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
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
Surveillance station. Use it to record security
camera video streams (compatible IP cameras required)
McAfee Anti-virus (subscription) or Antivirus
Apache Server allows you to host your website
(upload speeds over the internet may be an issue unless you have at least NBN
Printer server and sharing
Mail, calendar server. Host your email and
calendar. It is compatible with Outlook, Gmail and most other mail clients.
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
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
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