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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  • Chloiber - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    I don't own a NAS yet, but plan to buy a Synology 4b NAS (probably DS414). I'm a very tech savvy person and have built my own PCs since years - but I just want a NAS that works, that I have to setup once in a matter of minutes and never (or rarely) worry again. I don't want to waste any more free time on these things
  • awktane - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    I have a much larger version. Reasons I chose a NAS device rather than building my own:
    -8 disks in pretty much the same space as it would take to store 8 hdds side by side on their own
    -My time is worth more than the cost difference. I can turn features on with a click rather than installing and configuring packages.
    -In the event of a failure I don't want to have to set it all up again. I don't want to cause a failure accidentally or some update to screw things up. I can't afford downtime.
    -Fewer possible points of failure. The hardware is much simpler and streamlined.
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    I have had a NAS for 2-3 years. (QNAP).

    I would never bother with a 2 bay NAS, I want redundancy, as HDs do fail. I know that technically ZFS is a better solution than RAID 5 but for a home media store, RAID 5/6 is fine.

    Yes I could build a cheap Mini-ITX build to do the same job, but a good NAS takes 5 mins to set up (then about 10 hours to build a 6TB RAID 5 array!) and should simply work.

    Perfect for people like me who do not have the time to spend fiddling with it for optimum set up and have a family wanting access to the film library now!
  • Beany2013 - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    I think when my DS214+ needs replacing (or when I find £500 down the back of the couch, etc) one of the chunkier, VMware/citrix/HyperV certified units will be next - I can then justify building another VM server and using that as a small SAN type thingy.

    I can use the DS214 as an iSCSI host, but it's not really quick enough over a single GbE link, and I don't have trunking/aggregating capable switch to boost performance...

    In time...oh yes, in time....
  • bznotins - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    Thanks for the discussion, it's really helped me to understand the benefit of a unit like this (mostly time/simplicity). Which are perfectly good reasons to go that route.

    What I was concerned about was that I was missing some other benefit of a NAS other than time/ease. It doesn't appear to be the case.

    As someone who needs four drives + optical (ripping) + SSD (OS), I have always just leaned toward rolling my own. I love the ability to use TeamViewer to remote into my PC and manage things. Plex runs great. I keep AirSync native on it to sync my music collection to my Android devices over WiFi. In order to manage my media, it's great to be able to run Media Companion on it.

    I guess for all my needs, if I got one of these NAS boxes I would still need a full-time PC to manage my media and streaming needs. Thus, it makes sense to take the time and effort to build my own.

    Appreciate the discussion.
  • Major_Kusanagi - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    I got an incredible deal on a Dell T20 Server: $199 with a Haswell processor and 4GB of RAM to start. The expansion abilities are nice, to include up to 6 drives (13TB total space). Granted, I could have built my own, but getting an actual server with a modern processor for $199 can't be beat.
  • GTaudiophile - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    I must be the idiot then. About 3 years ago I build a small tower using a AMD Athlon X2 quad-core CPU, 16GB ECC RAM, and 4x 1TB drives running FreeNAS7 in a ZFS2 configuration. Performance through SAMBA was simply abysmal. Earlier this year I bought the DS214play and it just works the way I want it to. I run 2x 4TB drives in RAID1 using the old 4x 1TB drives as a backup to the NAS. I love that it's a small, silent box that sits on an IKEA Expedit shelf. it hides behind a photograph. Performance through SAMBA is much better than what I experienced before. Setup and Web access is indeed idiot proof. And most of all I feel I have great support (and apps) behind the product. I frankly got tired of doing the "nerd" solution. I just wanted something small, silent, supported, and highly functional. The DS214play does this for me.
  • Major_Kusanagi - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    I don't think you're an idiot GTaudiophile, sometimes I don't want to deal with the whole 'geek out' thing either, and I'm a Systems Administrator. :-p
  • bsd228 - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    Poor samba performance 3 years ago points to problems around the SMB1->2 migration, particularly when we're talking about freenas7. MS made it a moving target. Eventually solved. But you're cheating a bit by comparing it to 3 years later technology. If you have rebuilt with a more recent freenas release, or gone to solaris, you'd have also seen better samba performance.
  • chaos215bar2 - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - link

    I know this is somewhat tangential to the main review, but since you mention Photo Station, one important thing to note is that it does not properly support photos in non-sRGB color spaces (including AdobeRGB which is very common in mid-to-high end cameras). These photos all end up looking muddy and washed out in Photo Station, since the color space is discarded during processing.

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