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.
- 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.
A closer look
One of the first thing we notice after opening up the DS216play is that the drive mounts are padded, both on the small arms holding the drives and for the screws. This is a really nice touch that absorbs drive vibrations and thereby both reduce the amount of noise the NAS generates and improves the drives lifespan.
The top drive is connected through a simple PCIe x1 to SATA bridge which doesn’t contain much besides the SATA connector itself.
The motherboard doesn’t have many third party onboard features as most is handled by the CPU itself. The top side features the LAN and USB rear connectors as well as the PCIe connector for the second drive and an onboard SATA connection for the bottom drive.
The rear of the motherboard has the CPU itself with a soldered-on heatsink. Next to it are two 512MB DDR3 RAM chips.
The two RAM chips come from SK Hynix.
And the Gigabit Ethernet connection is provided by a Realtek RTL8211E controller.
Below are a few more close-ups on the reset button and connection ports.
System Specifications, Features & Power Consumption
Synology’s DSM operating system has a very fresh welcome and login screen. It will display the given server name in the middle and show the server’s time and date in the top corner.
You can also customize the login screen to your liking. Change the colours and upload your own background images.
The dashboard is one of the best on the NAS market. It reminds a lot more about a full desktop based operating system than a web interface. You have a taskbar with start button at the top, to speak in windows terms, and a desktop that you can drop links to functions and features onto. You can multi-task in it, minimize, and maximize windows. DSM also supports overlay widgets.
The chart contains the actual power consumption measured at the PSU connection and while loaded with a maximum amount of drives. Peak, or maximum, power draw will occur during boot times.
Setup – Initialization & Storage
Setting the DS216play NAS up and initializing is as easy as it could be and all you have to do once you have connected it to your network is to connect to diskstation:5000 in your browser. A quick initialization guide will help you through the basic setup before you can continue with the creation of your users and shares.
Coincidence will have it that I used the two drives I installed in the DS216play in another Synology NAS as last, and the initialization can detect that. Users that switch to this NAS from an older NAS can migrate the data and setup to the new NAS automatically.
The page below is really the only difference to a normal and clean initialization, where it lets you chose what to keep. If you want to keep settings and files or just want to keep the files on the drive and otherwise make a clean installation. Should you make a clean install, this page won’t be shown.
On a clean installation, this would be the first page and it would let you select whether you want to install the operating system manually from a local file or online via Synology. You should always keep your NAS updated to the latest version for security reasons.
The installation will take about 10 minutes, depending on your internet download speed for the operating system and the installed drives speed.
As the setup is telling us, we’re just a few steps away from being ready to use our DS216play NAS now.
We need to specify a name for the NAS, allowing us to easily recognize it in our network neighborhood and streaming players and we also need to define the administrators username and password.
Which update settings you chose is of course down to you, my recommendation is to turn them on automatically.
QuickConnect is Synology’s version of an easy dynamic DNS service, allowing you to reach your NAS no matter where you are in the world in relation to the NAS. All it requires is both parts being connected to the internet.
You can choose to install the basic app package right away. Audio Station, Photo Station, and Video Station are cornerstones at creating an entertainment hub in your own home while Download Station and Cloud Station allow you to use your NAS for more than just storage.
After having installed, or skipped, the package installation, we’re greeted with a welcome guide that explains the basic features and where to find things in DSM.
The little guide is followed by the popup of DSM help in case you want to know more right away.
The first thing we’ll want to do after logging in is to update DSM. There will be a notification in the top right corner right away should there be an update, and in this case, there was.
The NAS will first download the update and then wait for you to press the install button. The installation requires the NAS to reboot, which is why it’s a great idea to do it right away. Get it out of the way.
And that is all. Our Synology DS216play NAS is now ready for usage and we can continue to create our users and shares as well as install more apps and services.
Synology’s DiskStation Manager creates an SHR setup initially and that might not be the one that you were planning to use on your NAS. The storage manager can quickly change that and this is naturally one of the things you should change first and before you start to load the NAS with files. Those who don’t wish to change it can still enter the Storage Manager to get a quick view on the NAS’ storage status.
Synology DSM can create Volumes directly and handle the disk group itself or you can create the Disk Group and Volume independently for more advanced setups.
The DS216play also supports iSCSI LUNs and targets which are great and nice to see in the smaller NAS too. All modern operating systems have iSCSI initiators built-in, making it a great choice for network shared storage.
Setup – Users, Services & Files
We only have one user by default and that is the one that we only should use for maintenance, our administrator. You can create a lot more manual or import users lists.
You can set quite a few general rules for your users, mainly for their password options. Synology also offers 2-step verification and user home libraries.
Creating new users is really simple and the only two things you need to specify right away is the name and password, anything else is optional.
You can assign the user to an existing group right away, but you sadly can’t quick-create groups from here.
Existing shared folder can also have their permissions set right away, just as you can set quota and bandwidth limits.
The quota is disabled because I selected the user to be an administrator.
A few more settings and the user is created. It looks like a lot, but once you’ve created two users you have it down and go through more very quickly.
