Synology, as a brand, has always been remarkably keen to highlight its software more than its hardware. That isn’t to say that the brand does not have some great hardware in its portfolio, but they would rather be known as a ‘solution’ provider, as opposed to a ‘hardware’ provider. Their software development often extends much further than just the system and services that their hardware includes (e.g. DSM, SRM, Surveillance Station, etc) and alongside their onboard software, they have long been producing a wide range of client hardware tools that integrate with their solutions and allow much more convenient and tailored access to their systems. One such application that has seen a big update in 2022 is the mobile client application DS Router for iOS and Android, which is now available in version 2.0. The Synology router portfolio is a little smaller than the rest of their Diskstation, Rackstation and Surveillance focused solutions, but this has not seemingly dulled continued development on router software and DS Router 2.0 has arrived with promised improvements in its GUI, it’s range of supported services of your Synology router system and a greater degree of control possible via this highly convenient mobile app. So today I wanted to write a short review on this latest update to the app and find out if this app is as good as they say it is, whether this adds to a compelling reason to switch to their network ecosystem and ultimately if Synology Routers deserve your data. Let’s start.
The user interface of DS Router 2.0 is very clear and after you have entered your login credentials (as well as the 2-step authentication of course, that is fully supported too) you are taken to a very easy to follow and clean GUI. The initial screen is quite understated, with it highlighting the accessed system internet connectivity, a notification bell to highlight anything pressing that needs your attention and some basic level details that are by no means intimidating. This initial lite overview also allows you to share the access to this WiFi connection in 2 clicks with anyone in your vicinity via a bunch of methods native to your handset. If you are looking for more information on the control and customization of your Synology Router via the app, then you will need to click the settings tab and that shows a much more detailed breakdown of what the app has control over.
As user-friendly and clear as this all is in DS Router 2.0, I would definitely have preferred the network tools/controls to be their own option on the bottom row (alongside Device List and Safe Search) as most people using DS Router 2.0 with their router will be using it to manage and monitor their network on the fly and it seems a tiny bit odd to go to ‘settings’ on the app, compared against the PC/Mac desktop interface SRM that places these controls under ‘Network Center’ and has a separate ‘Control Panel’ for settings. All that said, the settings menu is pretty exhaustive and although it seems to have the controls for EVERYTHING, it does seem a little TOO general. Overall, you definitely cannot criticise the level of controls available in DS Router 2.0, but the layout could maybe be expanded a bit on the bottom control bar.
The DS Router 2.0 app allows you to monitor the activity of your Synology router on the fly, as well as access historical records (if you have enabled the system option to keep records). These records can be extended to track upload/download traffic into the router WAN, but you can also access details on the individual devices on the network and how much data (packets or MB/KB/etc) is being exchanged. Once again, this UI is incredibly straightforward and pretty intuitive.
This traffic and resource monitoring does not extend to monitoring the CPU/Memory usage (which CAN be checked in the ‘router information area), but it does show a list of the active processes and services running on the router and how much of a bite they are taking on the router and which are eating up the bandwidth more than others. It’s a fairly expected and non-ground-breaking tool, but the fact it can also include historical data whilst on the fly (accessible via a convenient mobile app) definitely rates it much higher than many other traffic/network monitoring mobile router tools out there.
One of the most prominent features that have been highlighted in recent releases of the Synology Ruter series is the support of mesh router support. This is when a primary network can be wirelessly (or in some cases wired) expanded by a physical network of nodes that are dotted around your home or place of work. As useful as a desktop PC/Mac user interface is for navigating the SRM 1.3 software, adding nodes is always going to be much, MUCH easier to do if you are using a mobile. This is because of physically moving around to test signal strength and optimal connectivity via the primary router and the node(s). The Synology DS Router 2.0 application allows you to easily add nodes (including setup and signal improvement suggestions) and expand your wireless network easily.
Again, this is not something that is new to router mobile apps but it is worth highlighting, as when it comes to mobile control and management of a router, this can be a real killer to have to do on a static machine. Plus, it is provided easily and very straightforwardly.
Controlling and monitoring your WiFi networks with DS Router 2.0 is also a great deal more detailed that you might expect. The latest Synology RT6600ax router supports upto x15 SSIDs on a network and the WiFi control of DS Router 2.0 not only allows you to change their basic individual settings (name, security protocols/encryption, passcode, etc), but it also allows you to do some more precise things. This includes the ability to connect an SSID to a specific 2.4/5Ghz band (or both), change the radio channel between 20-160Mhz to use the available frequency more efficiently, to black/white list Mac Addresses or IPs or even lock the WiFi to a schedule.
