When it comes to setting up your home entertainment there are a few items which are pretty much staple, this included a nice TV, surround sound speakers and a media player. This setup pretty much enables you to sit back and relax on the couch while streaming the latest TV shows and Movies.
Whilst streaming content is fine in a lot of cases a large number of us like to have our own on-demand library of media content that we can access at any time without needing to stream it from the internet. We generally do this by saving some TV Shows or Movies to a portable hard drive and then plugging it in to one of the available USB ports of the media player. Although this works fine for the most part there is a much better solution that allows you to not only store a huge number of files but also allows you to access your content on you media player as well as other media devices you may have in your home. This is easily achieved by setting up a Network Attached storage (NAS) solution.
NAS products are becoming a staple feature in a lot of homes for those that are looking to expand on their current home theatre setup and those looking to cut the cord. With companies like Synology that are offering cost effective and very easy to use NAS products it’s easy to see why they are becoming so popular.
NAS products have come a long way from what would originally require you to be an IT professional to setup to becoming something that the most novice of users can setup and enjoy. Just how good are they you may ask, well lets take a look in our Synology DS416play review.
Synology DS416play Review – What’s in the Box?
The Synology DS416play came shipping in a very sturdy brown box that was sealed shut with Synology branded tape. I must admit that once I seen the Synology tape I couldn’t wait to get the thing out of the box and hooked up. The shipping box showed no signs of damage from transit which was great to see.
Opening the shipping box I was greeted with the packaging of the Synology DS416play itself. The packaging is a nice clean brown cardboard packaging with plastic handle and the Synology and Diskstation logo stamped on the box. The box was very sturdy and I did not notice anything rattling around inside the box which filled me with confidence that everything was nicely packaged inside.
On the front of the of the box there is a DS416play sticker which shows a product shot as well as some of the key specifications of the NAS. The use of orange, black and white in the label really helped to finish of the look of the packaging which I felt looked brilliant with its clean and minimal design.
On the rear of the packaging there is another sticker that shows the hardware specifications in more detail as well as providing additional product images. The contents of the box are also displayed here.
Upon opening the box I found everything very securely packaged in foam packaging and sealed in clear plastic. This ensured that the NAS got to me in one piece and fully working. This was great to see because as we know the postal service isn’t really known for their gentle touch when it comes to delivering goods.
Removing everything from the box I found:
- Synology DS416play NAS
- Welcome note
- AC power
- Accessory pack
- 2x RJ-45 LAN cables
The DS416play – A Sleek Design
When it comes to product design Synology are known for making some of the best darn looking NAS products on the market. This is increasingly important as more and more home users are starting to pick up NAS devices and integrate them into their home theatre setup.
It is important that the NAS does not look out of place and that it can all but fit seamlessly into the home and I feel that Synology have managed to hit this nail on the head with the design of the Synology DS416pay.
Removing the Synology DS416play from the packaging I was taken back by the small form factor of the 4 bay NAS as I am used to seeing NAS devices that are quite a bit larger. The DS416play comes in a simple black finish with a gloss black faceplate that covers the drive bays giving the device a nice sleek and modern look to it, similar to what you are used to seeing with home theatre speaker setups and amplifiers nowadays.
The gloss black faceplate that is located on the front of the device is removable providing you with access to he 4 hard drive bays hidden behind it. I was worried about fingerprints marking the gloss black finish however whilst handling the NAS I did not notice any fingerprint issues.
The Synology branding is located in a few places on the NAS, firstly the DS416play model number is shown on the bottom right of the faceplate and the Synology logo is cut into the sides of the NAS. The branding is minimal and does not detract from the great look of the product. I personally love the look of the cut out Synology logo on the left and right sides of the NAS.
The Ins and Outs of it
The Synology DS416play comes with all the interface options and functions that you should need. Starting with the front of the device you have the 4 hard drive bays which allow you to install up to 4 hard drives and configure them in a wide array of RAID and disk options. The drive bays are very simple to use, simply unclick the latch and slide them out. On the right hand side of the front face of the DS416play you will find the power button, USB port and an array of activity lights that show the activity and health of each of the 4 hard drives as well as a status light that quickly indicates the current status of the NAS.
Turn to the left and right side of the NAS you will see that there are no interface options however there is the cut out Synology logo which helps act as ventilation for the NAS.
Spinning the DS416play to its rear is where you will find 2x USB ports as well as 2x Ethernet ports which allows you to connect up to 2 Ethernet cables and make use of Link Aggregation. There is also the power port used to power the device.
