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Synology DS214play NAS review

Gordon Kelly




  • Recommended by TR

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DS214play angle 2
  • DS214play angle 2
  • DS214play back
  • DS214play front
  • DS214play side
  • DS214play
  • DS214play setup
  • DS214play setup 2
  • DS214play setup3
  • DS214play setup4
  • DS214play UI
  • Gigabit Ethernet


Our Score:



  • Excellent performance
  • Easy to setup & manage
  • Smart, minimalist design
  • Dual USB 3.0 ports added


  • No physical display
  • A little expensive
  • Most media functionality on other Synology NAS

Key Features

  • Dual Core Marvell Armada XP CPU
  • Two 3.5in HDD bays
  • Tool-less drive bays
  • 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0
  • 1x eSATA and 1x SD slot
  • 1x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Manufacturer: Synology
  • Review Price: £289.99

What is the Synology DS214play?

This is Synology's media focused two-bay NAS which follows hot on the heels of the four bay DS414. Unlike its bigger and more SME-orientated brother, the DS214play hopes to win over savvy consumers with an array of audio, video and image friendly inbuilt applications and enough horsepower for real time Full HD video transcoding.

With Western Digital's new My Cloud range having provided the most user friendly NAS experience to date, this is Synology's fight back.

DS214play side

Synology DS214play - Design

Aside from drive capacities, on the surface there is little to separate the DS214play from the DS414. Both have the same minimalist textured matt plastic chassis which look smart and are virtually fingerprint proof. They also have the same carved Synology logo down each side that cleverly hides ventilation and the same removable fascia that lets you easily get at your drives.

Sadly like the DS414 and all Synology NAS the DS214play omits a digital display which means diving into web browsers and apps for a quick capacity check, but in fairness most NAS are generally hidden away. That said the DS214play does have some key differences which we'll outline in features.

Synology DS214play - Features

DS214play frontSomewhat surprisingly this smaller (233 x 165 x 108mm, 1.27Kg) NAS comes with a couple of key features its bigger brother lacks.

Look closely at the front and you'll see the addition of an SD card reader beside the USB 2.0 port and a 'C' copy button which enables one-click data replication to the NAS. At the back the DS214play also has an eSATA port, curiously absent from the DS414, along with the same dual USB 3.0 ports new to the DSx14 range.

Despite this there are also omissions. There is Gigabit Ethernet but no second Gigabit port for Link Aggregation. Furthermore the reduced size of the NAS means there is only room for a single fan so you don't get the DS414's fan redundancy. Another, somewhat wishful, notion would've been an HDMI port to connect a NAS with such media pretensions directly to a TV, but that was not to be.

DS214play backDive inside the DS214play, however, and you'll be back on familiar territory as the tool-less bays introduced on the DS414 have made it over and allow drives to be switched in and out in seconds. There is a change in CPU, however, as Synology has swapped out the barnstorming dual core Marvell Armada XP 1.33GHz for Intel's dual core Intel Evansport CPU running at 1.6GHz.

Given its media focus, Synology claims Intel's chip speeds up thumbnail processing, enables 1080p video transcoding and increased network performance. Backing this up are three core apps: Photo Station (image organisation software), Audio Station (which brings output support for DLNA, iTunes Server, AirPlay and Bluetooth speakers) and Video Station (which enables remote access to video files).

In fairness all three apps are available on the DS414 and older Synology models. But when combined with Synology's comprehensive array of 'DS' iOS, Android and Windows Phone apps they make for a compelling argument to consumers looking for a lower price point.

The Synology DS214play supports Basic, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, and the company's own SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID), which allows for hot swappable drives and volume expansion.

DS214play setup

Synology DS214play - Setup

Simplicity has long been a Synology strong point and given the DS214play uses the same acclaimed DiskStation Manager (DSM) software as all Synology NAS the same silky experience is continued here.

Connect the DS214play to your network and accessing its IP from your browser will begin the setup wizard. For less tech savvy users simply download the Synology Web Assistant and it will locate the NAS IP for you and redirect you to your browser. The wizard walks you through naming the NAS and explaining the RAID types. We'd advise all but advanced users stick with SHR for its flexible disk redundancy and expansion options.

While your disks configure the NAS remains fully functional and you are given a tour of Synology's 'virtual desktop' user interface. This mimics Mac OS X and lets you pin shortcuts to the desktop and walks you through any option you select (this can be turned off). At all times the desktop also displays widgets for NAS drive health, CPU and RAM usage, log files and connected devices.

DS214play UI

The whole environment is Java-based and it responds quickly while the intelligence and familiarity of the design make for a class leading user experience. We'd argue the WD MyCloud makes for even easier operation, but it packs far less functionality and we can't see how it would match all DSM's capabilities without a significant redesign.

Incidentally Synology has a redesign on its way with the release DSM 5.0 early next year which is expected to advance the UI significantly and all modern Synology NAS, including the DS214play, will be compatible.


November 7, 2013, 5:16 pm

It seems this review completely misses the point of the 214play - as I currently use a Synology NAS primarily to stream video to a tablet, I'd happily pay more for hardware transcoding. You appear to have brushed over the whole point of buying this


November 7, 2013, 6:52 pm

This, so much this. I'm looking into a new NAS setup and while I
like the look of the Synology range, being able to pick up a 5 or 8 bay
NAS that's packing hardware transcoding would be a sure sell for me, so
I'm hoping there'll be a roll out more models with this feature.


November 7, 2013, 10:25 pm

Armada? This should have the Atom CE5335.

