  • 2 drive bays
  • 1GbE LAN
  • Excellent OS
  • Affordable
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • Sluggish CPU performance
  • Limited RAID support

If you want the best overall pick for a cheap NAS, it’ll have to be the Synology DiskStation DS223j. It’s restricted by the processor and RAM, being the Realtek RTD1619B and 1 GB, respectively. This isn’t great for carrying out more intense tasks like running Plex Media Server.

It is, however, perfect for storing files, backups, and more. The two drive bays are capable of holding drives with a capacity of up to 36TB. If you’d like to better protect your data with redundancy measures, this will be slashed in half to a maximum of 18TB.

The best part about Synology NAS compared to the competition is the operating system. Synology DiskStation Manager is excellent and allows one to run multiple processes without issue. Just don’t try to do too much on the enclosure as the CPU and RAM will act as bottlenecks.

TerraMaster F2-221. (Source: NAS Master)

TerraMaster F2-223

Runner-up

TerraMaster F2-221
TerraMaster F2-223. (Source: TerraMaster)

TerraMaster NAS is generally more affordable than the competition and the F2-223 is no different. It offers excellent value thanks to the Intel Celeron N4505 processor and upgradable RAM.

CPUIntel Celeron N4505
(2-core, 2.9 GHz)
GPUIntel UHD Graphics
RAM4 GB DDR4
(32 GB max)
Bays2 (SSD/HDD)
Expansion
Cooling1x 80 mm
Ports2x 2.5 GbE
2x USB-A 3.1
1x HDMI
Power draw~22.1 W
  • Intel Celeron N4505
  • Upgradable 4GB DDR4 RAM
  • 2 drive bays
  • 2.5 GbE networking
  • Limited RAID support

The first TerraMaster NAS in this affordable collection is the TerraMaster F2-223. It’s very similar to the Synology DiskStation DS224+ but is a little cheaper. Inside is the Intel Celeron N4505 processor, as well as 2GB of DDR4 RAM.

The two drive bays will allow you to store up to 36TB of data without making use of RAID. Finally, there are two 2.5Gb LAN ports that can be linked together for additional bandwidth. It’s not all great news for the F2-223, however.

The operating system is a little behind the times compared to the competition. It’s good enough for running a NAS at home, but you may encounter some questionable design choices, though these are expected to be addressed in future OS updates.

Front of the Synology DiskStation DS224+
Front of the Synology DiskStation DS224+. (Source: NM)

Synology DiskStation DS224+

Best value NAS

Synology DiskStation DS224+
Synology DiskStation DS224+. (Source: Synology)

My favorite NAS is the Synology DiskStation DS220+ and it’s also on our best cheap NAS list. It’s your best pi9ck for an affordable enclosure to run Plex Media Server.

CPUIntel Celeron J4125
(4-core, 2.7 GHz)
GPUIntel UHD Graphics
RAM2 GB DDR4
(6 GB max)
Bays2 (SSD/HDD)
Expansion
Cooling1x 92 mm
Ports2x 1GbE
2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1
Power draw~14.69 W
  • Intel Celeron J4125 CPU
  • Upgradable 2GB DDR4 RAM
  • 2 drive bays
  • 1GbE LAN
  • No M.2 SSD slots
  • No 2.5GbE ports
  • Limited RAID support

Our all-time favorite NAS at the moment is the Synology DiskStation DS224+. It really has it all when looking for the best value NAS and one that can handle Plex transcoding. The Intel Celeron J4125 CPU is brilliant at even more intensive applications.

This great processor is joined by 2GB of DDR4 RAM, which can be upgraded to a total of 6GB should you require additional capacity. The two drive bays may be limiting for those who need to store more than 44TB of data, but it’s more than enough for anyone starting from scratch.

It’s easy to overlook the two 1Gb LAN ports, but you can link them together for enough throughput to almost keep up with a 2.5Gb LAN. Most homes only have a 1Gb network anyway. It’s just a shame there are no M.2 slots for SSD caching.

Our review shows just how capable this NAS is. You could even run Plex Media Server and stream 4K content.

QNAP TS-364
QNAP TS-364. (Source: QNAP)

QNAP TS-364

Best budget Plex NAS

QNAP TS-364
QNAP TS-364. (Source: QNAP)

If you want the most powerful NAS you can buy on a tighter budget, look no further than the QNAP TS-364. It’s not too expensive and comes with an Intel processor, 8GB of RAM out of the box, and four drive bays.

CPUIntel Celeron N5095
(4-core, 2.9 GHz)
GPUIntel UHD Graphics
RAM8 GB DDR4
(8 GB max)
Bays4 (SSD/HDD)
Expansion2x M.2 2280 (SSD/PCIe)
Cooling1x 92 mm
Ports1x 2.5GbE
2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2
1x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1
Power draw~32.8 W
  • Intel N5095 CPU
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM
  • 4 drive bays
  • 2.5GbE
  • Great performance
  • Pricey

The QNAP TS-364 is a beastly little unit. It has an Intel Celeron N5095 processor, which has four physical cores and is capable of bursting up to 2.9GHz. Then there is the integrated Intel UHD Graphics, making this chip ideal for running more intensive packages such as Plex Media Server.

