Yes, cloud storage and online backup is the new hotness. But many of us still prefer to hoard our digital media files locally, on hardware we can see and touch. That's where a NAS (network attached storage) device comes in: these home servers can be even more convenient as an online service provider, with no worry of uptime promises or broadband network congestion, and invariably faster speeds, too.
Synology, one of a small group of go-to vendors in the NAS space, has just upgraded its 2014 DS415play model with the invariably named DS416play -- and it appears to improve on its predecessor in almost every conceivable way. The DS416play is available for roughly the same price, too: $460 or £420 without drives. (You add up to four of your own 3.5-inch hard drives, each of which can max out at 8TB.) Australia pricing and availability isn't yet available, but the US price converts to about AU$610.
For the first time, Synology has made features that were once exclusive to its business line available in a consumer product and the DS416play is all the better for it. The 415 was saddled with an odd processor choice -- the system on a chip that Intel designed for its foray into set-top boxes -- but its biggest draw was its ability to to transcode video. Synology's successor has a better spec'ed processor -- a 64-bit dual-core Celeron 1.6GHz -- that's able to not only transcode 1080p video but also 4K content.
The server is powered by DiskStation Manager (DSM 6.0), 1GB of system memory and two Gigabit Ethernet ports that can be link aggregated. It comes with three USB 3.0 ports to host extra storage and printers or even connect to a DAC (digital to analogy converter) if you use Roon software..
The server can house a total of 32TB of space before you need to resort to the peripheral ports. Synology says the server has sustained data speeds of around 184 MBps and based on our initial experiences comparing the DS415play and the DS416play the write speed is about twice as fast -- from 50MBps to about 100MBps. Your experiences may vary depending on your network configuration.