The Synology DS418play 4K UHD capable Network Attached Storage (NAS) server is a multimedia storage hub able to stream up to two simultaneous channels of 4K, 4096 x 2160 x 30fps, H.264/265 compressed video.
Synology is strong in the enterprise NAS space with its FS, RS and DS series from 1 bay to 24 bays (disks). The DS418play is a consumer and small business product.
What is a NAS?
Our review will try to demystify the technology behind NAS – let’s call this NAS 101. We will use the Synology DS418play as a reference device, so we will simply call it the Synology. You will soon see why it is the smart choice for the home market.
Just think of NAS as central disk storage the whole family can access. We will avoid getting too techy and talking about RAID, JBOD, btrfs and more. If you understand those terms, you don’t need this review.
In a typical home, you will have several computing devices – Windows, Macs or tablets connected to a home Wi-Fi network (router). Each owner downloads their music or videos to their device, so you end up with ‘stuff’ everywhere. A NAS acts as central storage that is just as accessible as your C: drive or Documents, Video, Music or Pictures folders.
The NAS can be set up for both public storage (everyone can access this) or personal storage for each user (only authorised users can access this, so you don’t have to worry about a family member snooping!).
Let’s say all your movies and music are in the Public folders. The Synology uses DLNA to be visible as a hard disk to Windows, Mac, IOS, Android, smart speakers, smart TVs and transmits the content over Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable to your device. No more trying to find a movie or song – it is all centrally stored. We tested the Synology on every device above and without fail it was accessible – even OK Google et al. recognises it.
Let’s assume you take lots of photos and videos too. These days a typical smartphone photo is from 2-8MB, and a video can be hundreds of Megabytes to Terabytes. Your smartphone can use Wi-Fi to back these up to the NAS in milliseconds – your cloud instead of using a public cloud. Even if you have unlimited NBN 50/20 or 100/40Mbps internet, uploading of a typical photo can take minutes. You can double the NAS upload speed by connecting two Ethernet cables to the router.
What about those thesis and irreplaceable documents littered over your devices? You can automatically back them up to the Synology. We will talk about safety later.
Finally, what about all those irreplaceable family photos sitting in shoeboxes. Eventually, they will fade, or silverfish will eat them. Hook up a personal photo scanner like the new Epson FastFoto FF-680W and scan to your heart’s content. It is amazing how many gigabytes storage you will need.
What about data safety?
The Synology uses a RAID implementation. That means data is recoverable even if a drive fails – the chances of this are very slim. You simply remove the faulty drive (it will tell you if this happens) and put in a new one. It rebuilds the RAID, and you are good to go without data loss.
As the Synology is on your home network and protected by passwords, it is a lot safer than using a public cloud. Like a public cloud, you can access it over the internet with the appropriate password.
And a NAS should be a lot more reliable than your PC as your laptop as you don’t move it around.
When you buy a NAS for home use, you need to know
- How many users will it have? The Synology will easily support a large family or even a small office
- How much storage? The Synology has four bays that support up to 56TB (4 x 14TB). Better still the drives don’t have to be the same, and you can mix SSD and HDD. Remember RAID means you end up with just over half the capacity as it stores snapshot copies of your data for recovery. We recommend NAS grade drives like the Seagate Iron Wolf or WD Red series – two 4TB drives cost around $300 in total leaving you two extra bays for future use.
- Type of disk (spinning HD or SSD)? Because the NAS sits on your home network connected by Ethernet cable to the router the maximum data transfer speed is around 1Gbps or 125MBps (you can increase this with two Ethernet cables). A spinning disk can transfer 600MB/s, so it is plenty fast enough. SSD in a RAID would be overkill, and a pair of 4TB would cost around $3,000!
- Multimedia transcoding (converting compressed video/audio to a video/audio stream)? Any DLNA compatible NAS can deliver raw content to a PC or Smartphone etc., to render video. The Synology is different. It can replace the need to have a separate PC to render video and output it to a screen. It is more convenient in a smart home environment.
- Apps that can help make a NAS more useful? Does the NAS have enough processing power to run apps to do other things like on-the-fly AES-NI encryption (to protect from snoops), surveillance video camera recording, email, personal cloud and more? The Synology does.