All of the ports are well constructed which ensured that all connections were secure and didn’t come loose.
- CPU Model: CPU Intel Celeron N3060 dual-core
- CPU Frequency: 1.6GHz, burst up to 2.48GH
- Memory: DDR3 1GB
- Drive Bays: 4
- Max Internal Raw Capacity: 32TB (8TB HDD x4)
- Transmission speed: 224.1MB/s read and 142.56MB/s write
- External Ports
- USB 3.0 ports x 3
- Compatible Drive Types:
- 3.5″ SATA(III)/SATA(II) HDD
- 2.5″ SATA(III)/SATA(II) HDD
- 2.5″ SATA(III)/SATA(II) SSD
- Dimensions: 165 mm x 203 mm x 233.2 mm
- Weight: 2.04kg
- System Fan: Dual 92mm x 92mm
- AC Input Power Voltage: 100V to 240V AC
- Power Frequency: 50/60Hz, Single Phase
- Operating Temperature: 5ºC to 40ºC (40ºF to 104ºF)
- Storage Temperature: -20ºC to 60ºC (-5ºF to 140ºF)
- Relative Humidity: 5% to 95%
- Certifications: FCC Class B, CE Class B, BSMI Class B
In times past, setting up a NAS was generally something that only an IT geek could do and there was little to no chance of a home user setting one up. Thankfully Synology has made the process as simple as pie. Simply remove the drive bay rails and use the included screws to screw up to 4 hard drives to the rail, once done simply slide the drive back into the drive bay. You will hear a clicking sound once you have pushed the drive all the way in to the drive bay.
Once the hard drives have been installed simply power the DS416play on using the power button. Once the NAS is powered up the final setup process is very straight forward, simply load an internet browser and type in find.synology.com into the address bar and hit enter. This loads the Synology Web Assistant which will attempt to find any Synology devices that you currently have running on your network.
Once the Web Assistant had found the DS416play it was simply a matter of clicking the Connect button which would then initiate the DiskStation Manager and NAS setup process. Once the Connect button was clicked I was presented with a Set Up button which I simply needed to click.
The setup process will prompt you to install the latest DiskStation Manager which will clear any existing data from your hard drive and format and setup the drive ready for use. Once DSM has been downloaded and installed you are asked to create an administrator account which is what you use to authenticate yourself when using the DiskStation Manager and managing the NAS.
Once the administrator account has been setup you are required to specify how you would like the DSM update to function. You have the option to have the NAS install the latest versions of DSM automatically, install important updates automatically or to download the DSM updates but do not automatically install them.
For the next stage of the setup process you are shown a list of Synology’s recommended packages and are given to opportunity to install them. These packages include Audio Station, Download Station, Photo Station, Cloud Station, Media Server and Video Station. Selecting the Install button will download and install these packages. There is the option to skip these packages should you wish.
Now that the setup process of the NAS is complete you are presented with a quick guided tour of DSM which gives you an overview of the DSM interface and its functions.
The DS416play is now fully setup and ready to be used and all it took was a few clicks of the mouse. The setup process was insanely simple and even the most novice of computer users should not have any issue setting up the NAS. Synology has done a fantastic job with the setup process and have made it very intuitive and simplistic for the end user.
Synology has a great series of video tutorials available on YouTube to help assist any users with the setup of the DS416play as well as tutorials on how to use the NAS and DSM:
DiskStation Manager 6.0 – The Lifeblood of the DS416play
One of the most important aspects of any NAS is the software that powers it. It is the software that provides the NAS with all the functionality that is needs and that allows you to manage the NAS easily. The software that powers Synology products is known and DiskStation Manager or DSM for short and the DS416play comes equipped with the latest version of DSM which at the time of this review is DSM 6.0.
It is the DiskStation Manager that powers and drives the DS416play and it truly is the lifeblood of the device. Synology has managed to develop both a very simply to use interface as well as some very powerful features in DiskStation Manager 6.0.
Once you have finished setting up the DS416play and initializing the drives etc. you are taken to the dashboard of DSM. The design of the DSM dashboard is modern and simple, making it easy to navigate your way around the screen. At the top of the screen you have your taskbar which contains the start menu on the left and notification area on the right hand side. This is where you will receive any notifications and system messages from the NAS. The dashboard is customizable whereby it allows you to drag applications onto the dashboard and apply overlay widgets etc.