Alongside this, you have the option to take advantage of Smart connect, which runs in the background of your router’s WiFi to automatically move connected devices from the 5Ghz (faster by smaller range) connection to 2.4Ghz (slower, but much further reach) frequency as client hardware changes location. Finally, you have similar options available to create and edit your guest WiFi network as needed – all manageable from the DS Router application. I genuinely cannot fault this area of DS Router 2.0 and in fact, it was significantly faster/easier to navigate WiFi settings on mobile than on the desktop!
Next, you have client monitoring and control tools. From the ‘Device List’ tab, you are able to see all the connected devices to your Synology router (as well as a history of previously connected or offline devices) that allows you to customize what level of access and priority those devices have on the overall bandwidth. The initial Device List GUI breaks the devices into wired/wireless, but also shows their level of network traffic, the frequency/band they are occupying and the SSID/LAN they are living on at that time.
Each of these client entries can be opened up into its own sub-menu that allows you to name the client hardware and apply an icon suitable to it (e. phone, tablet, printer, etc). More interestingly though, you can also make immediate changes to how that device is being handled by the router with some hardcoded options. These include the ability to move the device into a Low or Medium device group (to apply on-the-fly priority of service if you need a given client to have their connectivity at that second to be adjusted), as well as a single click slider option to temporarily pause internet access for a client device on the fly. This is all presented very clearly again and with as little tech jargon (outside of terms like IPs and MAC addresses) as possible.
Almost certainly the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Synology Router system is the ‘Safe Access’ feature that allows you to create a completely customized, dynamic and human-friendly control system for your entire network. It would be tremendously unfair to think of it as a simple ‘Parental Control’ system (which I should add several mid-high level router providers seemingly lock behind a subscription wall, disappointingly) as that would be like comparing a push-bike with Harley Davidson! In brief, Safe Access allows you to create user profiles for every member of your family/office/business and then connect their client devices to that profile (eg Mum, Dad, HR, Children, Printers, security cameras, etc). Once you have done that, you can then create easy to create, customize and control rules that will apply to a specific profile and filter down into all the devices underneath it (adding a user photo and router login credentials too if you choose). The range of rules and parameters that you can apply to a profile are both extensive AND very easy to understand. As new devices connect to the router, you can add these in 2 clicks to an existing Safe Access Profile OR in 3-4 clicks, create a brand new one.
Each profile can be adjusted to quite an impressive degree in DS Router 2.0 and there are several network monitoring tools available to see their current/historic network usage. Digging a little deeper into the profile creation shows that in DS Router 2.0 you have pretty much ALL the configuration and on-the-fly profile management controls that are available in Safe Access on the desktop SRM 1.3 platform. You can create internet access and time quote rules (time of date, day of the week and even number of hours that a user is allowed to connect, that can be spread across each of their devices to prevent overlap/abuse of access by hopping devices), as well as apply a rather dynamic web filter to a specific Safe Access profile. So, for example, you can choose to craft rules for a specific profile that means that all devices under ‘Daniel’ (in this case a teenager) share a 2-hour evening internet access (spread across their phone/home console), but only between 5-9pm and allows access to educational/homework-related sites, but not adult or social media sites. This same kind of profile rule logic can be applied to staff/employees when you need to provide internet for work, but need some sites restricted for SOME employees but not all (eg, ‘marketing’ team needs all social media outlets, but not the warehouse teams).
When it comes to that Web Filtering, the controls that are included in DS Router 2.0 are almost identical to those of the desktop web browser SRM 1.3 GUI – which (for when you need to make changes quickly on the fly whilst at work/off-site) is going to be fantastically useful. There are several preset profiles that can be switched between, or you can craft your own bespoke profile. You can also ‘force’ safe-search rules on a wide range of social networks and search engines which means that explicitly or inappropriate material is filtered out on these sites before they are viewed by the destinate client device. This safe search push will override any settings on that search engine by the user, even if they are logged in (eg Google Search and having your Gmail account logged in).
Overall, I cannot stress enough that alongside Synology Routers having Safe Access largely justifying the whole system, the controls of it that are available in DS Router are EXACTLY the level of ease-of-use and level of control that parents and employers are going to need access to at a moments notice. Plus, the level of creation and modification you can make with DS Router 2.0 to newly connected devices to the network is just as good. Massive thumbs up from me.
