With each year that passes, photos and videos are increasing in quality at an exponential rate. Following this, memory required to store this data is also increasing exponentially. Hard-disk drives (HDDs) are keeping up with this demand – I remember just a few years ago a 1 TB hard disk was a novelty. The downside to HDDs, however, is that they require your computer to be on for you to be able to access them…or do they?
Welcome to the world of Network Attached Storage – NAS. The concept of NAS is that of having a low-powered device which turns your HDD into a network attached one, thereby eliminating the need for a computer to be left running in order for one to access its contents. There a few defining factors when it comes to NASes:
- Processor Power
- Number of HDD ports and configurations
- External Connections
- Operating System and Add-Ons
In this review we will tackle the first three points and leave the Operating System and Add-Ons aside for now as there is a lot to write about. Let’s start with the basics.
What’s in the box
With this gadget there wasn’t much in the box, neither did we expect to find much. Folding away the top of the box revealed a large piece of thin foam covering the NAS and another smaller box containing the required cables to operate it; the power cable, power brick, and an ethernet cable (very thoughtful of Synology) as well as a very brief quick start guide. Feel free to watch the unboxing and setting up video below.
The DS216 measures 165 mm x 100 mm x 225.5 mm (Height x Width x Depth) and only weighs 880g (without any HDDs). It is actively cooled through a very silent 18.5 dB(A) 92mm fan (for comparison, a whisper clocks in at 25 dB(A)) and consumes only 15.08W – which means that it will take this NAS almost 3 days of continuous running to consume one unit of electricity (KWH), and longer if you schedule it to power off at specific times.
This device is part of the ‘value series’ from Synology, so it packs a punch whilst not breaking the bank. The DS216play has a Dual Core 1.5 GHz, 32 bit CPU accompanied with 1 GB DDR3 of system memory (RAM in layman terms). This CPU is capable of transcoding 4K video at 30 FPS which is incredible for the price range of the DS216play. We’ve noticed that other brands in a similar price range are often limited to data storage without any streaming capabilities as they’re simply not powerful enough.
The DS216play has two HDD bays which are compatible with both 3.5″ and 2.5″ SATA HDD as well as 2.5″ SATA SSD (Solid State Drive) with the latter two requiring an optional disk holder. The maximum single volume size is of 16 TB and the maximum internal raw capacity is that of 2x 10TB drives (20TB). The benefit of having two bays is that you can RAID your drives. This device is capable of RAID 0 and RAID 1, where RAID 0 splits the data on two separate drives, whilst RAID 1 mirrors the drives, making one drive a back-up of the other in case of failure.
The DS216play also has one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port and one Ethernet port – whilst the use of the latter is obvious, the former two can be used to either attach removable storage, a printer (to create a print server) or a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply).
On Synology’s website one can find the benchmark results of their in-house testing.
Though these are usually performed, as Synology puts it:
Performance figures are achieved in the Synology lab by using very powerful client computers with optimized network settings, and could vary in different environments. Regular office desktop or notebook computers may not be able to reproduce these figures.
So one would think that these are best case scenarios (similar to when considering the battery life of a device – it would depend on how you use it). We performed our own tests as we’re always skeptical of quoted figures and values. The results are in the following graph:
This was done through the bench-marking software ATTO. The graph shows increasingly larger sized files being written and read to and from the NAS. The transfer speed results are displayed on two columns on the right. For smaller file sizes it’s expected to have slower transfer speeds. The last nine transfers seem to show the ‘speed saturation point’ with an average of 86,845 kB/s which is equal to 86.4 MB/s for writing and an average of 104,564 kB/s which is equal to 104.56 MB/s for reading. And this really impressed us – it not only matched the expected performance – it actually topped it! Kudos to Synology for providing realistic statistics for their products.
We’ve been using the DS216play as our NAS for a few weeks here at Anthropocentric Reviews and we’ve been nothing but happy with it. Coincidentally one of our HDDs inside a computer failed but luckily part of our ‘every day use tests’ was backing up our computers on a schedule and the DS216play saved us.