User groups are the easiest way to maintain access rights and other settings for users. We saw all the limits on the individual user above and most of these can be omitted and set for an entire group instead.
Set access rights for all users of a group in one place and set the disk quota they are allowed to use each.
Application permission and speed limits can be set for the entire group too, a lot easier than setting it all manually for each user.
If you selected to install the six default apps during the initialization, then you’ll have a few more shared folders by default than seen in the image below. Devices connected externally will automatically create a share for that drive, but you’ll need to tell DSM who has access to it.
Creating new folders is luckily very easy and all it requires is a name. The rest is optional, but you should take a look at it initially to find out what your options are as they include network recycle bins as well as encryption abilties.
Clicking OK in the shot above will automatically load the settings page for the newly created share and let you set who has access to it and who doesn’t. You can use the drop-down combo box to switch between local and remote users and groups.
There are a few more settings that you can change for each share as shown in the screenshots below.
As previously mentioned, the DS216play with DSM features anything you could want in file services, allowing you to share your files with any system, no matter what operating system it is running.
A feature that I love included in the FTP server is the FXP option which can offload a lot of traffic from clients.
Quick Connect and External Access
The Quick Connect is Synology’s easy DNS service, allowing you to connect to your NAS from everywhere in the world without the trouble of configuring your router manually and setting up other DDNS services.
Normal DDNS services are still supported in DSM, should you want to use that too.
The Router Configuration is an easy way to set up the necessary ports in your router without ever entering the setup for it. The DS216play can for the most part detect what router you are running, but you can also set it manually should the detection fail.
Once it is set up, you can forward ports manually or by application.
We don’t have that many network settings with a single network connection, but we can change the IP settings and create VPN profiles for the one connection.
Traffic control is a really nice thing that can prevent your NAS from hogging all the bandwidth while you actually need some of it somewhere else.
You can use the DS216play as a wireless access point for both WiFi and Bluetooth devices, but that requires an extra USB dongle. It is however a really nice feature that could come in handy in many situations.
Setup – There is more, Add-Ons & External Devices
Synology packed the DS216play with quite a few good security features. There are the basics such as logout timer and protection from cross-site request forgery.
A basic firewall is included that like the previous functions also can access the installed apps and set rules based on that next to the manual way.
A basic denial of service protection is also included.
Auto block is a simple security measurement that in its simplicity blocks someone when they failed to enter the correct credentials a number of times you’ve specified.
By default, the DS216play has a self-signed SSL certificate and you can of course replace that with your own should you wish to do so.
The information center provides all the hardware inforamtion on your NAS along with its health.
External Devices, Hardware, and Power Settings
The external devices can be accessed through the button on the top task bar or the control panel. Printers and storage devices each has their own page and settings.
You can control quite a few things on the hardware and power page, among them the transcoding settings that this NAS supports.
The HDD hibernation page is another thing you might want to take a look at. The default is set to 30 minutes for internal and no timeout for external drives.
There is still a little more
The Media Indexing page in the control panel is hiding the media indexing, conversion settings for thumbails, and folder indexing settings.
And the Synology DS216play naturally also supports all sorts of notifications from email to SMS and push service on connected mobile devices.
The package center is where you will find new apps with more function and added features and services for your NAS. There are several different groupings that make it easier to find what you are looking for, but you can also view them all at once. This is also where you are able to update already installed apps when a new version becomes available.
Most of the hardware for NAS testing isn’t an important factor when it comes to benchmarks, most of it comes down to the network infrastructure. I will be teaming the two Intel Gigabit Ethernet ports on my test bench and connect them to my managed switch. The same will be done with the available LAN ports on the NAS, which should give a great testing environment.
As part of the testing, the NAS is connected through a Netgear GS724TPS managed Gigabit switch and then to our test bench to give the best real world setup test that we can and the NAS itself will be packed with Western Digital’s latest RED NAS drives. Intel’s NASPT software does require us to drop the memory down to 2GB, as using any more would lead to data caching and skew the results.
I will be testing the NAS box performance under each of the RAID options that it has available as well just a single drive. Full volume encryption and shared folder encryption will also be tested where available, to check what impact it has on the performance. The USB 3.0 speeds will be measured with our trusted Angelbird SSD2go Pocket drive.
- Supermicro C7Z97-OCE
- Intel Xeon E3-1230Lv3
- Exceleram EP3001A 2GB PC3-10666
- Kingston HyperX 240GB SSD
- Sapphire R7 240 2GB
- be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 850W
- Thermaltake Water 3.0 Performer C
- Lian Li PC-T60
Disks in Product:
- WD RED NAS 6TB
- Angelbird SSD2go Pocket 512GB
- Netgear Prosafe 24-port Smart Switch
We would like to thank our sponsors for supplying us with the components needed for the test system as well as drives.
With a device of this sort having so many different applications, Intel’s NASPT software covers all the bases and also gives us a set of results that we will be able to utilize and give a benchmark against other similar systems in the future.
