NAS buying advice

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by grani13, Jun 2, 2016.

  1. grani13 macrumors member

    Mar 31, 2012

    I need some help chosing a NAS to upgrade from my external hard drive, and I am a bit lost with the offerings...
    After some research I am pretty much set on Synology as the manufacturer, but in terms of specs I am not quite sure what I need/don't need.

    My current setup:

    iMac in the living room, music and videos stored on external HDD
    Airplay AV receiver to stream music from iMac
    Apple TV to stream movies from iMac
    All my films are stored in an iTunes/ATV friendly format (handbrake ATV3 settings)

    Intended use:

    - Store digital photos (25MB Raw each) on the NAS, access through Lightroom
    - Store music and films to be streamed as described above
    - General file storage - to be accessed from laptops, ipads etc...

    Question now:

    What is the "video transcoding" function? Do I need it considering the above mentioned set-up?

    Can I get by with the DS416j for my use? Or would you rather buy a higher end model (e.g. the DS416) - would this make a noticable performance difference or be more future proof?

    Thanks in advance for any help
  2. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    Apple TV doesn't really like NASes from what I've experienced and read. Home Sharing only works with a computer that has iTunes installed and NASes don't have that capability (unless you buy a high-end model with Intel CPU, at which point it is technically a server).

    In my experience, the best solution is to use AirPlay with Infuse on an iOS device. It can AirPlay pretty much any format to Apple TV, including MKVs that aren't natively supported by the Apple TV. Works with every NAS as well, so you could get a cheap one without a ton of extra features (I have WD MyCloud Mirror). If you have a router with a USB port and HDD-sharing capability, you could just plug in your external drive and turn it into a NAS as well for practically zero cost.
  3. grani13 thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 31, 2012
    Thanks Hellhammer. You are bringing up an interesting point. Is a NAS not treated like an ordinary external HDD that appears in the finder as such?

    I was intending to leave everything as is, the only difference being that I use a NAS instead of a DAS.

    Movie/Audio files stored on the NAS; ATV communicates with itunes on the computer, and itunes gets the file from the NAS.
    Are you saying that is not possible/easy?

    BTW, I should have mentioned that I am looking for a 4bay system for future expandability and data redundancy.
    I don't really need a NAS, if somebody points me towards a decent 4bay RAID DAS, that will do the job for me too.
  4. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    A NAS appears on Finder just like any drive. It's the Apple TV that doesn't play nice with it (i.e. won't even recognise it, unless you have the latest Apple TV with app support).

    That works, of course. However, what I suggested removes the iMac from the equation (i.e. you don't need to keep it on to stream files to the Apple TV) and you don't have to use Handbrake to encode videos to Apple TV friendly format. You can keep doing what you've been doing if you like, but what I suggested is less hassle, at least in my opinion.
  5. noodles5666 macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2010
    I just built an 8-bay NAS...first time and I was a bit scared. It shows up on the side of Finder
  6. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    Accessing and manipulating 25 Mb files through wifi might test your patience (it would mine).
  7. Gav2k macrumors G3


    Jul 24, 2009
    Dragging the file off the nas during manipulation solves that
  8. tshort macrumors regular

    Jul 20, 2007
    I ended up adding a DAS (Direct-Attached Storage) to my Mac Mini, which is basically my entertainment server (among other things). Bought a 4-bay Thunderbolt enclosure from MacSales. The Mac Mini is also used as a Time Machine/CrashPlan, home automation, and web server. So, it's doing quadruple-duty.
  9. Mark Holmes macrumors member

    Mark Holmes

    Sep 22, 2010
    San Diego CA
    I've been really happy so far - set up two weeks ago - with my Synology 8-bay DS1815+. Once setup, it does simply show up in Finder.
    It's fast, reliable, and setup with RAID 6 gives me great peace of mind.
  10. phrehdd, Jun 2, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2016

    phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    To the OP - there are so many variations on a theme.

