When buying a house or renting an apartment, the most common thing to purchase would be an Internet Service Provider (ISP) subscription. These ISP subscriptions typically come in a bundle and provide a home phone, cable TV, and internet access.

Despite constant push-back from the consumer, ISPs still try to push a home phone service onto their customers, even knowing that everybody and their dog has a smartphone. Now that only cable TV and internet are offered in many bundles, customers are now pushing back against their cable subscriptions.

All over the internet, there are hundreds of articles describing how you can cut the cable TV cord while maintaining unlimited access to your favorite TV shows.

It would make sense why the consumer is pushing back against cable TV. Just recently, Netflix announced that it had surpassed the all-cable TV provider in total subscriptions with approximately 50 million accounts. To put that into perspective, Comcast has 22 million subscriptions while Charter has 17 million.

Amazon has, what is to be believed , 80 million Prime memberships, that have unlimited access to their Amazon Instant Video service. Of course, the subscriptions don’t stop there. I haven’t even begun with counting HBO, Showtime, and Hulu subscription rates.

I personally have subscriptions for Amazon, Netflix, and HBO which satisfy a lot of my TV needs. YouTube also comes in to save the day with exotic videos like vlogs, gaming videos, and other sorts of entertainment.

My computer has become such an attachment to my life, that I can’t recall the last time that I actually sat down to watch cable TV. However, there is one thing that cable TV still has that is superior to the subscription-based providers; instant, live, and up-to-date content.

CBS’s Survivor is a perfect example of why cable TV continues on. To watch Survivor on the day it is released on cable TV, you’ll need to watch it live or record it using a DVR. That’s a bummer if you don’t want to pay for the expensive cost of cable TV.

What is needed is a box that is a one-time charge and then functions as an on-demand DVR service. Something that can store our downloaded or recorded videos/TV shows and play them back on any device, anytime, anywhere.

From the first Network Attached Storage (NAS) I reviewed , to their latest internet router , the networking company, Synology, is rapidly growing in popularity as their five-star rated Amazon products make their way into people’s homes.

In today’s spotlight is Synology’s media center powerhouse, the DS416Play NAS. With a crafty design, powerful video playback capabilities, and having room to expand your network, the DS416Play has the opportunity to provide you with a whole home server just like a work or school server.

Welcome to my review on the Synology DiskStation DS416Play Network Attached Storage.

What is a Media Center?

Before we dive into the review, I want to go over what a ‘media center’ actually is, because it can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

In some cases it refers to an actual Windows-based computer that runs a version of Windows 10 or Linux, whether purpose-bought or built by the user. This computer uses third party software to act as a DVR and stores your saved video to some internal hard drives.

If you can configure it correctly, it works out quite well and it’s powerful too! So powerful in fact, that it can offer more functions like living room gaming or transcoding high bitrate video on the fly. However, there are some cons to this design. Even when built in a micro-ATX or mini-ITX computer case, the PC is difficult to store in a cabinet and requires suitable cooling. In addition, there is the downside of price. A reasonable Intel-based media center could cost upwards of $650.

Alternatively, the term ‘media center’ can also refer to what is shown today. A small network attached storage server that uses lightweight hardware but has lots and lots of hard drive disk space.

These models are ready to go straight out of the box and can be configured quickly, plus, they have a friendly user-interface. While they wouldn’t stand a chance in the performance benchmarks, home NAS servers tend to be a lot less expensive than their PC counterparts.

Some of you may ask "Howis this better than Amazon, Netflix, or Hulu when they store all of the data on their own servers and all you need to do is hit Play on your web browser"? Well, home media centers are a one-time cost and store your content forever. Netflix and others tend to rotate their shows and if you miss out on a series or movie, it may be a long, long time before it returns. Furthermore, media centers can function like a cable TV DVR and record live HDTV through an over-the-air antenna.