Before I end the review of DS Router 2.0 for iOS and Android, I wanted to talk about one of the often overlooked features of Synology Routers and mobile applications from the brand. All Synology routers feature 1-2 USB Ports and because Synology is a brand that is largely associated with NAS development (committing millions of hours of R&D into that industry) you will not be too surprised to know that connecting a USB drive to your Synology router will allow you to use a whole bunch of Synology NAS applications and services on your mobile phone. Now, I am not suggesting that the RT6600ax, RT2600ac or MR2200ac are suitable replacements for a NAS, however, I AM suggesting that the range of services available for a USB storage device in SRM 1.3 and DS Router 2.0 is surprisingly fleshed out. The DS File mobile application allows you to see the full file/folder structure, create customizable share links for the files (network or remote access), allows shared folder management, zip/extract collections of files, view several different types of files on the device and is pretty much exactly the same user experience that a Synology NAS user would have on in this app, but with just a USB drive.
Additionally, the DS File application in use with a Synology router also allows you to create an automatic photo backup from your mobile devices,directly to the USB storage connected to the router. I know this is not a DS Router application, but the fact this is something that is still possible was just too interesting not to mention. The phone photo backups can be set to only backup any/all photos taken (that are saved to certain directories, such as DCIM) from that point onwards, only backup all your existing photos upto that point, or the best of both and have a regular backup of all your photos on the fly from your handset to the router and to the USB. Its a very minor thing I know, but the idea that the Synology router allows you to create a pretty full proof live sync photo backup from your phone with any old USB is pretty cool.
My FULL review of the Synology DS Router application will be available on NASCompares shortly. You can find the video below:
Overall, DS Router 2.0 is still a great application and the wider range of services and controls that have been added to this latest version definitely make it much more viable as a long term alternative to the desktop GUI/SRM 1.3 when managing your router. The GUI is still not the best it can be, with odd ‘everything else here’ vibes from the ‘settings’ menu, but it is incredibly clear, pretty intuitive and manages to make the navigation and management of your router to be much less intimidating than many would think. Some things are near impossible to simplify (port forwarding rules, for example) but even there, DS Router gives it a try. The controls of both Safe Access and Wireless Management are particular standouts of how the new version of the app has increased convenient control and although DS Router does not completely remove the need/necessity of a web browser and time in SRM to set up your router, it is pretty darn close!
|PROs of the DS Router 2.0||CONs of DS Router 2.0|
|Easy to use and follow controls
Modern and Intuitive design
Safe Access management on the fly is 10/10
Wireless Management on the fly is also tip-top
Device Monitoring and Management is fast and clear
Very Responsive GUI
Traffic/Activity Monitoring is very good (plus supports historical data)
|The Settings Menu seems overly full and some items should be standalone/selectable on the bottom bar|
Synology Router Portfolio
|Class / band
|AX6600 / Tri-band
IEEE 802.11ax / ac / a / b / g / n
|AC2600 / dual band
IEEE 802.11ac / a / b / g / n
|AC2200 / Tri-band
IEEE 802.11ac / a / b / g / n
|Maximum communication speed
(5GHz band 1)
(4str / 80MHz)
(2str / 80MHz)
|Maximum communication speed
(5GHz band 2)
(2str / 80MHz)
|Maximum communication speed
(4str / 40MHz / 256QAM)
(2str / 40MHz / 256QAM)
|WAN terminal||1000BASE-T x 1||1000BASE-T x 1||1000BASE-T x 1|
|LAN terminal||2.5GBASE-T x 1 * 1
1000BASE-T x 3
|1000BASE-T x 4 * 2||1000BASE-T x 1|
|USB terminal||USB 3.0 Standard-A x 1||USB 3.0 Standard-A x 1
USB 2.0 Standard-A x 1
|USB 3.0 Standard-A x 1|
Arm Cortex-A53 4-core 1.8GHz
Qualcomm Krait 300 2 core 1.7GHz
Arm Cortex-A7 4 core 717MHz
|RAM||1GB DDR3||DDR3 512MB||DDR3 256MB|
You can watch the FULL review of the latest WiFi 6 Router from Synology, the RT6600ax, over on YouTube below:
Alternatively, you can watch my full review of Synology SRM 1.3 on this NAS in the video below:
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