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Synology DiskStation DS716+ review: This is the NAS you’re looking for

Synology DS716+ 2

The DS716+ is the latest two-bay NAS from Synology, offering a quad-core CPU that can transcode 4K videos on the fly. The NAS also offers a host of other features, such as the new Btrfs file system, Docker virtualization, which is a first for a two-bay unit from Synology, and dual Gigabit Ethernet with Link Aggregation. In theory, the DS716+ has everything that you’d want from a high-end two-bay NAS, so let’s find out if it manages to deliver.

Overview

If you’ve used a Synology NAS before, then the design of the DS716+ will be very familiar. The NAS is basically a black enclosure with Synology’s branding on the sides, with two drive bays that can accommodate 3.5- or 2.5-inch hard drives, with key holes built into the bottom of each drive cage that lets you lock them as an added safety measure. All you need to do is press down on the bay to access the drives. On the front fascia, you have LED indicators for the status, two LAN connections, and indicators over the drive bays as well. There’s also a USB 3.0 port, and a copy button through which you can quickly transfer the contents of any USB 3.0 flash drive or external hard disk to the NAS. The power button is below the USB 3.0 port.

Synology DS716+ 4

At the back, you have the 92mm fan, which runs at 18dB when idle. There are two USB 3.0 ports, as well as two Gigabit Ethernet ports that can be linked together in Link Aggregation mode to deliver a total bandwidth of 2Gb/s. You also get an eSATA port if you’re looking to connect a hard disk, or use Synology’s DX513 expansion module, through which you can add five additional drive bays to the DS716+.

Synology DS716+ 3

The NAS offers support for the Btrfs file system, which priorities integrity of data over performance.  The file system also brings a user quota system that gives you control over shared folders, and file- or folder-level restoration of data. While it is slowly becoming available in NAS units, the file system is expected to succeed the EXT4 file system that’s used as default by Synology.

Synology DS716+ 5

Powering the DS716+ is an Intel Celeron N3150 CPU clocked at 1.6GHz, which comes with a built-in AES-NI encryption engine. The transcoding engine can handle H.264 4K (3840 x 2160) videos at 30FPS, and while the NAS is quoted to be able to transcode more than one 1080p video at a time, that is entirely reliant of the bitrate of the video, as we shall see later on.

Installation

Synology DS716+ 6

Installing Synology’s web-based OS, DiskStation Manager, onto the NAS is a breeze. All you need to do is connect the NAS to the Ethernet, head to find.synology.com, and use Synology’s Web Assistant to configure user accounts and install DSM. One of the best features available in DSM is external access to your NAS through QuickConnect, which means that you can access your media library even when you’re not on your home Wi-Fi network. To do so, you’re going to register for a free Synology account, create a customized URL, and use that to access your DiskStation from over the internet.

One of the key features that most users look for when buying a NAS is compatible with Plex. The robust media server cannot be installed on ARM hardware, but with the DS716+ running a Braswell processor, you’ll find Plex listed in the Package Center. Installation is as easy as heading to Package Center, selecting Plex, and clicking on the Install button. As soon as you’re finished with the installation, you will be able to start indexing your media collection on Plex so it’s available on all your devices. The advantage in going with Plex over Synology’s default Video Station client is that the former offers more functionality and ingrained control over your media library.

DSM 6.0

In DSM 6.0, all of Synology’s stock utilities, such as File Station, Photo Station, Video Station and others, have received a significant user interface update, along with a slew of new features. File Station offers full content search that lets you search the metadata of over 700 different file formats, and you can also connect your Google Drive cloud storage account to your NAS, allowing you to move files seamlessly between Drive and your DiskStation. With FTP, WebDAV, CalDAV, and CardDAV built-in, the DiskStation functions as a full-fledged FTP server for file transfers.

Photo Station lets you easily upload photos from Windows and Mac, and you can view, download and share all the photos on the NAS from your mobile device through DS photo, available on iOS and Android. You can create tailored albums based on criteria you select. For instance, if you want to make an album out of all the images taken at ne location, you can do so with Photo Station. You can also protect your images with a watermark directly from the utility.

Audio Station allows you to run your own streaming service, with the ability to stream to mobile devices through DS audio. You can download tracks for offline listening, create playlists, and cast to other devices through Chromecast. Video Station offers a similar functionality, but with videos. You can stream your video library to the Apple TV, DLNA-enabled devices, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, smart TVs, and use your NAS as a media server.

Another new feature on offer with the DS716+ is Docker virtualization, which lets you run virtual instances of thousands of different utilities. There’s also a text editor, as well as an integrated note-taking service that syncs across devices, dubbed Note Station.

If you’re one to download a lot of content, Download Station is a tool that comes in handy. The utility lets you automate download tasks, and you can also search and create a new download task when you’re on the go through DS download.

In addition to the built-in utilities, you can extend the functionality of DSM by installing additional packages through the Package Center. The number of services available for installation varies by model, but with the DS716+, you get the ability to use your NAS to host a website, run an email, media and iTunes server, VPN client, and so much more. DSM 6.0 is still in beta, with an eventual release slated for later this year. As such, all benchmarks were done using the stable DSM 5.2 client.

Benchmarks

For benchmark testing, I connected the NAS to a Netgear GS110TP switch, with the test machines connected directly via Ethernet. Two WD Red Pro 4TB drives in RAID1 configuration were used. The DS716+ clocked 32 Watts when under load, with idle usage at 18 Watts.

A single ISO file clocking in at 4GB downloaded at 110.2MB/s using Btrfs, and the same file achieved 108.8MB/s on EXT4. File transfer test — which included downloading over 100 files ranging from 500KB to 50MB from the NAS to the client machine — netted 45.8MB/s on Btrfs, and 41.4MB/s using EXT4.

Writing to the NAS was also just as fast, although transfer times on EXT4 were faster. The single ISO file achieving 108.7MB/s on EXT4, and 103.6MB/s on Brtfs. The file transfer test clocked 41.3MB/s on EXT4, and 38.7MB/s on Brtfs.

The transcoding functionality certainly works well given the Braswell hardware, although files with higher bitrate will face an issue. PassMark score for the CPU is around the 1,500 mark, and to transcode a 1080p/10Mbps file you’re going to use up the CPU’s processing power.

Conclusion

Available for $500, the DS716+ is one of the best two-bay NAS units currently on sale. With a fast CPU that can transcode 4K content, the NAS will be ideal for those looking to stream their media collection from a central location. The DS716+ is also the most affordable model from Synology to offer the Brtfs file system, and along with Link Aggregation makes for a NAS that will not be obsolete anytime soon. When it comes to the features on offer, DSM continues to be a cut above what’s available in this segment, with version 6.0 bringing much-needed visual flair as well as new functionality.

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Harish Jonnalagadda
http://harishjonnalagadda.com
Harish Jonnalagadda is an avid reader of science-fiction novels. A long-time Arsenal fan, his other interests include gaming, basketball and making music. He also likes tinkering with hardware in his free time.

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