Today I want to compare the hardware on offer inside the Synology DS1522+ NAS (released in Summer 2022) and compare it with the much older, but hugely popular Synology DS920+ NAS (released over two years ago in Summer 2020). However, unlike previous comparisons of these two NAS (such as the hardware and software comparison HERE that I published a few months ago) today I want to compare how the DS920+ and DS1522+ perform as a Plex Media Server, with a series of 720p, 1080p and 4K tests. I have already tested these two NAS devices individually, but never directly compared their performance side by side. Now that a number of prominent Synology NAS releases have arrived with AMD Ryzeen embedded processors (such as the AMD Ryzen R1600 and V1500), many are wondering if they should choose to buy the older and more affordable Synology NAS drives that still feature Intel embedded/integrated graphics, such as the DS920+ with it’s J4125 Celeron CPU. So, let’s get this test up and running. First, we need to take a quick look at the individual hardware of these two NAS devices.
Note – a draft version of this article was published in error; apologies if you saw/received the incredibly bare-bones version!
Note 2 – Video Version of this Plex comparison can be viewed HERE on YouTube
|Synology DS920+ NAS||Synology DS1522+ NAS|
Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – Internal Hardware
The 4 and 5-Bay Diskstation releases from Synology have always been one of the most interesting tiers of the brand’s desktop solutions. The reason for this is that all too often this scale of system serves as a bridging point between Prosumer & SOHO systems and the small/medium business hardware in their portfolio. This is demonstrated first in the scale of the available RAID 5/6 storage, but then more so in the scalability and upgradability of these two volumes system, allowing one to two expansions, greater network connectivity (arriving with 2x or 4x LAN ports) and better internal hardware than the more domestic targetted solutions – often with the internal hardware differing considerably between each periodic 2-3yr refresh by the brand. Let’s first look at the internal hardware of these two NAS’ to see how much they differ. The DS920+ NAS first arrived on the scene with some great hardware advantages over the rest of the plus series 2020 systems (DS720+, DS420+, etc), arriving with a 4 Core Intel Celeron Processor that featured integrated graphics, 4GB of DDR4 2666Mhz memory and NVMe SSD upgrade slots. In the two years since its release though, Synology clearly decided to make some big changes in the base level architecture of the plus series and specifically in the DS1522+ to make it considerably more scalable and general business/file-ops focused. The newer DS1522+ features a dual-core AMD Ryzen embedded R1600 that, although arriving with half the cores of the Celeron in the DS920+, has a higher CPU frequency and total achievable frequency in turbo/burst when needed. That said, users will be surprised to learn that this CPU also does not feature embedded graphics, so therefore the DS1522+ will be less CPU efficient at handling multimedia or VM deployment than the DS920+.
Though both systems feature DDR4 memory, the DS920’s maximum 8GB of memory is beaten by the DS1522+ thanks to its use of much more impressive ECC (error code correction) memory to identify and repair any bit level write errors and can also be scaled to a considerably higher 32GB of memory (arriving with 8GB by default).
|CPU Model||Intel Celeron J4125||AMD Ryzen R1600|
|CPU Quantity||1||Embedded Ryzen|
|CPU Frequency||4-core 2.0 – 2.7 GHz||2-core 2.6 – 3.1 GHz|
|Hardware Encryption Engine (AES-NI)||Yes||Yes|
|CPU Cache||4 MB cache||1 MB L2 cache, 4 MB L3 cache|
|System Memory||4GB DDR4 non-ECC SODIMM||8GB DDR4 ECC SODIMM|
|Memory Module Pre-installed||(4GB On-board)||8 GB (8GB x 1)|
|Total Memory Slots||1||2|
|Maximum Memory Capacity||8GB||32 GB (16 GB x 2)|
|System Fan||92 mm x 92 mm x 2 pcs||92 mm x 92 mm x 2 pcs|
|Power Supply Unit / Adapter||100W External||120W External|
You can find out more about the hardware-specific difference between the Synology DS920+ and DS1522+ NAS in the video below OR via the article HERE. This video/article coves everything from the storage capabilities, ports & connections and extent to which they run/perform in DSM 7.1. Although this article is specifically tailored to look at Plex Media Server performance, I would strongly recommend checking out more information on either of these NAS before you make any decision.
Let’s carry on talking about these two NAS and Plex. What difference des the TYPE of media tha you play make on how these two NAS perform in Plex?
Important Terms to Understand in Plex/NAS/Multimedia that will make the DS1522+ or DS920+ NAS Plex Tests Easier to Understand.