8GB of DDR4 RAM is a fair amount to find pre-installed, but you won’t be able to expand it like other QNAP NAS enclosures. That’s one of the limitations placed upon this NAS since it’s aggressively priced. Four drive bays are joined by two M.2 SSD slots and the two latter storage options can be used for SSD caching or expanding capacity.

Everything is cooled by a single 92mm fan. For connectivity, there’s a single 2.5GbE port, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, and one USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port. It’s the most expensive NAS in this collection but offers far more performance than all other enclosures.

TerraMaster F4-210
TerraMaster F4-210. (Source: NAS Master)

TerraMaster F4-210

Best four-bay budget NAS

TerraMaster F4-210
TerraMaster F4-210. (Source: TerraMaster)

If you need to store lots of data, it’s best you go with the TerraMaster F4-210. This NAS has four drive bays, an ARM processor, 2GB of RAM, and more than enough to get you started.

CPURealtek RTD1296
(4-core, 1.4 GHz)
GPU
RAM2 GB DDR4
(2 GB max)
Bays4 (SSD/HDD)
Expansion
Cooling2x 80 mm
Ports1x 1GbE
2x USB-A 3.0
Power draw~25.6 W
  • Realtek RTD1296 CPU
  • 2GB DDR4 RAM
  • 4 drive bays
  • 1GbE LAN (with aggregation)
  • Good value
  • No M.2 SSD slots
  • No 2.5GbE ports

The TerraMaster F4-210 is all about capacity. It has four drive bays that can hold an impressive 72TB of data. That is until you implement a RAID configuration for enhanced data redundancy. This NAS is designed with affordable file storage in mind.

The 2GB of RAM cannot be upgraded, but this shouldn’t be an issue for storing and accessing files. Two 1Gb LAN ports are great for rapid access using mechanical drives. What’s more of a bummer is the lack of any SSD caching M.2 slots.

Front of the TerraMaster F2-212
Front of the TerraMaster F2-212. (Source: NM)

TerraMaster F2-212

Best two-bay budget NAS

TerraMaster F2-212
TerraMaster F2-212. (Source: TerraMaster)

If money is all you’re concerned with, go for the TerraMaster F2-212. It has two drive bays and an ARM processor, making it perfect for someone’s first enclosure.

CPURealtek 1619B
(2-core, 2.9 GHz)
GPU
RAM1 GB DDR4
(1 GB max)
Bays2 (SSD/HDD)
Expansion
Cooling1x 80 mm
Ports1x 1 GbE
1x USB-A 3.1
1x USB-A 2.0
Power draw~20.1 W
  • Realtek 1619B CPU
  • 1 GB DDR4 RAM
  • 2 drive bays
  • Good value
  • Sluggish CPU performance
  • 1GbE LAN
  • Limited RAID support

The final NAS on this list is the TerraMaster F2-212. It’s a more affordable version of the F2-221 with a modern design, substituting the Intel processor for a Realtek 1619B CPU. This isn’t particularly powerful and will limit just what you can do with the F2-212.

The 1 GB of DDR4 RAM cannot be upgraded and you may find the two drive bays a downer should you have multiple terabytes of data to store. It is, however, of excellent value as a first NAS enclosure. If you are looking to buy your very first enclosure, this is a solid place to start.

I found the TerraMaster F2-212 to be fantastic for a starter NAS enclosure with all you’d need to store data and run a few apps. The company continues to improve its OS and app offerings, which should provide additional value in the future.

What to look for in a NAS

Best cheap NAS
Drives installed on the Synology DiskStation DS224+ tray. (Source: NM)

A NAS is very much like a PC and as such you will need to factor in similar components and specifications. The more powerful the internal parts, the more you can do on the server, but the more expensive it will likely become.

CPU

This is what handles all the calculations the OS needs to run to manage everything on the NAS. Whether you’re running an app, moving files, or simply allowing the enclosure to run idle, the CPU will be processing instructions. The better the CPU, the more capable the NAS will be. This is especially useful for running apps like Plex.

Drive bays

The higher the number of drive bays present, the more capacity the NAS will be able to support. We’d recommend not going below two as this eliminates the possibility of using RAID for better data redundancy.

Ports

Connecting your NAS to the network requires a LAN port, which can support speeds of 1Gb/s, 2.5Gb/s, 5Gb/s, or 10Gb/s. Most enclosures will only support the slowest speeds but moving up in the market will unlock faster connections. USB ports can be handy for plugging in drives and other external media.

Then there are PCI expansion slots for adding cards to your NAS or HDMI and other video outputs for direct connections to a monitor or TV.

How much should you spend?

It’s easy to spend very little on a NAS, whether you plan on upgrading an old PC or buying a new enclosure. There are NAS available that cost less than $200 and when factoring in the cost of NAS hard drives, you will end up paying $300, if not more. That’s for a capable NAS with ample storage, saving you money in the long term through the cancellation of cloud storage subscriptions.

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