On the dashboard you have 4 shortcuts available to you, the Package Center, Control Panal, File Station and DSM Help. Lets take a look at each of those.
The package center is one of the most important features of DSM as this is where you can view, install and access all of the packages that are available for the DS416play. Packages are essentially addons that you can download and install in order to add additional functionality to the NAS. Packages are broken down into various categories:
- Developer Tools
Using packages you are able to add functionality such as email server capability, antivirus, backup services, media servers such as Plex, CMS platforms and much more. The most popular packages however are the Photo Station, Video Station, Audio Station and Cloud Station which we shall cover in more detail further down in this review.
The control panel is where you setup, configure and maintain the DS416play, and is broken up into three sections:
- File Sharing
The File Sharing settings allow you to configure how you want the DS416play to be accessed by other people on your network. You are able to add individual user accounts for friends and family that allow them to login and access sections of the DS416play file system and DSM. You can add and remove users at and point in time. You are able to create Groups which allows you to define the rights that user groups have and what can or cannot view or edit and delete. File services is where you can configure Windows File Service and Mac File Service which allows Windows, Mac and Linux clients that support SMB to access data stored on the DS416play. Under the Shared folder settings is where you can access the shared folders that are already configured on the NAS as well and create new shard folders for sharing data.
The Connectivity section of the control panel is where you manage all of the settings relating to how connect with the DS416play as well as networking options etc. QuickConnect allows you to quickly and easily connect with DSM remotely and was very easy to setup, all you need to do is enable the functionality and then sign up for free using your email address. External access allows you to configure access to external networks allowing you to access files on the NAS remotely. Network gives you access to all of the network setting of the DS416play including general network settings, proxy, network interface, traffic control, static routes and DSM settings where you enable services such as Bonjour and network discovery. DHCP server is where you can configure the Synology DS416play to act as a DHCP server and assign dynamic IP addresses to DHCP clients in your network. Finally Security is the place where you configure the security options of the NAS including Firewall, DoS protection, IP Block, Security Certificates and general security settings.
The System section in the Control Panel is where you configure the main system options for the NAS. Info Center provides useful information on the various aspects of the DS416play including hardware information, network information, volume storage, enabled services, usage data and Synology account information. Theme allows you to customize the DS416play by specifying the login page title, welcome title and welcome message as well as setting the background image, style and colour. Regional Options lets you specify the regional information of the NAS including Time Zone, Language and NTP Service. The Indexing Service provides you with the various settings for indexing media saved on the NAS. Media Indexing allows you to scan media that is stored on the DS416play and retrieve meta data related to those files such as TV Show/Movie image, thumbnails and description which is then used for the multimedia applications. Notifications allows you to enable the ability to receive system notifications via Email, SMS and Push Services. You are able to configure what kinds of system notifications you want to receive as well as how each of the notifications are delivered to you. Finally the Update & Restore sections allows you to check for any new firmware updates and automatically update the NAS or complete a manual DSM update.
Within DiskStation Manager you are able to configure your hard drive configuration to suit your needs. You are able to set the hard drive configuration to a series or RAID arrays including SHR, Basic (1 drive), JBOD, Raid 0, Raid 1, Raid 5, Raid 6 and Raid 10. You can check out the guide from Synology on how to configure these options as well as how they work.
DiskStation Manager and NAS Updates
When it comes to updating the NAS you have two options available to you. The first option available is the ability to manually update the NAS. Simply download the latest firmware and software updated from Synology and manually run the update from inside the DiskStation Manager (DSM) software.
The second and much easier option is to have the NAS download and install the updated automatically. Simply load the DSM software and have the DS416play check if there are any updates available. If the NAS finds an available update it will download and install it automatically. This is the much better option as it ensures that you don’t install the wrong updates etc. which could potentially damage the NAS.
The most common thing that we use a NAS for in a home entertainment environment is for the storage of local media files for playback on our media players. Sure, you could simply use an external hard drive but with so many great TV shows and movies coming out as well as 1080p movies being the norm and moving into 4k video those hard drives can fill up pretty quickly. Using a NAS means that you can expand your storage options whilst also sharing your media across your network, but the question is how do we access those video files? Synology’s answer to accessing your videos is the Video Station package. Video Station allows you to index and view all of your video files and sort them in a great looking interface for you to browse.