Intel NASPT (Network Attached Storage Performance Toolkit) performs its test by transferring varying sizes and quantities of data to and from the device based on twelve different scenarios.
HD Video Playback
HD Video playback is a read test, where a single 2 Gb file is read in 256 kB blocks sequentially from the drive. This simulates where a 720p HD video is being watched across the network to a media player on the other end.
2x HD Video Playback
2x HD Video Playback works with exactly the same data set as the first HD Video test, however this time the same content is streamed twice from the NAS box simulating two simultaneous streams being made to external media players.
4x HD Video Playback
In the same way that the 2x Video Playback streams to the equivalent of 2 external media players at the same time, the test here doubles that again up to a simulated 4 media players.
HD Video Record
The HD Video Record test is, as the name suggests, a write test to the NAS box. A single 2 GB file is written to the device in 256 kB blocks sequentially to the disk.
HD Playback & Record
The HD playback and record test now put the drive under the same single record and playback tests as before, but now at the same time. This will factor for the quick changes needed to switch between reading and writing two large blocks of data across the network to the device.
For content creation, Intel have simulated access to via video creation applications. This is made up of 98 files with 12 MB reads and 14 MB writes in varying sizes of blocks. The activity is predominantly non-sequential with the majority of access time made up of writing to the drives. There are quiet periods of read/write activity interrupted with busy periods to present a difficult workload on the drives.
The office productivity simulation is very similar to the content creation, with a total of 607 files written to and read from the drive. A total of 1.4 GB of data is written to and read from the drive with a close balance between each made – the majority of write access is made up of 1 kB writes.
File Copy To NAS
This test quite simply put copies a single large file from the test system to the NAS box to show how well the system can sustain a single write speed. The 1.4 GB file is copied to the drive and written in 64 kB blocks.
File Copy From NAS
File copy from the NAS works in exactly the same way as the copy test, but it works in the opposite direction. The single 1.4 GB file is read off the NAS in 64 kB blocks.
Directory Copy To NAS
In the directory copy to NAS test, a directory tree representing that of a typical commercially available office suite is copied to the NAS to trace the bulk copy of a complex directory. A total of 2833 files making up 247 MB are moved, but the file sizes vary considerably with an average size of 41.4 kB. Due to the varying sizes of the files, only around 50% of the writes are sequential.
Directory Copy From NAS
In the same way that the file copy from NAS traces the same file back across to the test system, the directory copy from NAS does exactly the same but to the entire directory that it copied across previously.
Last of all is a test based around a photo album. When a photo album is viewed on-screen, only the images that you see are loaded from the drive and so when you scroll through the album, the new images have to be fetched and read. The album here contains 169 photos with varying file sizes based on the size, quality, and detail in the image. Reading the files in a photo album puts an unusual read load upon the drive as the metadata is read, a thumbnail constructed and finally the image viewed.
Intel NASPT provides a summary at the end of each benchmark, included in this is the average throughput from all the previous test as one number. This is a pretty good overall view of a device and as such I’ve started to include this as well. The numbers below are the average of the previous 12 tests.
Security is an ever-growing concern and encryption is a great step to achieve this. This page will provide a comparison between encrypted data and a normal single drive and what impact it will have on the performance. Not all NAS feature Full volume and Shared Folder encryption, but I will test what is available.
iSCSI vs. Shared Folder
I’ve also started to include an iSCSI comparison whenever it is available. Windows 7 and forward all have iSCSI initiators built-in and the setup only takes a few clicks on your NAS and PCs. It is a convienient and smart way to share storage over your network and its popularity is ever-growing.
The budget-minded enthusiast will find that the Synology DiskStation DS216play is a great choice if you are on the lookout for a 2-bay NAS unit. The dual-core CPU comes with floating point unit that helps the overall performance, but especially the creation of thumbnails for the media functions. Speaking of media, the hardware transcoding feature is amazing and it allows the NAS to transcode 4K video down to full HD in order to stream to bandwidth or resolution restrained devices.
The simple black design gives it a great look that doesn’t look like a cheap device but rather like an enthusiast device as it ist. I say enthusiast here in regards to light-usage NAS users. With 1GB of RAM, there are limitations to how much you can run, but it’s sufficient for most tasks that it will have to perform. The USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports allow you to use the NAS to share printers and storage drives and you can also configure your router directly from the NAS – all features that make the everyday life a little easier.
The performance was nice and nothing one should be ashamed off. It isn’t the strongest performer with encryption, but it does pretty good with iSCSI shares. You get plenty of backup features, both to and from the NAS, as well as hundres of extra apps in the Package Center to add even more functionality to the NAS.
- Good performance up to and above 110MB/s
- Powerful dual-core CPU with H.265 codec support for 4K video transcoding
- Complete entertainment hub functionality
- Everything you’ll want to backup from and to
- No front USB 3.0 port
- No drive bays for easy hot-swap
“Synology’s DS216play offers the whole deal for a small price. A great performance with hardware based enhancements for the core functions make it a great media and backup NAS.”
Thank You Synology for providing us with this review sample.