- Nice simple design
- Affordable NAS option
- Good media packages
- Issues with 4K transcoding
- No USB 3.0
- Lack of PLEX support
I’m quite new to the idea of network attached storage; so I reached out to Synology, and after some persuasion I got my hands on their new DS216se.
The Synology DS216se is a budget friendly 2-bay NAS that allows you to set up your own personal cloud for your files and backups as well as serving as traditional NAS for file storage and media streaming. However, it isn’t just a budget-friendly NAS when you purchase it, it keeps being a cost-effective NAS thanks to the low power consumption of just 14 watts while accessing and 5 watts when the hard drives go into standby mode.
You can further lower the running costs with the new scheduled power on and off feature. After all, there is no need to have the NAS running when you don’t need it.
Synology built the DS216se with a 32-bit Marvell Armada 370 ARM v7-based SoC that comes with built-in floating point engine, 256K L2 cache, and running at 800MHz. Along with the CPU, the DS216se boasts 256MB DDR3 memory.
The built-in floating-point unit enhances the overall performance of the CPU, but it is particularly advantageous in speeding up thumbnail creation when uploading large amounts of photos or videos. The DS216se can deliver an average speed of 102 MB/s while reading and over 59 MB/s while writing in a RAID 1 configuration from a Windows environment.
The NAS also features two USB 2.0 ports for printers or storage and one Gigabit Ethernet port for connectivity.
As with all DiskStation And RackStation devices offered by Synology, the DS216se also runs their award winning operating system DiskStation Manager (DSM). DSM is simple to use and makes setting up a multi-function server fairly easy. DSM comes with a variety of free multimedia applications for users to store they media. They can stream their media to several other devices including mobile devices, gaming consoles, and streaming boxes. The NAS can be used as a backup as it supports both Apple Time Machine and Windows Backup and Restore. DSM offers Cloud Station for syncing files and it also supports syncing the device to other cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and others.
Backup and syncing are just one thing, but the main feature of a NAS is still to store files and serve these in various scenarios. Next to the normal file sharing for app common operating systems, the DS216se also supports streaming to Samsung TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku. The Photo Station, Video Station, and Audio Station apps allow you to build easy to navigate libraries and watch the content on pretty much any system, essentially turning your NAS into an entertainment hub.
Design and build
Overall, the outside of the DS216se looks identical to its predecessor, the DS214se, expect for the different model number. It is encased in white plastic and is small enough to place on a desk without adding to the clutter. The front of the device has the model number in the lower left hand side with a power button and four LED indicator lights on the right hand side.
The sides of the device have Synology branding that doubles as ventilation.
The fan takes up most of the rear of the device. Beneath the fan are the recessed reset button, two USB 2.0 ports, and a LAN port. Beneath these ports is the power supply and over to the right is a Kensington lock. The DS216se doesn’t have drive trays. Instead users need to slide the left hand side of the device forward to get to the drives. Once it is open there are 4 screws in each drive holding it in place.
Interestingly, the unit isn’t set up to deal with 4K video out of the box. A message popped up on my iPhone 6 about a requirement to switch the memory layout in Control Panel, and sure enough, by default the unit is limited to 1080p transcoding – dealing with 4K video files needs a dedicated block of memory to be assigned to the task.
During the transcode of a 3,840 x 2,160 30fps H.265/HEVC, the CPU usage peaked at 84 percent and the memory usage hovered around 50 percent, up from around 35 percent – the resulting playback was smooth but that’s quite a toll to take on the system for the duration of a 4K film viewing if you’re asking it to perform other demanding tasks concurrently.
However, there are possibly not that many situations where you’d need to transcode a 4K movie anyway – transcoding isn’t supported over DLNA and the likes of Chromecast will likely support streaming the original video.
It’s on mobile devices that you may need to tap into the power of the transcoding engine using Video Station, but if you’re grabbing content solely for mobile use, you’d likely want to use 1080p anyway. The exception would be if you just want a single version of a video file for playback on your 4K TV as well as mobile devices – in this case it would make sense to transcode that file, rather than have a 1080p version stored on the NAS too, although that’s basically what the DS216se will offer in DSM 6.0 with a new version of Video Station set to include offline transcoding.
The File Station app is a fast and secure feature for sharing and managing your files stored on DS216se. Just drag-n-drop data from a Mac or a PC to upload your files. Advanced filters make it easy to search for documents, photos, and videos and it also comes with a built-in FTP and email client. The DS216se also lets you organize and share files through an advanced web application where you can even share files and folders with others by simply sending a link. Files can be reached on mobile devices via the companion mobile app DS file while HTTPS and SSL/TLS encryption, as well as link expiry dates ensure file sharing over the Internet is as secure as it can be.
Synology has a long list of other mobile apps available for both your Android and iOS devices, such as the DS note, DS audio, DS video, DS photo+, DS cloud, DS file, DS download and DS cam apps. They allow you to access and manage the contents of your DS216se with smartphones and tablets.
The Synology DS216se is built-in a classic 2-piece design with a large fan at the rear that needs to be taken apart to install or switch hard disk drives. By default, the DS216se only supports 3.5-inch drives, but optional 2.5-inch adapters can be purchased should you want to use smaller HDD or SSDs.
The box and packaging follow the simple and eco-friendly design and it comes without any fancy and unnecessary colourful print. Both the front and the back showcase a big Synology NAS logo, so there is no doubt what’s inside.
The side has a sticker showing you what is inside with a picture of the device itself, what hardware it has, and what content the box has inside.
Unpacking the box we find a Quick Installation guide to get you going, an RJ45 LAN cable for network connectivity as well as a power supply brick with connector cable for the region you purchased it in and screws for the drives and enclosure.
The Synology DS216se is a budget-friendly 2-bay NAS aimed at home users, be it small offices or media enthusiasts. The NAS is highly efficient, using a little less than 14W while the drive is being accessed. The NAS comes with a Marvell Armada 800MHz CPU, 256MB of DDR3 RAM, and up to 16TB of capacity. The NAS is powered by DSM and comes with all of the benefits users have come to expect from the OS including cross platform file sharing, mobile access through apps, the ability to store and stream media, and multiple backup options including sync with other cloud sync services.
The Synology DiskStation DS216se is an ideal first NAS for a home user or small office. It comes with lots of options in DSM, up to 16TB of capacity, and is very efficient.