Synology DiskStation DS216play 2-Bay Multimedia-Optimized NAS Review

Introduction


Synology’s 2-bay play series has been very popular among users due to its great features and functionality coupled with a low asking price. Today I’m taking a closer look at the newest model in this series, the DS216play, a NAS featuring a powerful dual-core CPU with hardware H.264 and H.265 transcoding support and floating point unit.

Let us dive right into the hardware on this little NAS. The CPU is an STM STiH412 32-bit dual-core processor with 1.5GHz and floating point unit. The hardware transcoding engine is capable of the H.265 (HEVC), MPEG-4 Part 2, MPEG-2, and VC-1 codecs and it can work with a maximum resolution of up to 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) at up to 30 frames per second. It allows you to transcode 4K videos to 1080p, making them suitable for all screens and bandwidths whether they are local media players or remote mobile devices. In addition, you can also stream original 4K resolution videos to your multimedia player or 4K TV within a local network environment. The CPU is backed by 1GB DDR3 memory which should be sufficient for its area of operation.

With those hardware specifications, the DS216play is able to deliver an average speed of 107 MB/s when reading and 91 MB/s when writing on a RAID 1 configuration from a Windows environment. The built-in floating-point unit enhances the overall capability of the main CPU and it is particularly advantageous in speeding up thumbnail creations when uploading a lot of photos or videos.

One of the main features of a NAS like this is to stream media files to a whole lot of devices. The DS216play can act as a DLNA certified DMS (Digital Media Server), allowing you to stream multimedia contents, such as music, photos, and videos, to DLNA compliant devices. It can also stream to pretty much any other device such as mobile phones and tablets, TVs, and stereos. Synology also offers support for Samsung TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Roku players.

Three of the official and very popular apps on the DS216play are the Photo Station, Video Station, and Audio Station. They provide a streamlined and sleek interface that turn your NAS into an entertainment hub. The Video Station allows you to browse and manage all your movies, TV shows, and home videos and build up a smart video library with those. The Photo Station is the same, just for still pictures, and it also allows you to create web albums or blogs to record and share the exciting moments of your lives with others. The Audio Station can create your own audio streaming service where you can build a personal music center and stream music directly from your Synology NAS to other devices. You can rate your songs and sort music into smart playlists according to the rating. Plus, sharing a playlist with others is as simple as creating a sharing link and sending it to your friends.

Thanks to Synology’s QuickConnect, you can easily access all the NAS functions no matter where in the world you are, as long as the NAS and you both have an internet connection. It is a very simple DDNS service that takes care of all the settings for you. All you need to do is log in. This allows you to create your own personal cloud service where you don’t need to rely on costly monthly plans or storage limits. You can still connect your NAS to public cloud offerings such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, hubiC, and Baidu Cloud as well as Amazon S3, Glacier cloud service, Microsoft Azure, SFR, and hicloud.

The Synology DS216play supports plenty of backup methods for both Windows and Mac users with the use of Cloud Station. Whenever you modify a file, the changes are backed up to the DS216play automatically. Mac OS users can also use Apple Time Machine. Backups to and from another Synology NAS is also supported, just as rsync servers, external drives, and cloud services can be used as backup targets.

Speaking of external devices, the DS216play has one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 port for external storage devices, printers, or wireless adapters. There is one Gigabit Ethernet port for the network connectivty and the entire unit is cooled by a 92mm fan.

So far I have talked a lot about the media capabilities on the DS216play NAS, but we shouldn’t forget that NAS stands for network attached storage. The DS216play naturally supports everything it needs to here from Samba (SMB2) for Windows and Mac OS users as well as AFP and NFS. Should you use WebDAV for your credentials, then that is supported too. AFP, CIFS, File Station and WebDAV also support network recycle bins for extra safety. An FTP service is also included by default, one of the oldest and most universal file transfer protocls around.

The File Station is a fast and secure feature for sharing and managing your files stored on DS216play. Just drag and drop to upload data from Mac or PC. Advanced filters make it easy to search for documents, photos, or videos and it also has a built-in FTP and email client. IT lets you organize and share files through an advanced web application and you can even share files and folders with others by simply sending a link. Files can be reached on mobile devices via the companion mobile app DS file. Both HTTPS and SSL/TLS encryption are featured for secure transfers and you can even set link expiry dates.

