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Synology DS214play NAS

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
DS214play angle 2

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Synology DS214play - Performance

So having shared so much with the DS414 can its little brother keep up? No, but it gives it a good go. Running a combination of files across our test network we found the DS214play's read and write speeds maxed out at 80.9MBps (647.2Mbps) and 73.56MBps (588.8Mbps).

Gigabit EthernetThese peaks fall some way short of the DS414's benchmark 112MBps (896Mbps) read and 97.3MBps (778.4Mbps) write speeds. The switch from the 1.33GHz clocked ARM-based Marvell to Intel's Evansport clearly hasn't paid off here, though it remains one of the fastest dual bay NAS we've tested. The trouble is this does mean the much cheaper WD My Cloud gives it a good run for its money with better reads of 92.4MBps (739.2Mbps) and it is just pipped on writes with 71.9MBps (575.2MBps).

Still given the DS214play's speeds far outstrip even the fastest 802.11ac wireless network (and wireless is going to be far and away the access medium of choice for a consumer oriented product) we doubt anyone will think the NAS is slow.

Furthermore, in isolation, these speeds are up there with some of the fastest pro Gigabit NAS systems in recent years which shows their advancement. Equally important is the NAS stayed quiet throughout our tests and idles under 20dBa, though this will vary depending on the acoustics performance of the drives you add.

Despite the drop off in performance, the reason Synology went for the Intel Evansport in the DS214play is its native hardware transcoding. Synology claims real time 1080p video transcoding is possible and we found this to be the case. It isn't going to compete with a powerful desktop or laptop GPU, but the transcoding process is smooth and doesn't stutter.

For many this will be a key feature, particularly for those with iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs which have limited native codec support. That said if you use kit with wider codec support, like Android devices or WD TVs, it isn't vital and we did encounter a couple of transcoded videos which refused to play - though these were few and far between.

Synology also hypes the DS214play's ability to quickly generate photo thumbnails through Photo Station for snappy viewing. Again we are happy to report this is the case, though we didn't find it any better than the Marvell-based DS414. When NAS are this quick there performance in this area is pretty much a given. As ever the DS range of mobile apps also remains overwhelming and, while we maintain many could be consolidated into simple 'media' and 'productivity' apps, no other NAS maker can match them.

DS214play

Should I buy the Synology DS214play?

With its smart looks, excellent software and strong performance we still have one caveat: price. The DS214play retails for £289.99 unpopulated and while retailers initially sold the Synology DS414 for a surprising premium (£374.99) it is now available at the £349.99 RRP.

In this scenario, unless SD and eSATA ports are vital to you, we'd save a little more for the DS414's extra bays and faster performance. In all honesty much of the DS214play's media friendliness is also provided by software which is available on the DS414.

On the flip side those looking for just a basic media streaming device will be sorely tempted by the £129.99, £159.99 and £199.99 RRPs of the 2TB, 3TB and 4TB WD My Cloud. Crucially though the My Cloud is a single drive device so there is no data redundancy without external backup and it can't match the advanced functionality of the DS214play. When dual drive My Clouds arrive that may change.

Until then the Synology DS214play is the best dual drive NAS we've seen, but we would still spend a little more for the DS414.

Verdict

There is no denying the DS214play is an extremely impressive device. It continues Synology's tradition of smart designs, seamless setups, bags of performance and stacks of functionality. Against it is a price tag which could push well past £500 with a pair of 4TB HDDs. With this in mind we think the four bay DS414 offers greater value and while WD's My Cloud range will give you the basics for half the price. Ultimately the DS214play is an exceptional device just be sure it is the device you need.

Overall Score

8

Scores In Detail

  • Build Quality 8
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Usability 9
  • Value 7

Steve

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

Mike

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.

Ub

November 7, 2013, 10:25 pm

Armada? This should have the Atom CE5335.

Pretty significant difference, IMO.

guest

November 8, 2013, 3:46 am

Exactly.
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.

Dave

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.

Pete

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.

Ben3001

November 8, 2013, 12:17 pm

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

Ben

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.

James

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/wiki...

RoboJ1M

November 8, 2013, 2:21 pm

http://www.synology.com/produc...

http://www.synology.com/produc...

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

Peter

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"

ub

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.

confused

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?

Mjdmjd

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?

Pete

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.

Joanne_Synology

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'.

Joanne_Synology

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!

Evan

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.

ITChick

November 15, 2013, 4:30 pm

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

arron

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 ?

Roy

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!

andyvan

November 29, 2013, 8:58 am

Thanks, Roy. We've corrected the article.

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