When Synology released their DS214Play last year it quickly became one of their more popular models. Retaining the functionality of the standard range but adding enhanced media capabilities it provided the ideal basis for a media centre… other than for those who needed more than two drive bays. Today Synology update their Play range of NAS with the DS415play, a 4bay device with enhanced media features and we have one to review.
Packaging and Bundle
As is common for Synology NAS units the DS415play arrives in a brown cardboard box with company branding and a small sticker noting the model name. Upon opening the box we find the NAS suspended in protective material and bundled in their own box are a network cable, screws for 2.5” and 3.5” drives, quick start guide and a 120w PSU.
The Synology DiskStation DS415play
The DS415 play as noted earlier is a 4bay NAS and features a matt finish and gloss quick release front panel, more on that shortly. On the right side we get status LEDs and beneath them a USB 2.0 port. That sits above the power button which also features an LED. The unit measures 165x203x233.2mm (HxWxD) weighing 2.03kg.
Inside we have an Intel Atom dual core 1.6GHz CPU with hardware accelerated transcoding and encryption engine. This is backed by 1GB of DDR3 and each bay accepts drives up to 6TB for a total storage capacity of 24TB (official support lists 5-20TB, our 6TB Seagate drive worked without issue). Synology rate the unit for 112MB/s read, 101MB/s write and support Synology Hybrid RAID, as well as 0, 1, 5, 6 and 10.
Turning the unit round we find that both sides of the NAS feature a perforated Synology logo which allows airflow through the sides and the base has four rubber feet. Round at the back of the DS415play we find two fan exhausts along with power input, reset switch, GB LAN port and lock slot. Then there are four USB ports, two are 3.0 and two are 2.0 spec.
Installation and Set-up
Earlier we noted the quick release front panel on the DS415play, and it is very quick. We just pull it off and that reveals the bays. Into them we place our 2.5” or 3.5” drive before securing with the bundled screws and sliding back in. It is that simple.
Once the drives are installed and the NAS powered on it is time to access DiskStation Manager web interface. To do this we can use the DiskStation Assistant software which finds and connects to the NAS and opens our browser too. Exactly the same process as any other Synology NAS.
Next up are some screens which give us info on the DiskStation as well as allowing us to point the NAS at the latest OS files. We then create a password for the admin account and here we can also alter the server name, doing so will alter the name for the access URL as well. After these steps the installation of DSM begins.
Once installation and setup is complete we land on the login screen which now features a weather and clock widget. On first login we can also set up a quick access account used for accessing the device remotely.
Once installation and setup is complete we land on the home screen. This is in effect the ‘desktop’ and has a familiar Windows like UI experience which features taskbar, icons/shortcuts and a main menu (start) button. All Synology NAS solutions operate using DSM from the single-bay home user device to the 100 bay + enterprise solutions which is rather impressive.
On the desktop are the default icons which include File Station, Control Panel and Package Centre. Along the top taskbar we have a ‘start’ button on the left and over on the right, a search function, user account menu, display options as well as a notification system and (when appropriate) an icon informing us that there is a USB device currently connected. In the bottom right corner we have our quick access status indicators. Here we can see over health status of the system, the current CPU/memory usage as well as bandwidth use.
The start button, situated top left opens a screen which includes any installed apps.
Looking next to the Control Panel, we have a large array of options available from user admin, firewalls, IP blocks, Traffic Control and a whole lot more. All aspects of the NAS and the way it functions are user configurable, though novice users will find that very few of the options need tweaking out of the box.We can also check for and install OS updates from here, basically an automated process where we approve, let it install and then the unit reboots.
The Package Center, is Synology’s ‘App Store’ here we can find packages to download and install on our NAS to improve functionality, these are categorised into helpful categories. We can also see which apps we have installed and make sure we are running the most up-to-date packages. This allows full control of just what is available on your NAS without bloating the initial install.
With this being a media focused NAS we have some key apps for those purposes, all provided by free by Synology (with other free alternatives available from other developers via the package centre). One of the key apps is File Station, this is a file browser and allows us to trawl our NAS at a directory level. It also allows the user to access the files on another device to easily upload them to the NAS. As well as the usual file control abilities rename, delete, cut/copy/paste we can compress files into .zip archives directly on the NAS and create share file links that allow users who don’t have credentials for the DiskStation to download the file.
Audio Station allows management of the music library stored on the DiskStation and like VideoStation and PhotoStation allows us to view our content on other devices such as TVs, phones and tablets (or give external access to items such as our photos to family members). Key to this model of course is that the Video Station features hardware transcoding to maximise playback quality and compatibility.
Given that those who need a NAS probably have a multitude of devices Synology have a full suite of PC and mobile apps (available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone). These include media players for streaming audio and video content as well as File Station which is used to browse files direct and finally there is DSFinder to manage our device.
Looking first at the build quality and design of the Synology DS415play we have a unit which immediately impresses. It has a solid chassis which will blend in nicely in most environments while still offering that gloss front panel to add a bit of style. The ability to install or remove drives in seconds is always appreciated and the port layout is decent. Ideally we would have liked to see one of the USB 3.0 ports on the front for easy access but that is just a minor issue.
Inside the hardware chosen is also impressive. The dual core Atom and media/encryption hardware are high end parts for a NAS and the support for such large amounts of storage as well as the 1GB of DDR3 keep the high end components coming.
Performance is good too. DSM runs very well on this configuration, never lagging and always responsive. We were able to stream media at 1080p without issue and the rated speeds of 120/100MB/s should be more than enough for most uses.
Of course the real strength of Synology NAS devices has always been the software and there is no change there. DSM is an exceptional operating system for network storage. The best around. It allows us to have a powerful media system (including iTunes server), run a print server, mail server, offer cloud storage/sharing and offer backup functionality (including Time Machine)… with so much more too.
This great functionality mixed with good performance, decent build quality, a 2-year warranty and a competitive price win the Synology DS415play our Gold Award.