Synology built the DS216play in the well-known two-piece chassis, this time in black. It is simple yet effective with the only downside of not having front-accessible drive bays. On the other hand, home users are the intended market for a NAS like this and it is not like they’re switching and swapping drives all the time.

Feature Highlights

  • 4K Ultra HD video transcoding on the fly
  • Powerful dual-core CPU with H.265 codec support
  • 107.7 MB/s Reading, 91.47 MB/s Writing
  • DLNA certified for media streaming
  • Powered by Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM)

Packaging and Accessories

The Synology DiskStation DS216play comes in a simple brown box with a sticker highlighting the NAS model and its features.

The physical characteristics are detailed a little bit more on the rear where it also lists the hardware specifications.

Inside the box, next to the NAS itself, we find a power cable and AC/DC converter, a LAN cable, screws for the drives and the chassis itself as well as a Quick Installation Guide to get you going.

Synology Releases 3 New High-value NAS Servers for Homes and Businesses

Synology announced not one, not two, but three new NAS units that should provide plenty of features for a moderate price. Three three new NAS units are the DS216se 2-bay NAS, DS216play 2-bay NAS, and DS416 four-bay NAS.

Let’s start out with the biggest model, the DS416. It is the replacement for the DS414 NAS and the new DS4166 features a 1.4GHz dual-core processor (Annapurna Labs Alpine AL212) with hardware encryption engine and floating point unit. It comes with 1GB RAM and features dual Gigabit Ethernet with failover and link aggregation. You also get three USB 3.0 ports where one of them is on the front of the unit.

With Link Aggregation, the DS416 delivers over 221MB/s while reading from an RAID5 array, and over 139MB/s writing. The hardware encryption engine helps a lot when encryption is needed and the DS416 can still deliver up to 146MB/s reading and 65MB/s writing here. That is an easy 90% gain on encrypted file performance over the predecessor.

The cheapest of the three new Synology NAS is the DiskStation DS216se, a budget-friendly two-bay NAS device with the capability to host, share and protect data. This could be a great NAS for people who want to enter the world of NAS users without blowing their budget.

The DS216se features a Marvell Armada 370 800MHz with floating point unit that helps in a lot of scenarios, but especially when creating thumbnails and similar media related operations. However, the built-in floating-point unit generally enhances the overall capability of the CPU. The DS216se only features 256M DDR3 RAM, so you shouldn’t multitask too much with it. The DS216se delivers an average 102 MB/s reading speed under RAID 1 configuration and over 59 MB/s writing.

Two USB 2.0 ports on the rear allow the connection of portable storage drives for easy backup both ways. There is a single Gigabit Ethernet connection that should be plenty for most people’s home NAS needs. You can also connect it wirelessly with optional USB dongles if you should wish to do so.

With the DSM operating system at hand, you got a lot of useful features such as DLNA streaming, UPnP setup, and much more. A great feature for home users is the scheduled on and off times that help you to save electricity, live greener, and also extend the lifetime of the hardware.

The third and last new Synology NAS is the DiskStation DS216play, the successor to the highly popular entry-level DS214play NAS. The new DS216play features a better processor and comes with a dual-core 1.5GHz featuring hardware transcoding engine and 1GB RAM. The new processor in the DS216play allows for real-time transcoding of 4K Ultra HD source content (H.265) for a perfect multimedia experience on all devices. The CPU is an STM STiH412 dual-core with 1.5GHz that also features both hardware encryption and floating point unit.

The DS216play features one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 port on the rear of the NAS as well as a single Gigabit Ethernet connection.

The name suggests play and that is in regards of media playback and not playing games and the DS216play could be a great solution for this. With its real-time transcoding abilities, support for DVB-T and DVB-S sticks and video recording as well as the general file serving options for pretty much all systems, including Windows, Linux, MacOS, iOS, and Android, there isn’t much that the NAS can’t do in that regards. DLNA support is also part of the deal.

 

All three NAS are backed by a two-year warranty. The DS216se has an MSRP of £98.40, the DS216play £186.00, and the DS416 has an MSRP of £330. Prices including VAT and all three NAS units should be available now.