Synology DiskStation DS214play
Quiet; easy to get started
Some confusing configuration options
It would be easy to stick with the big names when it comes to buying a NAS, but there are huge number of challengers that offer great features and competitive pricing. Synology is one of those companies. Its DS214play focuses on reliable storage for your media with Airplay, DLNA and Chromecast support, so you can watch your movies and TV shows, and listen to your music almost anywhere.
Our review unit came with no pre-installed hard drives. We installed a pair of Toshiba 2TB drives into the DS214play’s caddy system, although the device supports disks of up to 6TB capacity. The disk trays slide out easily once a securing tab is pressed. The trays have plastic inserts on the sides. To install a drive into a tray, you remove the inserts. You then place the drive into the caddy and replace the inserts. They have studs that go through the sides of the caddy, into the drive’s screw holds so it’s all held securely.
Once that was sorted, we powered the DS214play up and connected it via Ethernet to our router. After a few minutes it was active on our network and we connected to it via a web browser on our Mac. Incidentally, as it’s not always easy to find out the IP address of a new device, we use a free iOS app called Fing on our iPhone and iPad to list all of the connected devices by address.
When we first connected, we were faced with a setup wizard that guided us through configuring the new drives, setting up shares, creating users and allocating permissions. Part of this included upgrading to the latest firmware.
Part of Synology’s appeal is that it has an ecosystem of apps to extend the use of its DiskStation devices. There are many different apps available covering file and media sharing, cloud storage and automated downloaders. A selection of these are recommended during setup.
Part of the setup enables cloud access, with a secure username and password, to use the DS214play over the internet. This is handy as it allows you to access your data from almost anywhere. Setting all the options correctly did take some fiddling, however, as the options weren’t presented sequentially in our view.
Synology’s configuration tool is called DiskStation Manager, or DSM. It is often updated with new features and updates, reflecting Synology’s commitment to continuing to make the program easy to use.
By default, our two 2TB drives were configured as a redundant pair, so all of our data would be automatically duplicated. This means, if one disk fails we won’t lose any data. It’s worth noting that the initial setup process, which involves installing some apps and the DSM software, used about 600GB of our total disk capacity.
Performance was great. We were able to copy files to and from the DS214play quickly. The device and the shares we had access to were available through the Finder almost instantly. Also, the iOS DS Cloud app makes it easy to access files remotely, as Synology provides a secure bridge over the internet that doesn’t require any complex VPN or DMZ setup.
One challenge we faced with the DS Cloud app on our iPhone 6 running iOS 8.4 was when we tried to play a video purchased from the iTunes Store. Although we didn’t expect it to play – we haven’t yet encountered a NAS that supports FairPlay on video files – the app crashed rather than simply warning us that the file was not compatible.
Bottom line. Other than the abovementioned crashing app problem, the Synology DS214play is a great NAS that delivers great media sharing, solid performance and is reasonably easy to use.