As popular as streaming video and TV is in 2016, there are still plenty of people out there that want to buy DVDs or Blu-rays, rip them to a local storage device, and watch them whenever they like. To do that, you need somewhere to store all those high-resolution files — like a NAS. Then you want to stream them to your TV, your PS4, your smartphone — and for that you need processing power. And the Synology DS716+ is just about the most powerful 2-bay NAS you can buy.
It’s straightforward, but not exactly quick, to set up. Configuring a Synology NAS is a game of two halves. With the quick-install drive bays, putting a couple of 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch hard drives in the DS716+ is the work of a couple of minutes at most. Similarly, hardware setup is simple — one power brick, and one or two Ethernet 1Gbps network connections depending on how hardcore your home network is. (There’s no Wi-Fi.) But then you have to download the Synology DiskStation Manager hardware from the company’s website, find the NAS on your network with Synology Assistant, and go through the initial software setup process of initialising and cleaning your hard drives and creating a storage array — this takes a while.
Synology’s DiskStation software is still the best in the game. DiskStation Manager is a web-based GUI for you to manage every aspect of the DS716+’s performance, everything from the time the hard drives take to hit sleep mode after access to installing Synology-made apps for DLNA media streaming, Plex server access, or controls for your IP-connected security camera. It runs smoothly in your web browser, and there are also a bunch of different apps for smartphone and tablet that make it easy to push through small changes to settings when you’re away from your PC. Here’s a live demo of how it works. It’s overkill for home use, but businesses would be very happy with its versatility.
The DS716+ is basically a miniature PC inside, with the power of 4K. This particular Synology NAS — part of the business-friendly, more powerful + series, runs a newest-generation Intel Celeron quad-core CPU, with a 1.6GHz base clock and 2.08GHz burst mode as well as 2GB of RAM. The DS716+ can support up to 218MBps read and 141MBps write transfer rates, more than enough considering that’s roughly what you’d want at maximum from two traditional 3.5-inch 7200rpm hard drives in RAID 0. The DS716+, too, has the power to transcode your saved 4K video files on the fly to 1080p, when you’re streaming them over DLNA.
It’s made for long-term media storage, and it’s easy to connect external devices. Three USB 3.0 ports make short work of transferring those multi-gigabyte file backups and home movies from your portable external storage. One is at the front, and it’ll get by far the most usage — which makes sense, because there’s a user-customisable Copy button on the fascia that will automatically ingest whatever files are on your USB drive to a predetermined NAS folder. On the back, the two other USB 3.0 ports and an extra eSATA port are a good network alternative for long-term irregular system backups.
It’s expensive, but you get what you pay for. Without drives, you’ll pay around $650 for a Synology DS716+ in Australia. Add two high-capacity 4TB or 6TB drives — whether you run them in safe RAID 1 or fast RAID 0 is entirely up to you — and you’re looking at closer to a thousand dollars. If you don’t have a home desktop PC that you could install and use those drives in, though, it’s a pretty affordable and entirely reasonable alternative to a custom-built storage setup, especially considering its ridiculously diverse feature-set.