After singing the praises of the TerraMaster F2-210 NAS for the level of value it offers over competing Synology devices, the DS218play dropped to its lowest price over on Amazon at just £183.99, and I couldn’t help but buy it so I can compare.
Synology DS218play vs TerraMaster F2-210 Specification
From a hardware point of view, these two devices are almost identical. Both are two-bay NAS drives, and they both use the 64-bit Realtek RTD1296 chipset which features a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU running at 1.4GHz and 1GB of RAM.
They both have two USB 3.0 ports, and they offer a similar level of power draw and noise.
I’d argue that the TerraMaster F2-210 has a marginally superior design with the quick release style hard drives, whereas the Synology requires you to slide off the casing. It barely makes a difference though.
Synology DS218play vs TerraMaster F2-210 Features
Fundamentally they offer similar features, they are both managed via the web using a desktop-style web interface. They also both have the same sort of NAS and backup functions such as SMB/NFS shares, FTP, TimeMachine, and cloud sync.
They both have installable packages, and if you don’t mind things like docker you could probably replicate everything the Synology does on TerraMaster.
However, on the Synology website, there are 150 different packages to install vs 40 of the TerraMaster.
Furthermore, Synology also has a range of mobile and desktop apps. In particular, is the Synology Drive Client which gives you a Google Drive like solution but with your own private cloud.
Synology also makes external access easier with its quick-connect function and Synology DDNS.
A had issues getting this to work at first, Synology refused to installed DSM on my two hard drives. I was worried that the old drives were not in good enough condition for Synology to accept the or the DS218play itself was broken. I eliminated the NAS itself as it worked with a third hard drive immediately. After adding the other two drives to my PC and running various tests, no problems were highlighted. I eventually deleted all the partitions that TerraMaster had created and retried the installation, this time it worked immediately. So it seems the DS218play didn't like the old TerraMaster set up.
Once I got DSM to install, I experienced no other major issues. This includes getting CloudSync to work which I had problems with on the TerraMaster
Surveillance Station is perhaps one of the standout features that Synology has over other options. It is not perfect, but at the same time, I am impressed. Each NAS comes with two camera licences for free, additional ones will set you back around £50, so it can be quite an expensive option.
Getting this to work with cameras is a bit hit or miss. I managed to get it to work with my H.View 5MP Colour Night Vision camera straight away with no problems.
I could not get this to work at all with the Annke cameras I use. It just did not like any of the settings I tried. This is not entirely Synology's fault, each camera brand has different settings, but BlueIris was able to resolve all the camera feeds with no issues.
Assuming you get the camera to work, performance is excellent and the user interfaces superb, it is far better than a cheap NVR.
I didn’t buy this for Plex server as I already have a dedicated server for that, but it is no doubt a popular feature.
If you play most of your files locally, this works well, which is 99% of my usage. While Synology claim this can do 4K transcoding, Plex explicitly states this can only go to 720p software transcoding with some 1080P transcoding. You will need the DS218+ or the DS418play if you want hardware accelerated transcoding.
This is another feature that is superior to the TerraMaster. This has extensive support for multiple methods of download, including torrents, Usenet, FTP, and file hosting. There are auto extra features which are essential if you use some applications to manage your media, and you even have the ability to add various bit torrent search engines.
Moving from TerraMaster to Synology, the immediate difference was the companion apps available for both PC/Mac and mobile.
One the Play Store there is just a single TNAS mobile app with some poor reviews.
There are 16 different apps made by Synology. Admittedly, a lot of these have so-so reviews too, but it gives you vastly more functionality compared to TerraMaster.
One of the mains one that’s I use on mobile has been the Moments app, which gives you Google photos like featureset. I have read a few reports recently of people losing access to their Google accounts then losing years worth of photography, so this is a perfect secondary backup solution.
The Synology Drive Client is also superb, I haven’t used it for months so I can't say what the long term performance will be like, but so far it has been excellent. You can, of course, replicate this functionality with other apps, I use Syncovery for some backups and this would offer the same features depending on your settings.
Backups and file transfer
Read and write performance is good, and you should have no issues capping out the gigabit speed of the ethernet connection. I also plugged in a USB 3.0 2.5-inch drive and this was consistently able to achieve over 90MB/s and often hitting the 110MB/s threshold for the gigabit speeds.
In general, it is going to be the hard drive and ethernet that hold back file transfer performance of this unit.
Price and Comparison
There are a lot of 2-bay NAS options out there, and I covered them in my NAS round-up.
My personal opinion is TerraMaster provide the best competition if you don’t need all the frills Synology has, they offer superior value with the F2-210 being £40 cheaper or the four-bay F4-210 being around the same price
The QNAP TS-328 looks like a tempting alternative too, costing a little bit more but offering a 3 bay solution allowing you to use RAID 5 and therefore only losing a third of the available storage. This is also powered by the Realtek RTD1296 featured in the Synology DS218play and TerraMaster F2-210 but you get 2GB of RAM, giving you a bit more wiggle room for performance.
The Synology DS218j is worth considering if you want the Synology features but need it as cheap as possible. You can forget about transcoding media via Plex though, but it should be fine for most basic functions.
There is obviously a reason why Synology dominates the NAS market. The DSM software outclasses its competitors by some margin.
I am tight-fisted, so I am always going to be a little mad about paying more for the same spec hardware, but in this case the additional £40 or so you pay for this over the TerraMaster F2-210 is justifiable.
I still like the TerraMaster F2-210 a lot, its priced correctly for the functionality it offers.
I was surprised how good Surveillance Station was, but at the same time it's not perfect, camera set up can be awkward depending on what brand you use, but if you pick up compatible cameras it could be worth buying this over a dedicated NVR.
For most home and SOHO users, especially people wanting something with a minimal set up as possible the Synology DS218play will be a best buy for an affordable 2-bay NAS. It offers all of the functions you need, and many you don’t, straight out of the box, the set up is straightforward and getting the packages installed and running is no harder than installing an app on your phone or PC. The Synology made apps complement the NAS giving you a true private cloud storage feature set that can compete with the likes of Google Drive/Docs.
Synology DS218play 2-bay NAS Review Rating
Product Name: Synology DS218play
Product Description: 2-bay NAS with optimal multimedia solution for home users 4K video transcoding on the fly with 10 bit H.265 codec support Up to 112 MB/s and 112 MB/s sequential reading and writing Powered by a 64-bit 1.4 GHz quad-core processor with 1 GB DDR4 RAM Supports up to 15 IP cameras
Offer price: 183.99
Set-up - 75%
Features - 95%
Performance - 90%
Price - 80%
An easy to use NAS with a vast array of features far better than cheaper alternatives.
Last update on 2020-10-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API