All blacked out in a matte and glossy finish, the DS416Play is a well-crafted unit with a simplistic design. It’s so pleasing that I leave my Synology units out in the open for everybody to see because it’s a neat piece of technology to what otherwise could have been a plain black box.

Without the hard drives inside the DS416Play, the NAS is lightweight at 4.5 pounds and compact with measurements of 6.5 x 8 x 9.1 inches.

On the front of the unit, there are five status LEDs that can have their brightness adjusted inside the DiskStation Manager operating system. From the top down, there is a status light, Disk 1 – 4 activity indicators, and then a blue power light. The front of the unit also houses a USB 3.0 jack.

The sides of the units have a Synology logo that doubles as a heat vent for the internal hard drives. What’s also clever is that the status LEDs wrap around to the side of the DS416Play, making them visible from two different angles.

As for the back, there are two high RPM server-like fans that are impressively quiet on standard operation. If quietness is a must, the fans can be set to a silent mode in DiskStation Manager. Below those fans are a Kensington lock, dual Ethernet jacks, a power input jack, and two additional USB 3.0 ports.

Something you won’t find on many other media centers is the presence of two Ethernet jacks. The DS416Play uses two Ethernet jacks to provide you with high bandwidth. While I stuck with using one of the jacks, the jacks can operate in a Link Aggregation or a Failover support.

Link Aggregation is another way of saying Load Balancing, meaning the DS416Play can split the internet bandwidth between two Ethernet ports, whereas Failover support would allow the server to use Ethernet2 if Ethernet1 were to go offline.

This model can hold up to four internal 3.5” hard drives or 2.5” solid state drives. To access the drive bays, the glossy front cover pops off without the need for screws, clips, or switches. It is cleverly held in place by some rubber holders.

With the cover popped off, the hard drives are screwed into a plastic hard drive tray mount. These mounts slide into the server on rails and are hot-swappable.

Hidden inside the DS416Play is the brain of this entire operation. It uses an Intel Celeron N3060 64bit dual core CPU that can clock up to 2.48 GHz. Additionally, there is 1GB of DDR3 RAM. More on the performance below.


This is my third review on Synology NASs and just like the first two, the DS416Play also runs Synology’s admirable DiskStation Manager operating system.

DiskStation Manager is an extremely user-friendly operating system that allows you to adjust everything you could possibly want to adjust. There are enterprise options that are available to consumers and everything is easily outlined in the Synology Wiki.

Since I have heavily discussed DiskStation Manager in my review on the DS216j I would recommend reading that section to get a better idea of the DS416Play's capabilities. Alternatively, you can use DiskStation Manager in a live sandbox demo on the Synology website here .

The reason for briefly talking about DiskStation Manager is not because it’s any lesser on the DS416Play, but because the purpose of the DS416Play is to be a home media center for you and your content.

One of the largest providers for media centers is Plex.TV. By installing a tiny application to your DS416Play or PC, Plex.TV turns your device into a worldwide accessible media center where you can watch content no matter where you are.

Plex.TV, or Plex for short, was the first attempt at setting up a media center for myself. On my DS416Play, I opened the Package Center to download the Plex app and then installed it. After a ten-second download and install process, I had successfully configured a media center. (Note: You will need a Plex account, which is free like the application.) How neat is that? Once I logged into the Plex web interface I could navigate my DS416Play and its file structure from any device, anywhere. The only thing I am lacking is some actual content.

Note: The Plex application only has read and write permissions of its own Home folder. Not any of your actual data. How you acquire your actual TV shows and content is up to you and the astute of you will know where to look and how to acquire TV content.

I am a huge fan of Sc-Fi TV shows, with Stargate Atlantis being my favorite of all time. With such love for these shows, I decided to try out Farscape, a TV show from 1999 about how a group of escaped aliens are on the run and meet up with a Human who fell through a wormhole.

Being a highly rated and fantastic show, I uploaded it to my DS416Play into the Plex directory under a TV Shows folder. I then logged into Plex.tv and scanned for media. After a few minutes of it collecting the data, I was ready to watch my shows.

