The DiskStation DS213Air looks a lot like Synology's first dual-bay NAS server released three years ago, the DS209+, when looking at the drive-bay design: to install or replace the two internal hard drives, you must open the chassis. It has most of the same features in other Synology dual-bay servers as well, and relies on the latest version of the DiskStation Manager (DSM) operating system version 4.1, a system most other servers are able to upgrade to.
What's different about the DS213Air? Well, this is the first server from Synology featuring built-in Wireless-N Wi-Fi support. What's more, not only is it a NAS server, it also functions as a Wi-Fi access point or wireless router.
It seems odd that Synology would design the DiskStation DS213Air like their initial release. There is no simple way of installing or replacing hard drives. You must open the case to get the job done, but know that it isn't as difficult as it seems. Once you take a couple of screws out of the back, half of the cover slides right off. As it is designed for home use, this isn't really a problem for most. The front of the DS213Air is simply a power button and LEDs that light to indicate the server has power, is connected to the wireless network, and the state of the two internal hard drives.
The back of the server features two USB ports and one Gigabit Ethernet port, a little surprising as it is a bit less than other servers have to offer, like Synology's DS712+ that boasts an additional Gigabit Ethernet port and eSATA port. However, both of the DS213Air's USB ports are USB 3.0-compatible which is not the case for the DS712+. These ports will allow you to hook up printers and storage devices. If a USB printer is plugged in, the server will allow both Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print even if the printer isn't compatible with these services on its own.
Just like Synology's other dual-bay servers, the DS213Air's internal hard drives can be configured using all possible RAID setups there are for two hard drives. In addition, it supports Synology Hybrid RAID, giving the power to increase the RAID's storage capacity simply without having to rebuild the RAID yourself. Hybrid RAID also allows you to use hard drives of varying capacities provided you only replace the existing hard drives with a drive of the same capacity or greater, as well as assuring at least one drive is used as redundancy for data security. Because the DS213Air supports up to two hard drives, Hybrid RAID closely resembles a RAID 1 configuration.
If you know a thing or two, it will be a snap to set up the DS213Air. In Cnet testing, even the RAID building took a few minutes with two 1TB drives. However, if you are a home user, you might run into a little trouble. That's why the NAS server comes with Synology Assistant software, which aids you during setup and OS installation if you buy a bare bones unit and install the drives yourself. Synology Assistant will take care of downloading and installing the server's firmware from their website, saving you time spent manually downloading it to a computer before sending it to the server.
As previously mentioned, the only difference between this server and others from Synology is that it is the first to feature built-in Wi-Fi. It works as a Wi-Fi access point, Wi-Fi client, or Wi-Fi router, supporting a single band (2.4GHz) of the Wireless-N standard (802.11n). You cannot connect wired clients to the network, only wireless clients. In testing, the server performed well as a Wi-Fi client and access point. However, it would be better if there was dual-band support as well as the upcoming 802.11ac standard. That said, it is still a great option for the home user. At about $330 with no storage included, it is the most affordable for the budget-conscious.