NAS units targeting home consumers have traditionally been underpowered in terms of hardware as well as firmware features. Low power, reduced cost and media-centric features are primary requirements in this area. Intel has traditionally been loath to participate in this market segment, probably due to the obvious lack of high margins. However, the explosive growth potential in the consumer / SOHO NAS market has made Intel rethink its strategy.

The Atom CE5300 series was initially introduced as the Berryville set-top-box platform in March 2012. Almost a year later, the CE5300 series was re-launched in its Evansport avatar as a storage solution targeting home consumers (in particular, as a media server platform). Asustor, Synology and Thecus were touted as partners building NAS units based on this platform. We have already looked at the 2-bay Evansport model from Thecus, the N2560 and the Asustor AS-304T. Today, we will look into what Synology's Evansport offering, the DS214play, brings to the table. The DS214play is currently the only Evansport NAS from Synology available to the general public. The specifications of the DS214play are summarized in the table below.

Synology DS214play Specifications
Processor Intel Evansport CE5335 (2C/4T Atom (Bonnell) CPU @ 1.6 GHz)
Drive Bays 2x 3.5"/2.5" SATA 6 Gbps HDD / SSD (Hot-swappable)
Network Links 1x 1 GbE
External I/O Peripherals 2x USB 3.0 / 1x USB 2.0 / 1x eSATA
Expansion Slots None
VGA / Display Out None
Full Specifications Link Synology DS214play Full Specifications
Price $370

NAS vendors designing products based on Evansport have hugely been influenced by the platform's STB background. Both the Thecus N2560 and Asustor AS-304T sport HDMI video output, implying a usage model with the device connected to a television or entertainment display. It is a matter of personal preference as to whether one wants a NAS connected to the TV in the living room, but Synology felt otherwise. Instead of equipping the DS214play with a HDMI port, they decided to retain the core functionality of the NAS and put the media-centric features of the SoC to use elsewhere.

The DS214play is targeted heavily towards media enthusiasts. Synology's landing page heavily trumpets the presence of a hardware transcoder engine. Transcoding (in the process of acting as a media server / DLNA DMS (Digital Media Server)) is one of the often requested features from a NAS targeting home consumers. The DS214play's uniqueness within the Synology lineup is brought out in this FAQ.

In the rest of the review, we will cover the hardware aspects of the DS214play and provide some setup and usage impressions. This will be followed by benchmarks in single and multi-client modes. For single client scenarios, we have both Windows and Linux benchmarks with CIFS and NFS shares. We will also have some performance numbers with encryption enabled. There will be a few sections dedicated to the DSM features relevant to multimedia enthusiasts. In the final section, power consumption numbers as well as RAID rebuild times will be covered along with some closing notes. Prior to all that, we have a summary of our testbed setup and testing methodology.

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

The Synology DS214play is a 2-bay unit. Users can opt for automatic SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID) protection or manually set the RAID level to 0 or 1. We benchmarked the unit with SHR (which is effectively RAID-1). We used two Western Digital WD4000FYYZ RE drives as the test disks. Our testbed configuration is outlined below.

AnandTech NAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Dual LGA2011 SSI-EEB
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630L
Coolers 2 x Dynatron R17
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL (8x8GB) CAS 10-10-10-30
OS Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Secondary Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Tertiary Drive OCZ Z-Drive R4 CM88 (1.6TB PCIe SSD)
Other Drives 12 x OCZ Technology Vertex 4 64GB (Offline in the Host OS)
Network Cards 6 x Intel ESA I-340 Quad-GbE Port Network Adapter
Chassis SilverStoneTek Raven RV03
PSU SilverStoneTek Strider Plus Gold Evoluion 850W
OS Windows Server 2008 R2
Network Switch Netgear ProSafe GSM7352S-200

Thank You!

We thank the following companies for helping us out with our NAS testbed:

Hardware Aspects & Usage Impressions
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  • ganeshts - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    As I mentioned in the review's Video Transcode section and also in the concluding remarks, Plex has never cared about hardware acceleration. So, yes, you are right - no HW transcode with Plex on any Evansport platform ; Only bet for hw transcode amongst NAS vendors is Synology's DSM -- just wish it was more stable :)
  • Aikouka - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    Ah, apologies because I hadn't gotten to those sections yet when I made my comment. I don't know if it's necessarily an issue of PLEX not caring, but I assume that migrating to a new version of FFMPEG isn't a simple task (I read a post from an employee saying that they use a custom version). So, if I had to guess (note: I have no affiliation with PLEX; I just read the forums sometimes), I assume that they want to wait until there's a more pressing reason to upgrade the codec.