    I'll just give what I prefer rather than some of the options out there (plus ideas for you to consider).

    ATV marries you to a Mac though there are work around for NAS.
    Not all NAS that do transcoding are created equal and thus investigation is in order.
    Take a look at InFuse and more so Plex. The latter is a fine ticket to achieving your goals.

    For my needs, I do have NAS, a respectable archive of my discs (movies) and music. I have players that can play my
    files without transcoding. My Blue Ray player (Oppo 103) and an NVidia Shield TV (akin to an ATV but far more powerful).
    Since I don't play anything on my phone nor a tablet at this time, I don't have to convert anything. If I want a file converted I'll simply convert it and keep it on my NAS devices.

    In short if you went my route, you would get whatever NAS you want add an additional streamer beyond ATV. Sad when an entire system has to go around a smaller less expensive component in the mix (such as an ATV). As for speed of a NAS, it is more about your router at this point and whether you are using Ethernet or WiFi. If the latter, consider 802.11ac as the ticket to reasonable playback of 1080p (FULL blue ray quality).

    Edit add: I wouldn't suggest you store your RAW photo files to be used in Lightroom on your NAS but store them on the NAS after* they have been worked on. You would find using the NAS as slowing down your work flow. Use a USB3 drive to store your files to work on and then consider NAS as a backup or final location once completed.
    Nvidia Shield TV (using Kodi), Oppo 103, 2 QNAP NAS, AVR, Plasma TV, surround speaker setup, multiple Apple products, Netgear r7000 router, 9 tb media library+, TiVo, more.
  11. kboller07, Jun 3, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2016

    kboller07 macrumors member

    Mar 24, 2007
    I have never used my synology 1815+ for editing photos but it does hold all of my video files. What I've done is sign into the server on my mac and then point my iTunes library to my synology and I've had no problem streaming to two apple tvs at the same time. I have found that wiring my synology through ethernet significantly upped my speeds in accessing my other files. If your files are in an ATV friendly format you wouldn't need the extra power as far as video files are concerned because no transcoding is required. I had a 213j model before my current synology and that had no trouble streaming handbraked files that were were in an ATV friendly format.
  12. grani13 thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 31, 2012
  13. AFEPPL macrumors 68030


    Sep 30, 2014
    I run a 415, ATV is more that fine with data stored on the NAS deivces. What you still need however is your iTunes pointing at the NAS. So all you do is pick whichever OS X or windows device you want to be the "server" - copy all the data to the NAS device, add that path to the library in iTunes and you are golden. Simply drop the content from your NAS into iTunes and it appears as playable for ATVs. We have 5 ATVs sharing this.

    I did find windows was "more" stable for the iTunes server than my mini was, but as long as the ATVs see the homeshare from itunes it runs the same regardless. I have around 9TB of films/music to give you context.
    Photos are around another 2TB

    In terms of model - i'd go with the 416 for two reasons, 1st its hot swappable, but i like the design better too.
    However in terms of the network comment, you can use link aggregation, however to get the performance benefit you need to ensure the switch supports this function. I like it for the failover abilities, but you could also dedicate 1 NIC for ATV and 1 NIC for other things if you wanted to ok you don't get higher throughput, but technically you get "more" and need to configure your devices over two lan segments. Again switching would be key.
  14. shaunp macrumors 68000

    Nov 5, 2010
    I've got a QNAP NAS, but I've had Sinology in the past and they are pretty good. They both support Plex, which you could use to stream video to the latest Apple TV, but not any of the older ones. If you have an older ATV, then put your videos on the NAS and point iTunes to this.

    As for storing your RAW images on there for Lightroom, I would do this for the archive, but for the current projects keep them on a local disk as otherwise the performance is terrible. And always keep your lightroom catalogue on the fastest disk you have, preferably SSD.