It is so simply even a managing director can do it.
- Open the box
- Slide out drive bay trays and insert 3.5” or 2.5” drives (up to four)
- Plug in 240V power and an Ethernet cable to the router
- Type ‘find.synology.com’ into a browser, and it will find and set up the NAS using system defaults (accept these).
- Give it a password, email address for notifications set the time zone and that is it. A geek free setup and it’s easy to set up personal directories and more.
- After it is set up, you can access it via Windows/Mac explorer, via any Internet browser or even over the Internet.
- You never need access the Disk Station Manager ever again as it will auto-update and alert you if things need attention. Depending on drive quality you should get 5-10 years trouble free use. The DSM manual is here. As Synology is such a popular brand, the various Geek-to-you services will know how to troubleshoot if you need it.
The Synology is a small computer with enough power to render 2 x 4K video (or 8 x FHD or 16 x HD) streams. If you have a 4K smart TV, then it can just deliver the raw movie as any DLNA server would, and the TV can do the work.
Here are a few Apps I like (all are Synology apps – a full list is here, and some have subscription costs)
- Chat server. Set up instant messaging (chat) between PCs and Macs on the network. Great for small business.
- Note server. Manage notes/to-do list offline, right from your local computer.
- Cloud backup. You can back-up the NAS to the cloud if you wish. Remember that this uses Internet data and may incur cloud and data costs.
- Active backup for automatic backing up PC/Mac to the NAS
- Surveillance station. Use it to record security camera video streams (compatible IP cameras required)
- McAfee Anti-virus (subscription) or Antivirus Essential (Free)
- Apache Server allows you to host your website (upload speeds over the internet may be an issue unless you have at least NBN 50/20)
- Printer server and sharing
- Mail, calendar server. Host your email and calendar. It is compatible with Outlook, Gmail and most other mail clients.
- Audio station allows you to listen to music stored on the Synology, from a connected iPod, or even stream Internet Radio stations. There is even an iTunes server.
- Moments, a deep-learning algorithm that instantly groups random photos based on your usual subjects, places, and a lot more.
- Video Station lets you manage and watch your video collection—movies, TV shows, home videos, and TV recordings—with intuitive convenience. It provides instant watching by streaming videos to your computers, AirPlay devices, iOS/Android devices, Windows 10 tablets/laptops, Apple TVs, Android TVs, and more.
- With a USB DTV dongle, it can live stream and record digital TV programs. It can enrich your videos with posters and subtitles from the Internet and create a watchlist or favourite list for quick access.
- Android clients are available for many of these items.
GadgetGuy’s take. DS418play
The Synology DS418play is impressive.
We have only skimmed the surface of this NAS. And that is on purpose because the average home or small office user will only use it for backup storage and DLNA.
We hope it has whetted your appetite for a NAS and you trek down to your local computer store to investigate. They may mention things like WD My Cloud (a good DLNA server but lacking the multimedia capabilities) and QNAP TS-251B (2-bay and does 4K transcoding with QNAP’s range of apps), but we think Synology DS418play has the edge.
We are going to use the NAS for a few more weeks – any updates will appear here.
|CPU: Intel Celeron J3355 (dual-core) up to 2.5GHz|
|RAM: 2GB (upgradeable using a standard SO-DIM to 6GB)|
|Drive Bays: 4 x 3.5”/2.5” (hot swappable) with SATA 600 HDD or SSD|
|Max Capacity: 56TB (14TB x 4) but after RAID you get just over half the capacity|
|LAN ports: 2 x RJ-45 1Gb with link aggregation|
|USB 3.0 ports: 1 x front, 1 x rear (for Flash drive and external SSD/HD connection to 2TB)|
|Hardware storage encryption: AES-NI|
|Hardware encoding/decoding: 2 streams up to 4K (4,096 x 2,160 pixels) @30fps|
|Dimensions: 166 x 199 x 223 mm x 2.23kg|
|Noise: Depends on drives but typically from 20dB quite mode|
|Warranty: 2 years|
|Website: Click here|