    Although, I hope they upgrade it soon, because I've found some annoying crash-to-desktop issues with stylized subtitles in the Windows version of PLEX Home Theater. In one instance, not even Media Player Classic: Home Cinema could handle it, but in the other, it played fine.
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    "Network throughput can't be it (I get 900Mbps over my home network moving files between PCs)."

    Right..I ditched my WHS and never looked back. Nothing it offered can't really be done with these. Unless you got some weird custom software you like to run.
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    "Network throughput can't be it (I get 900Mbps over my home network moving files between PCs)."

    That means nothing when you are limited to hardrive speed fyi. You can have a Fiber link between PCs and still limited to slow HD on server.
  • wicketr - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    You spent time building your rig, right? How much do you value your time? $50/hr? $100/hr? I'm guessing between assembling your rig and configuring it the way you want, you probably spent 5+ hrs. If your time is worth anything of significance, then the cost of your set up far exceeds the cost of a NAS.

    Additionally, all the features of the mobile app ecosystem are non-existent for a home setup.

    A NAS is simply for people that want a easy data storage device that requires little/no time to setup, and offers a multitude of features for access to that data. It's NOT meant as a full blown server. It's a NAS. Even medium/large companies use them for those benefits of simplicity.
  • bsd228 - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    bzontins - people are paying for a smaller, lower power, turn key solution. You can get close to the size with the HP Microserver, though until the Gen 8 the cpu performance was not much better than the athlons but with much higher power draws. Until sandy bridge, general purpose cpus were too power hungry. The use of HW acceleration for transcoding is a pretty nice feature of this model, and if that continues, could turn the tide.

    turn key is worth a lot to many people, either because they don't know how to do it themselves, or because they don't want to. As the number of apps increased for these boxes, the need for running solaris or linux is somewhat diminished.
  • easp - Thursday, May 22, 2014 - link

    I hear ya. I like the theory of trading money to save myself time, except for stuff like this, I always end up doing it myself. I've even purchased cheap two drive NASs (ZyXel NSA 320) and then gone to the trouble of running debian on them.

    I just bought a mini-ITX Kabini board to build a new, faster NAS. I wish their were better options on compact 2 & 4 drive cases and low power PSUs. I prefer having two devices in different parts of the house, with one backing up the other, and I don't want to stuff a big video card in it, so the bigger cases are overkill.
  • richricard - Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - link

    I'm a bit late to the party here but I'll stick my nose in anyway. I've spent many years building countless machines of all shapes and sizes, I'm a programmer by trade, and I'd even go so far as to say I enjoy working with complex networks. But you couldn't pay me the world to change my Synology for any other NAS. Certainly the open source stuff I've looked at pales in comparison to the DSM.

    If the hardware specs are all you're weighing up then you're missing the point. Fully 50% of what your spending your money on when you buy a Synology is the OS and the apps that come with it. It's just incredible. You really just have to sit down and use one to see how simple, fully featured, and stable they are.

    I guess the bottom line for me though (and this may sound a little simplistic), is that they just work. The last thing I want to do when I get home at night is start messing around with a server, and I've never had a single issue in the 6~7 years I've been using Synology's products.

    I've also convinced quite a lot of friends and colleagues of their virtues and not one has been the least bit disappointed about buying one.

    I'm currently on my 2nd Synology and am considering moving to the 214Play, solely because I want x86 to run some bits on, but my 212+ is a shiner as well!
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    These are made not for idiot proofing, they are made to just work. I've had mine sitting in a spare room for 2 years and has never needed to even go look at it. (4 unit 12TB) data for media.

    It streams to My TV from XBMC/Couchpotato/SABnsbd anything I throw at it, stores movies/music/etc without a hickup.

    Many businesses also have these for ease of use.

    The only difference a custom one offers is just to say you made it, it can't do anymore really than these units can. Or if it can, its just something that caters to YOU and not really other people. You don't need tons of ram for these system to get jobs done (I had a WHS original with only 512megs did all what this can do), and CPU can handle it just fine.
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    Can't figure out how to edit, but you can also run TONS of apps with these, even ones not listed you can install on the linux side of these. you can run plex server/website/mumble server/etc.

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