Farscape came out in 1999 and the files I had of Farscape were not in the correct video format for Plex. Luckily, the DS416Play has active transcoding which can convert video to practically any type of media that is needed to play the video. An entire list of what the server can transcode to can be seen here .

Since 4K video wasn’t a thing in 1999 and the DS416Play can handle 4K video bandwidth + transcoding, I acquired a 4K Star Trek movie file and did the same thing, uploading it to the Movies folder in the Plex directory.

In an hour's time, I had configured Plex on the DS416Play, downloaded and uploaded my TV content, and was ready to sit back and relax. As soon as I logged into Plex on the Xbox, I could see all of my content right in front of me. More content on this to follow.

Another media center application to try out was Synology’s own Video Station. It looks and functions identically to Plex. So much so that if you were to hide the logos in the top right of both applications, it would be difficult to distinguish between the two.

Video Station is Synology’s pre-installed media center application that is something that I do recommend trying. Like Plex, it stores all of your content in a clean and user-friendly interface. It can even be sorted into different categories.

DS Video, the alternative name to Video Station, can even run on a URL, Android, iPhone, Samsung TVs, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku. Just like Plex.

So, what’s the benefit of using Synology’s Video Station over Plex? They look the same, function the same, and even do the same thing, but it’s the underlying features that may make you consider otherwise.

Synology’s Video Station has the ability to change the subtitle effects, hide videos that have been watched, rewind or fast forward with quick buttons, and function like a DVR.

Plex doesn’t record anything, it only plays back what you give it. With Video Station, I am able to connect a compatible cable TV adapter and have the DS416Play record live HDTV from my local TV airwaves.

Another difference was that I had significantly different results between Video Station and Plex on the local network. When playing locally, Video Station doesn’t need to buffer any content, whereas Plex takes a few moments to buffer and may stop for a brief second while watching a video.

Finally, your content can be made either public or private and permissions can be configured to allow certain people to add to your video collection.

Performance and Video Content

On paper, a Windows-based media center would smoke the DS416Play in performance, but do we really need an i3 or i5 Intel processor running some video playback? The answer is no. The Celeron processor in the DS416Play is a powerful little processor that does everything you need it to.

When browsing the DS416Play’s operating system, everything is buttery-smooth and applications outside of Plex and Video Station, like storing files and Music Station, all perform flawlessly.

File storage on the DS416Play is speedy and I was able to upload content to it via the LAN at the rate of 100MB/s. When I connected it to the Synology Camera Surveillance system, the hard drives happily wrote incoming camera feeds while also broadcasting video to the Xbox.

Video playback on multiple devices using both Plex and Video Station gave great satisfaction. The picture was sharp and crystal clear even while away from the house. Moreover, the system had no problems playing the 4K movie I had loaded to the device or the plethora of 1080p content I have watched over the last month.

I tested out the video playback in a local setting but had the opportunity to use it outside of the house a couple of times. In both environments, everything remained crystal clear with a strong wireless connection to the internet.

For storage, I am using 2 x 4TB Seagate IronWolf NAS hard drives that are striped in a Synology RAID. It is similar to a RAID 1 configuration. Additionally, the DS416Play can hold up to four hard drives at a maximum capacity of 40TB.

I’ve loaded up a lot of different content to my DS416Play and have only used 2% of my available space.

My Final Thoughts

Something I enjoy most about Synology is that they act and work in the same way Apple products do. Synology NAS equipment is visually appealing, has a renowned operating system, and takes out all of the headaches that come with networking equipment.

Out of the three Synology NAS units I have reviewed, I must say that the DS416Play is my favorite. It offers a full range of functionality and not only can it do what the DS216j can, but it does more, a lot more.

Priced at $422, the DS416Play is a big investment and this price does not include hard drives. However, even at close to a $500 (with hard drives) price tag, I still highly recommend it for the reasoning that it’s more than a media center; it stores your data.

Buy it now:

© 2017 Justin Vendette