- SD, 160p, 240p, 480p, 720p, 1080p, 4K : This is the resolution that the media is being displayed at. The higher the resolution, the larger number of pixels that are available and depending on the original recording quality of the media in question. High resolutions, such as 1080p and 4K require more work to be done by the NAS hardware in order to playback the file. More often than not, a NAS with weak embedded graphics or no embedded graphics at all will be unable to play 4K very well or indeed at all. It is important to remember that just because a NAS brand like Synology says that their latest NAS can natively play back 1080p or 4K media (natively = played using their own NAS software, software client tools and/or DLNA), that does not mean that the DS920+ or DS1522+ will play to the same standard in Plex, as Plex is a 3rd party tool
- Transcoding, Encoding, Decoding : These are all different techniques/names for when a file needs to be changed in order to be better suited to the connected client device connection, strength or hardware. If you are accessing all your media on the local area network (i.e only accessing your plex media at home), then transcoding will rarely be something you will use (unless your media is largely H.265/HEVC based, see earlier). However, perhaps you are accessing your plex library on the train to work or from a sun bed whilst on holiday. Perhaps you have a smaller data bandwidth/allowed MB/GB, maybe a weaker internet connection, perhaps you are using a smaller phone device and you might not need to watch your 4K 50GB Blu-ray rip of the latest Marvel Movie – in these situations, you might well want to access the media on your Synology DS1522+ or DS920+ Plex NAS at a lesser quality than the original version, so transcoding/re-encoding on the fly (as in, at the same time it is being played) is what you would want to do. Remember, transcoding is by far the most heavy-weight thing you will need to do on a NAS. It is also worth remembering that in order for Plex o be able to use the FULL resources of a NAS CPU (such as embedded graphics) that you will need to enable ‘Make My CPU Hurt’ in the Encoder Menu of the Plex NAS Settings menu – this also potentially requires a Plex Pass subscription, depending on the NAS in question
- H.264, HEVC, H.265 : These are compression techniques that are designed to allow large-scale media presentations that were made for a cinema to be viewable from your sofa (with H.265 being the more effective/powerful compression level). H.264 can largely be played by ALL devices, but many devices do not have permission or a license to play H.265/HEVC (they are the same thing). This is because, where H.264 is an easy license and comparatively free to use, H.265/HEVC licencing and patents are spread across multiple providers and allowing a device license to use this compression technique can be complex, expensive or simply impossible. Therefore HEVC/H.265 media will sometimes AUTOMATICALLY need to be converted/transcoded into H.264 etc in order to be played – therefore eating up more system resources. The DS1522+, much like the rest of the Synology NAS range do not arrive with HEVC support by default
- Bitrate : Bitrate is the amount of data encoded for a unit of time, and for streaming is usually referenced in megabits per second (Mbps) for video, and in kilobits per second (kbps) for audio. Higher quality and higher resolution media tends to be of a much higher bitrate
For more information on the most important terms to understand when discussing/researching a NAS as a Plex Media Server can be found in my video below:
Any further questions, you can use the free advice section at the bottom of the page and ask me and Eddie directly.
The first test was with a very low-end 720p media file:
Virtually no difference in performance and you can likely play a considerable number of these files before the system shows even a hint of difficulty.
Another 720p file for test two, similar bitrate to test 1:
Test three was our first transcoding/encoding test. Here I wanted to see how well the systems would cope with having a fle format/playback altered on the fly. If you are watching media on smaller devices, over limited internet connections or using a legacy client device that does not support the file format, compression, codec or scale (size), then transocding is going to be very important. This was 720p down to 480p
Both played the file and transcoded it very easily. Despite the lack of embedded graphics on the R1600 CPU inside the Synology DS1522+ versus the Intel J4125 Celeron inside the DS920+, things were great on both in this test.
Time for ANOTHER transcoding test, but this one was s much bigger and more extreme transcode/encode. I wanted to change a 720p file to a 240p file format. This is a pretty aggressive change and one that was mainly picked to simulate heavy Plex NAS use generally (not specific to this format of file/change).
This was the first (and not last) time that the clear advantage of an embedded graphics Intel Celeron CPU inside the DS920+ would prove much more effective in Plex versus the AMD embedded Ryzen R1600 CPU inside the DS1522+ NAS. Both NAS devices did the job, but the R1600 / DS1522+ had to work much, much hardware with software transcoding and raw power.
A slightly more dense 1080p file this time, using the Jellyfish test files.
Once again, very clear and even performance by both NAS systems in the 1080p 2nd test without any transcoding on the R1600 and J4125 CPU-powered devices. A clear draw.
Time for more transcoding! Transcoding/re-encoding the 1080p file in Plex to an incredibly lowly 160p. Again, I am aware that few users will actually watch 160p, but many will want this support for audio media equivalent workload and/or for large numbers of streams. Ultimately, we want to know the impact on the DS1522+ and DS920+ NAS in plex with these.