Pretty significant difference, IMO.


November 8, 2013, 3:46 am

Take a look at the specs on synology's site and what they chose you highlight. The DS414 is touted as a dual 1.33GHz with floating point and hw encryption engine; the DS214play as a dual 1.6HGz with floating point and hw transcoding engine. The DS214play is geared toward home media library consumers where as the DS414 towards SOHO.


November 8, 2013, 7:24 am

"It also shares its bigger brothers' shift to a dual core Marvell Armada XP floating point CPU"

Actually, it has a dual core Intel Atom CE5335, running at 1.6 Ghz. It is this Intel "Evansport" architecture that enables the hardware transcoding.


November 8, 2013, 8:42 am

Why no testing of the transcoding feature - which is kind of the whole point of going for something like this over, say a custom unraid + plex build. Reveiew seems a bit copy/patse and rushed imo.


November 8, 2013, 12:17 pm

Marvell Armada XP CPU? Isn't the DS214play is equipped with an Intel Atom?!


November 8, 2013, 12:56 pm

Agreed -- the play suffix refers to the ability of this NAS device to transcode to 1080p on the fly due to the addition of Intel Evansport CE5335 SOC. I read somewhere that Synology have had to remove some of their features due to licencing issues... not sure on the details though.

On a separate note, how does a 2 bay drive support RAID 5, 6 and 10? Is this through the USB 3 interfaces? I assume RAID 1 is supported as well but is omitted from the review.


November 8, 2013, 1:38 pm

The review is wrong, the DS214play has an Intel Atom-based CPU instead of ARM, see http://forum.synology.com/w...


November 8, 2013, 2:21 pm



It's compatible with the 2 and 5 bay DX expansions units.


November 8, 2013, 3:50 pm

"As for the media elements, we did indeed find real time transcoding works as advertised which will be useful for anyone looking to run a sizeable batch of converting while switching the PCs off"


November 8, 2013, 4:16 pm

The DS214play has the Evansport CE5335, not the Armada like you mentioned.

Gordon Kelly

November 8, 2013, 5:27 pm

Thanks for all the comments on the CPU. We're checking the spec sheet with Synology as the one were given listed the CPU as the same ARM - based Marvell as the DS414 but with an undisclosed clock speed.


November 9, 2013, 3:05 pm

Can't I use the Media Server package on the DS414 to stream videos? Or is streaming video specific only to the DS214play?


November 10, 2013, 10:07 am

I bought one but haven't yet figured out how to access it from a remote location. I find the documentation poor in that regard. Is there a 'novice' FAQ on that?


November 11, 2013, 8:05 am

Sorry, when Im thinking about transcoding I was wondering if this device can convert a 720p or 1080p stream on the fly to my iPad, so that we can watch films from our library. I'm not sure that anyone is as interested in batch conversions as part of an overnight process.

If it could then it opens up the possibility of not having to go down the route of a custom built media server, which would be appealing to a lot of users and a lot easier to gain approval for from the boss :)

My bad for not being clear.

Gordon Kelly

November 11, 2013, 10:33 am

Thanks to all, Synology has confirmed the CPU is a dual core Intel Evansport CPU running at 1.6GHz. Their spec sheet did indeed not mention this.

The review is updated and it explains the performance gap between the DS414 and DS214play. It is also provokes an interesting Intel vs ARM debate with the Marvell's ARM-based chip so superior is data transfer speeds.


November 11, 2013, 10:46 am

Hello, Joanne from Synology UK here. You can contact our technical support team on uk_ support (@) synololgy .com however in order to access remotely, you need to open the ports on your router by 'port-forwarding'.


November 11, 2013, 10:47 am

Hi, You can stream videos on any Synology NAS, Just the DS214play comes with the Intel Evansport CPU so can trans-code much much faster. Perfect for multimedia enthusiasts!


November 12, 2013, 2:16 am

Gordon Kelly (and others)

I have a question for you and I hope you can answer it.

I have a Squeezebox Touch hooked up to my iMac and I stream all my music content from the iMac. However, I'm kind of tired having my music on the iMac as it needs to be 'on' all the time to feed the Squeezebox Touch with music. Which NAS would you recommend for my purpose? Will the WD My Cloud work with Logitech Media Server? Or should I go with the Sonology Play? Video streaming/encoding/transcoding isn't important.

Thanks in advance.


November 15, 2013, 4:30 pm

Hi Evan, Synology have a NAS selector here: http://www.synology.com/pro... which let's you tick what you need storage wise etc and then it recommends the most suitable models. Pretty handy!


November 26, 2013, 9:07 am

hi , i just bought a new ds214-play nas , but once i finish restore my all file from my existing synology ds212, i found that all my movie info , poster is not same like the old unit , the old unit have more than 1000 movie , i spend already 1 year to complete the info and poster , any solution for me ? why restore cant make it 100% duplicate ? pls help

Scouse Andy

November 26, 2013, 9:23 pm

Tempted by the DS214play, but the dearer DS713+ appears to be a lot quicker. I'm wavering because of the lack of 1080p transcoding on the 713. Simple question, am I ever likely to be able to upgrade the 713 with future software releases to transcode to 1080p or will I be forever in 720p land ?


November 28, 2013, 9:44 am

The article above in incorrect at the bottom where it says the DS214play supports RAID 5, 10, etc.... It only supports RAID 0 and 1. I just bought one so i am happy with it but - get your facts straight!


November 29, 2013, 8:58 am

Thanks, Roy. We've corrected the article.

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