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Synology DiskStation DS216+ review: This NAS box can stream 4K UHD movies

Jon L. Jacobi | March 23, 2016
Though it downscales them to 1080p, you can stream 2160p videos with Synology's lastest NAS boxes and operating system.

NAS boxes are nigh on perfect devices for storing and streaming your multimedia collections—music, video, and photogoraph—throughout your home. Traditionally, however, that streaming hasn’t included UHD/4K/2160p video, which requires a fair bit of CPU power. Enter Synology’s DS216+ (the box Synology sent us for testing) and it’s new DSM 6.0 operating system.

Before you get too stoked. Synology’s NAS boxes can only transcode 2160p to 1080p (or a lower resolution, depending on the device receiving the stream). The same goes for Synology’s chief rival QNAP. That means you can stream UHD/4K, but not at its true resolution. Note that I’m talking about using Synology’s integrated Video Station player or its DLNA server. You can open any file directly and play it at full resolution if your TV or device supports network browsing and has the computational horsepower.

DS216+

The $300 (drives not included) DS216+ is one of Synology’s faster consumer NAS boxes—the reason the company sent it to us to test the transcoding. It’s outfitted with an Intel Celeron N3050, 1GB of memory, and with two drive bays, so you can add up to 16TB of storage. In our copy tests, writes and reads of a single 20GB file proceeded at about 109MBps, and with a more strenuous 20GB mix of smaller files and folders, at about 63MBps. That’s fast for consumer-grade NAS, and it makes the DS216+ a very good repository for backups—more on that subject later.. 

The DS216+ has two USB 2.0 ports on the back, and a single USB 3.0 port on the front for copying files to the box. There’s a dedicated copy button on the front panel: Pressing it will transfer all the files from a USB drive to the box. There’s also a single gigabit ethernet port, and somewhat oddly for a small office/home box of recent vintage—an eSATA port. A full-on USB 3.x (5Mbps/10Mbps) port would be a better fit for the intended market.

To test transcoding and streaming I loaded the DS216+ with numerous test files, including about a dozen 2160p (UHD 3840x2160 and 4K 4096x2160) videos. I played files using Synology’s in-browser Video Station player; streamed them to Windows Media Player augmented with the LAV DirectShow filters; and as a control test, played them back directly using Media Player Classic Home Cinema. which was also set to use the latest version of the LAV filters.

Everything up to and including 1080p played or streamed fine. 2160p videos (AVC and HEVC) played well also, at least those limited to about 30 frames per second and around 6 megabits per second (HEVC) or 20Mbps (AVC). AVC is a lot easier to process than the more heavily compressed HEVC. Beyond that, both audio and video stutter began to creep in; 60fps files weren’t recognized. My only other complaint is that the downscaling in Video Station could have used more anti-aliasing in areas with lots of fine detail.

 

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