Using the Video Station was straight forward, I simply copied some TV show episodes to the Video folder on the DS416play and then selected the TV Show menu item on the left side of the screen. Once selecting TV Shows I was presented with a dialogue box in the center of the screen asking me to “Click here to create indexed folders of your videos”, selecting this I was presented with the Library Settings screen where I was able to specify the folders associated with the TV shows stored on the NAS. Once I had selected the folder containing the TV show episodes on the DS416play the Video Station then continued to index those files by searching for meta data for each episode on the internet. Once the indexing was complete the TV shows were then displayed in the TV Show library of Video Station including thumbnail art, show and season information as well as episode plot information and images. The Video Station gives you the ability to add multiple file sources as well as create as many categories as you would like, allowing you to structure the folder and category layout in a way that works best for you.
Another feature of the Video Station is its ability to act as a DTV and record live television programming. In order to make use of this function you are required to have either a USB DTV dongle or HDHomeRun with DVB-T plugged into the DS416play. Once the hardware is plugged in to the NAS you can use the Channel Scan functionality to scan for broadcast transmissions of digital or satellite television signals. Once the scan has been completed you will be able to access any of the channels that have been picked up by the DS416play allowing you to watch and record live television programming. The recording function allows you to see a list of programming that is coming up and schedule for any of the shows to be recorded as they air, once recorded the saved television programming is available in the TV recording section of the Video Station where you can playback your recordings.
The Video Station settings allows you to manage all of the settings related to the Video Station and media playback and is broken up into four sections:
The Library settings allows you to setup your video library by selecting folders containing video files stored on the NAS as well as creating new categories and specifying permissions.
Just like in the main Control Panel for DSM, the Privileges options within Video Station allow you to create access rights for your video files which is great if you are connecting to varying media players etc.
Under the Advanced tab you have access to the settings for media playback including transcoding settings, subtitle playback and video cover settings.
Finally the Options tab gives you the ability to specify the homepage settings, configure the automatic downloading of subtitles and set Chromecast AC3 Passthrough.
Just as you are able to organize and view your videos using the Video Station you are also able to do the same with any photos that you have using the Photo Station. The Photo Station provides you with all of the features you need to be able to catalogue your photos and view and share them with friends and just like the Video Station, using the Photo Station was straight forward.
Once I had copied some photos across to the Photo folder on the DS416play the photo conversion process was triggered which optimized the photos that I had copied across, ensuring that they would work with the Photo Station. Once the photos had been copied across I simply loaded Photo Station and the images had all already been indexed for me, allowing me to see them as soon as I loaded the Photo Station.
One of the best things about the Photo Station is that it is simply accessed via a web browser which means that you can access your photos from any device you have that has network capabilities and a browser installed.
The Synology Photo Station provides you with a few different ways that you can browse your photo library. These options are found at the dropdown menu located at the top right of the screen where you can choose between Photo Wall, Timeline and Map. The photo wall is a common photo layout that you are used to seeing on most devices which simply shows a thumbnail image of all of the albums that you have currently setup. Selecting one of these albums will then show you all the photos located within that album. The timeline view works similar to the timeline that you are used to seeing on Facebook whereby it shows all photos in a timeline list which are separated by dates. Finally, and most interestingly, you have the Map view which loads up a world map and puts markers on the map of where photos were taken. You can select one of the markers to then view all images taken at that location. This is a great piece of functionality when you want to look back and see where in the world you have traveled.
With the Photo Station you have full control over your images and you are able to organize them however you wish. You can create as many albums as you would like and edit and move your photos around as much as you would like. You are also able to manipulate your photos such as rotating the images, specifying geo location and specifying tags etc.
The other great piece of functionality with the Photo Station is the ability to share photos that are saved on the DS416play. You are able to share any photos or albums that you would like with the public or specific users of your choice. Social media sharing is also built in allowing you to share your photos with Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube.
The other media type that is common in most home entertainment setups is audio and Synology have got us covered with handling your audio files with their Audio Station. As is expected after using the Video and Photo Stations, the Audio station is also very simple to use. Simply copy your music across to the audio folder on the DS416play and fire up the Audio Station.
When I launched the Audio Station it automatically indexed all of the music that I had copied across to the NAS. Once launched, the Audio Station displayed the audio library which allows you to view your music by folder, album, artist, composer, genre, recently added and by rating. There is also a function called Random100 which will play random tracks which is great if you are having a party.
