Synology DiskStation 216play
The DS216play is a network storage device aimed at home users. Synology didn’t release a two-bay ‘play’ model in 2014, so this can be considered the successor to the DS214play, but some might think it’s an upgrade from the DS415play. The headline feature is 4K transcoding, but aside from this and lower power consumption there’s not much to tempt anyone to upgrade.
Cheaper than the 214play, you can buy the DS216play for £190 from Amazon. This is around £40 less than the two-year-old model, and as you’ll see below, there are reasons for this. We had expected it to be even cheaper, but most retailers are selling the NAS for more than Synology’s list price of £186: there are no discounts to be found yet.
Remember that this is just the enclosure price. Expect to pay around £400 in total if you want a pair of 3TB NAS-specific disks as well.
A NAS doesn’t have to be good looking, but given that the 216play is aimed at home entertainment geeks, it’s a shame Synology hasn’t made more of an effort with the design. The matt plastic is inoffensive, but it’s no object of desire. If anything the box feels flimsy and even cheap compared to other DiskStations.
There’s no removable front panel or quick-release drive bays. There isn’t even a USB port or SD slot on the front, so there’s no easy copying of photo from your camera, or videos from a USB stick. At the back is a pair of USBs, only one of which is USB 3.0. You won’t find eSATA or anything else. Beyond that’s there’s the expected Gigabit Ethernet. Unlike certain other entertainmentoriented NAS drives, there’s no HDMI output for direct connection to your TV, nor any audio outputs. In essence, this is a box designed to be installed out of sight and used exclusively over the network.
Setup is a breeze, especially compared to older DiskStations. While we’ve moaned about the lack of slide-out disk trays, it takes only a couple of minutes to install each disk, then two small screws hold the slide-on side cover in place. You then connect the power supply and the network cable to your router. And let’s face it, you’re probably not going to open it up again unless one of your disks fail.
Once powered up, you head to find.synology.com from your laptop or PC. This automatically searches your network and once the DiskStation is found, you just click a button to install the latest version of DiskStation Manager.
Less than 10 minutes later you can start using it. The old manual downloading and installing process is automated and with the online discovery app, you don’t even have to install Synology Assistant, although you can still do that if you have problems.
The new QuickConnect service makes it easy to set up an ID and access your DiskStation remotely without the hassle of port forwarding and using a dynamic DNS service. Of course, transfer speeds will depend mainly on your broadband upload speed and your mobile network (or Wi-Fi).
We’re not going to cover DiskStation Manager in depth here, but for those unfamiliar this is the software that runs on all DiskStations. It’s more of a fully-fledged operating system these days and while some others (QNAP) come close, it’s widely regarded as the best. It’s also worth noting that DSM 6.0 isn’t far away and should bring new features for the 216play, such as offline transcoding.
There are plenty of features baked in, and plenty of native and third-party apps to download either through the on-board app store
The new QuickConnect service makes it easy to set up an ID and access your DiskStation remotely without the hassle of port forwarding
(Package Center) or directly from the app makers.
Synology’s own apps don’t all have wonderful, slick interfaces but they get the job done. There are mobile apps as well. DS File lets you browse your folders and access compatible content such as photos and videos, but there’s separate DS photo, DS audio and DS video apps for each media type as well. There’s also DS cloud as you can use your DiskStation as a personal cloud storage server, an