    As for particular models, I would go with the DS1515. You might not need all 5 bays, but I've had a couple of the 4 bay models and the power supplies have died on them after 12-18 months. Both were under warranty but Synology did not respond to support calls for the failure at all. Amazon gave me a refund. The DS1515 has a bigger power supply and is more robust in it's construction. My QNAP also has a proper power supply rather than a power brick of the lower-end Synology NAS's. Others may have a different experience, I'm just sharing mine.
  15. Ezlivin macrumors member


    Aug 11, 2010
    I agree. I have my Tivo, ATV, Syno 1515+ and everything except my Mac Pro Laptop on a wired fully-shielded CAT 7 network. It flies.
  16. HvLee macrumors member


    Aug 6, 2014
    The Netherlands
    The 416 can transcode video directly to the ATV, the j version can't, also it has double the RAM.

    You can't go wrong with Synology, their Video App and Music App work very well with Airplay, Chromecast, etc.. If you can spare the extra amount, go for the 416.
  17. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    I built an 8 bay NAS that runs the Synology OS with Plex media server and I play content on it on my AppleTV (4th Gen) without any issues. The apps I run on my AppleTV are VLC and Plex.

    I have 10 gigabit ethernet on my NAS and on my Mac Pro. Even though my array consists of extremely slow drives, I manage to get about 800MB/s reads and 300MB/s writes. On regular gigabit ethernet, I get approx 110MB/s reads and writes which is the theoretical limit of gigabit ethernet. I use Synology Hybrid Raid 2 which gives dual disk redundancy.

    Video transcoding is the process of converting a video to something that your device can play. For example, if you are using an older model of AppleTV, it my not have the power to play high bit rate 1080p videos. So, you would need the NAS to transcode the video to a lower bit rate or lower resolution such as 720p. (Again, this is just an example.)

    In my experience, the AppleTV (4th Gen) has been able to play everything I've thrown at it without the need to transcode. In my limited testing of iPad mini 3 and iPhone 6, they were also able to play without transcoding.

    Based on the link you provided, the DS416 seems to be the more capable NAS in terms of transcoding.

    I think the Synology OS is absolutely fantastic and highly recommend it.
  18. marioman38 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 8, 2006
    Elk Grove, CA
    When I was looking at QNAP and Synology NAS's I realized they were around $400. So instead I bought a 2009 Mac Pro with 10GB Ram on ebay for $375 and use it as my NAS currently has 13.25TB of space using 4 3.5" drives and a 2.5" SSD in the lower 5.25" spot.

    Anyway just an idea. I have it connected directly to my Plasma and run Kodi off of it too!
  19. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    Not bad at all. Just be aware (as you'll find out) it runs a lot of juice and that will be on your electric bill.
  20. grani13 thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 31, 2012
    I am still pondering my options concern being that it's my first time using a NAS and I am not quite sure how it will work out (and it's quite expensive, depending on the configuration)

    If I have understood the info on Synology's website correctly I could get by with a DS115 (and an 8TB disk for example) for now to see if the NAS thing works for me as expected.

    If I am not happy - I have an 8TB cloud drive...if I am happy I can upgrade to a 2 or 4 bay later on and just stick the disk from the old system into the new NAS enclosure...(with some caveats but basically that seems to be it).

    Is that line of thinking correct or have I overlooked something?
  21. virgil_sf macrumors newbie


    Sep 5, 2016
    San Francisco
    I am surprised someone hasn't mentioned FreeNas. It takes a bit more work, but you can build an awesome, expandable NAS pretty cheap. I have had one for five years, and it works great.
  22. HvLee macrumors member


    Aug 6, 2014
    The Netherlands
    You are correct. Don't overthink this, Synology is very user friendly, can't go wrong. You will love it.
  23. arggg14 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 30, 2014
    Ditto to all of this, although I'd recommend the 416 Play over the 416 as the play model has a faster processor for the transcoding.
    --- Post Merged, Sep 11, 2016 ---
    Agree with this. It's been awesome with my Apple TV at home and Plex when I'm on the road. I access it everyday from home and at work and everything works great. DSM is really user friendly.

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22 June 2, 2016