The DS216play is a two-bay NAS featuring on-the-fly transcoding of stored video files to mobile devices and set-top boxes such as Google’s Chromecast, with one of the highlights being support for 4K Ultra HD formats. This being a Synology NAS, it also supports the company’s slickly designed and feature-packed DiskStation Manager NAS operating system.
The physical design and appearance of Synology’s NAS units doesn’t change greatly between iterations. The DS216play follows the design of the company’s previous two-bay units, with a matte-black plastic chassis featuring the firm’s signature Synology logo etched into both sides.
At the rear is a single Gigabit Ethernet port, a USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0 port for connecting additional storage. Although these are useful additions, for long-term use it’s recommended that you rely on the internal storage. Next to the ports sits the power connector – used with an external power pack in conjunction with a standard IEC kettle lead – and an 80mm exhaust fan that can be set to run in either cool or quiet mode.
There are four LEDs at the front, indicating the status of the network connection, each of the two disks and the unit itself. A large power button sits at the bottom. The unit’s dimensions are fairly average for a two-bay NAS, and in keeping with other Synology two-bay NAS units.
Synology uses the same method here for fitting hard disks as with its other two-bay NAS models. Half the casing slides away from the front, revealing two pairs of SATA power and data connectors behind shelves on which would sit 3.5-inch hard disks. Each disk is secured in place with rubber mounting grommets for noise dampening, using the bundled screws. There are also optional 2.5-inch adapters.
Once the disks are securely inserted, you can pop the casing back together, plug in an Ethernet cable and the power adapter, and the DS216play is ready to roll.
NAS units normally don’t need a particularly powerful CPU, unless they’re designed for enterprise use, with hundreds of clients and separate access permissions. But transcoding 4K video is no small task for any computer processor, which explains the specification bump between the DS216play and the vanilla DS216, which lacks this feature.
The DS216play is home to a 32-bit dual-core 1.5GHz ARM processor from STMicroelectronics, while the DS216 has a dual-core 1.3GHz Marvell chip.
It’s easy to use a Synology NAS as a torrent client, which is useful for long, slow downloads that would otherwise require you to leave your PC switched on. The CPU speed affects how many concurrent torrent downloads can be set to run. The DS216play supports 50, quite a jump from the 30 in the DS216, and less in other units.
Synology lists a number of supported video formats: H.265 (HEVC), MPEG4, MPEG2 and VC-1, with 4K and lower resolutions supported. The maximum listed storage capacity is 16TB, using a pair of 8TB hard disks.