The DS214play is the fastest NAS on test, but it isn’t merely speed that gains it the Labs Winner award. It’s hugely versatile, with excellent media-streaming capabilities and some of the best cloud features we’ve seen.
It’s well designed and solidly built, packing a lot of power into a compact, relatively stylish unit. With an eSATA, one USB 2 and two USB 3 ports, connectivity is excellent, and there’s even an SD card slot. Best of all, it’s affordable: a DS214play with 6TB of storage can be built for less than $750.
The reasons to be cheerful start as soon as you begin installing the drives. The drive cover pulls off, the caddies unlock and slide out, and a clip-on assembly means you can mount a drive without touching a screwdriver. The browser-based setup routine works flawlessly, downloading new firmware for you, and there’s zero pain in configuring the RAID and initialising your storage space.
It isn’t always this easy to use. The UI is excellent for advanced users, with features such as multiple windows and multitasking that you won’t find on most NAS devices, but there’s little hand-holding for novices, and navigating the control panels and settings takes a little getting used to.
It’s a great media device, however, acting as a DLNA media server without any problems. Thanks to a hardware transcoding engine, it can convert 1080p video from one format to another on the fly (although we found some files that wouldn’t play on an iPad from the NAS). In addition, Synology provides enough add-on modules for the DS214play to moonlight as a mail server, IP security camera station, VPN or web server.
It’s the cloud features that swing it for us, though. Synology Cloud Station works just like Dropbox: drop a file into the Cloud Station folder on your PC and it’s replicated within seconds on the NAS, with any changes synchronising within two seconds across a local network. Different apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone take you directly to the music, photo, video and file servers on the DS214play, with files playing back flawlessly (providing your connection is fast enough). Finally, Synology’s QuickConnect service provides a simple address to enter in the apps or browser, so you don’t have to set up port forwarding.
The DS214play is fast. With a 1.6GHz dual-core Atom processor and 1GB of RAM, and twin Seagate 1TB drives installed, we saw average read rates of 103MB/sec and average write speeds of 91MB/sec. Even in our backup test, the Synology hit an average of 87MB/sec. Our conclusion? This is a champion NAS in almost every respect.
A superb NAS with superfast performance and a huge raft of features, made even better by top-notch cloud capabilities and a reasonable price. Read the review.