Synology DS214Play 2-bay NAS Review

Introduction


When the imminent arrival of the DS214 was brought to people’s attention earlier in the year, hardware transcoding was a hot topic and the news that a NAS with improved on-the-fly video transcoding for mobile devices was also on the horizon only stirred more interest towards Synology. So without any more delay, it’s time to delve into the world of the DS214Play.

We’ve recently seen a few of Synology’s 2-bay systems and prior to  this review we had a look at the DS214Se – a special edition NAS that has budget users in mind – giving them a simplified NAS feature list. On the outside, the DS214Play looks nothing like the DS214Se and there is a good reason for this; whilst the DS214Se wants to make its stand in the budget end of the market, the DS214Play is aiming for a more premium look, whilst not hitting the same high prices that we see some 2-bay systems reaching. With the design and build blue-print derived from the DS414 and the little brother to this system the DS214 looking almost identical, the difference as always is what lies inside the system.

The crucial difference with this system over everything else is the Intel Eversport CPU that Synology have chosen. Many NAS options are not capable of transcoding media files – such as video – into another format for mobile devices such as phones and tablets to playback, however hardware transcoding is where the DS214Play pulls its weight. Thanks to the floating-point unit ability of the Evansport CPU, transcoding is a key part of the systems design, giving users the flexibility to watch whatever format of content they like without the worry of file compatibility.

When we look at the performance figures later on in this review we will be looking at the systems performance figures for video playback and processing photo albums as these are the two main area where this system should [in theory] top the charts. This is why we are here, so does it make a difference or is it all a load of pointless sales talk?

The DS214Play brings us a new lease of life to Synology’s packaging with a bright white and green design to the packaging, whilst inside the box there is the usual array of accessories for a system of this size.

Synology DS214Se ‘Special Edition’ 2-bay NAS Review

Introduction


Synology have been hot on the market recently with the release of the DS414 4-bay NAS – the latest revision to their popular 4-bay desktop range as it replaces the top-selling DS413. One of the main focus points of the DS414 is the price point for a pretty good level of performance. As we saw it may not be the fastest 4-bay system available, but when it’s priced considerably lower (>£100) than some of its rival units, it’s a bit of a no-brainer for anyone who is focussing more on raw capacity over performance.

Keeping on the same line, every NAS vendor has a few budget units in their product catalogue, however Synology have a more equal distribution across their range in the terms of performance and cost. As a brand Synology are not afraid to advertise that they build cheaper systems that offer lower performance figures and there is a good reason for this. When you take into account the overall cost of a typical 2 or 4-bay system with the cost of hard drives on top can easily tip over the £500 mark (or more if you go far a higher performance system); that price tag for some people does equate to a substantial chunk of money. For a number of users, the cost is simply too much to churn out. Typically those fighting the battle of cost is the home user, especially with today’s credit crunch here in the UK – where the cost of living when marked against your income is a bit out of proportion. As a result the goal is to get as much raw capacity as possible and for as little as possible.

As we’ve seen before, Synology use a simple naming system for their products, and those ending with a ‘j’ are built with capacity over performance in mind. To take things a step further, Synology have now re-written the rule book as they create a 2-bay system that is more budget conscious than ever. Bring forth the DS214Se. In the same way that the DS414 is the successor the DS413, the DS214 is the new model to the DS213 and the Se (Special Edition) marking puts this model in a position where it is even more budget friendly than before.

With the aim of the game keeping the overall purchase cost down, Synology have removed a number of features from the DS214 specification and have been more ruthless than ever. As a result, the DS214Se is going to be ideal for anyone who is a) on a very tight and b) not needing to run multiple features at the same time.

Whilst the systems specification has been cut down, the bundled extras include everything that you’ll ever need. Alongside the NAS, there is an AC power adaptor, Ethernet cable, a quick installation guide, warranty leaflet, and finally two sets of screws for fitting the drives and for holding the enclosure together.