Listening to your music is easy, simply select the audio file you want to listen to and hit play. You are able to sort your music into custom playlists by creating a new playlist and then assigning the tracks to that playlist. This is great as it gives you a nice method of categorizing your music playback.
If you don’t have a lot of music saved on the DS416play or you simply want to listen to something new you can make use of the Internet Radio function that is built into the Audio Station. By default SHOUTCast is already support is already built in to the Audio Station however you are also able to create user defined radio stations by simply adding internet radio station URLs and saving them. The ability to add user defined radio stations ensures that you should never run out of music choices.
Finally the Audio Station can also be used as a media server, allowing you to stream your music to other media devices you may have. This is easily achieved by navigating to the Media Server menu item on the left and then selecting from a list of available devices that you have on your network.
Other DSM Features
In addition to the great Video Station, Photo Station and Audio Station apps DiskStation Manager come with a range of other functionalities which are very useful. One such feature is Cloud Station which allows you to setup file-syncing between your computer and NAS. Cloud Station works in a similar manner to Dropbox and Google Drive in that you can sync files that you have on your computer with the NAS allowing you to access those files remotely but also providing you with version history. Cloud Sync also allows you to integrate with online cloud hosting services you may use including Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Amazon Cloud Drive and Box.
One important thing required for the DS416play and DSM is the ability to manage your files, to do this you can use the File Station. File Station allows you to browse all of the files and folders stored on the NAS and provides you with the ability to move them around and delete what you don’t want to keep, similar to a standard file explorer. You are able to mount remote connections from other systems in order to be able to access them directly through File Station. If you would like to share a file or folder with someone you can do so from with the File Station by generating share file links similar to how you would on Dropbox.
Home Security with the DS416play
One of the increasing trends in the home today is the inclusion of video surveillance systems and once again Synology has got you covered. Synology provides you with the Surveillance Station which is aimed at providing you with a central management system for your video surveillance. With Surveillance Station you can view the video feeds from your security cameras in real time, supporting up to multiple cameras.
You are able to record the video footage from your security cameras and save them to the DS416play to archiving purposes and also for playback at a later date. This is a great piece of functionality to have available to you should you wish to setup home security cameras without needing to spend thousands of dollars.
Synology DS416play and Media Players – Pure Harmony
Now that we have gone through the specifications of the DS416play and the features available to you it’s time to cover the most important question. How well does the Synology DS416play NAS work with our media players? Well the great news is that it works like an absolute dream thanks to both the Synology DS Video app as well as network share capabilities of the NAS. Let’s start with the DS Video app.
The DS Video app serves a similar purpose to Kodi and Plex by providing you with the ability to view and browse your videos on your media player and allowing you to playback your videos. The DS Video app is provides support for Apple TV, Android TV, DLNA TV’s Chromecast, Samsung TV, Roku players as well as Windows 10 devices. The DS Video app allows you to easily stream your TV shows or movies that are stored on the DS416play using your mobile phone as the remote control. One great feature of this is the ability to download any of your videos and store them on the device locally for offline playback.
Should you have an Android TV or Apple TV you are able to download and install standalone DS Video apps that run on the devices themselves. This provides you with an experience similar to that of Kodi and Plex by giving you an easy to use UI for browsing your media files. You are able to browse by categories, favorites and playlists as well as providing you with the TV recording functions that we covered earlier in this review. All of the video transcoding happens on the DS416play which means that you don’t need the beefiest media player to enjoy your TV shows and movies.
Although the DS Video app is great some people, like myself, still prefer to use Kodi or Plex as their media client. I am a big fan of Kodi and I was pleased to see just how easy it was to connect Kodi to the DS416play to retrieve all of my local media files. The process was very straight forward, simply go to Kodi settings and add a video source like you normally would and then select the DS416play from the list of available sources and your all done. Provided you have named your TV shows and movies using the correct naming conventions Kodi will automatically index your videos and download all meta data related to each video. At no point during my time using the DS416play with Kodi did I notice any performance issues such as buffering or failed playbacks, the whole process from flawless.
The DS416play is connected to my home network via Cat6 Ethernet providing Gigabit speeds. Transferring a file from the DS416play I received a transfer speed of 115.3 MB/s and a transfer speed of 41.7 MB/s when copying a file to the NAS. When streaming my media content including 720p, 1080p and 4k I experienced no issues of lag or buffering and the playback was smooth.
Where to Buy
If you are interested in buying the Synology DS416lay you can jump on over to Amazon and pick it up for only $459.