Once again, the onboard/embedded graphics that the Synology DS920+ (Intel Celeron J4125) has over the non-integrated graphics DS1522+ (AMD R1600) clearly resulted in the older 4-Bay NAS getting this job done with very little fuss. Whereas the Neewer 5-Bay NAS was unable to complete the task.
Very similar results on both NAS playing the file natively, which was very positive. The DS1522+ used the tiniest bit more, but in the grand scheme of things, both of these NAS performed exceptionally well in Plex and this heavy-duty 1080P FILE.
Now we move towards a very different ball game. Although the next test was a 10Mbps bitrate 1080p file (remember, the previous test was 10x this density), this time we selected the H.265 / HEVC 10bit file. As mentioned earlier, HEVC (highly efficient video codec) requires licensing by the client hardware manufacturer and software provider (with many/most not including it, relying on the hardware to convert the file to H.264 by default). HEVC is much more space efficient than H.264 and alot more media in 2022+ is arriving in this format. However, converting it (aka Transcoding by another name technically) is a demanding task. Here is how the DS920+ and DS1522+ performed:
Once again, the Synology DS920+ and it’s Intel Celeron J4125 CPU got the job done with little-to-no fuss, whereas the AMD embedded Ryzen R1600 CPU inside the DS1522+ immediately hit 100% CPU Utilization and failed (taking longer to convert the file per second than an actual second!).
Next one, time for some 4K PLAYBACK! Now, it is worth highlighting that we ARE looking at quite high-end 4K media here, at 120Mbps – so the odds of you having much media in this format/scale is quite small. Still, 4K TVs and the affordability of 4K media is growing, so we need to test 4K, as well as scale it up for years to come. I wouldn’t normally recommend either of these NAS for 4K Plex use (recommending at least an Intel Pentium, i3 or higher generally), but here is how they performed:
Yep, both NAS devices failed. But again, remember that this is a 120Mbps file. Had we tested 4K at the bitrate of many of the 1080p files, it would have been better. We have some 4K dedicated Plex content coming soon on these NAS devices, so stay tuned!
Next we tested the same dense 120Mbps 4K files as before, but in the HEVC version. Again, due to the support of this compression level on each of these Synology NAS being limited, converting the file was needed by default. Here is how the DS920+ and DS1522+ NAS performed.
Yep, thanks to the introduction of converting the 4K file being needed, the embedded graphics of the DS920+ CPU saved the day hugely and the result was that although it played (after a small delay) on the Intel-powered DS920+, the DS1522+ and ADM Ryzen hit a wall very quickly.
Our final test was a 4K file in HEVC, much like the previous test. However this was a HENCH 200Mbps – a herculean task compared with all other tests in this article. Here is the DS920+ and DS1522+ tackled the task.
Yep, once again, that Intel J4125 Celeron CPU and it’s integrated graphics was able to get the converting/encoding done on the fly and win here. The AMD embedded Ryzen R1600 COULD have off-line transcoded for sure, but when it came on on-the-fly conversions, it just lacked the right tools on board. Want to watch more tests on either of these NAS drives IN PLEX? You can visit the links below to view the individual Plex Media Server tests for each of the DS920+ and DS1522+ NAS. These videos and articles include several more tests and go into more detail on the difference between H.264 and H.265/HEVC media, as well as further 1080p and 4K testing:
|Written Plex Test Articles||YouTube Plex NAS Test Videos|
Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ NAS – Conclusion and Verdict
Comparing the DS920+ from 2020 and DS1522+ from 2022 did seem a little unfair at first, as ALOT can happen in two years (technology moves FAST!). However, in terms of supporting multimedia, if you are looking at these two NAS drives SPECIFICALLY for Plex Media Server and Multimedia use, the older generation device with its Intel embedded graphics CPU just wins the day over the Embedded Ryzen R1600 from AMD. But either of these NAS devices presents a decent-sized financial investment and I think most users need to think about using them for MORE than just multimedia. Synology has clearly done a lot of thinking in the two years between the release of the DS920+ and DS1522+, deciding to change the latter into something more ‘business-y’. When the DS920+ first arrived, it did so to almost universal praise (barring a few concerns at the time about 1GbE) and it has pretty much always been in the top 3 NAS since its launch for most users. Although the details regarding a DS922+ or DS923+ are still not available at the time of writing, many wonder if it would emulate the change in direction that the brand has taken on the DS1522+ and whether the DS920+ is now even more attractive. Synology has clearly taken a rather different tactic in the release of their newest 5-Bay system, making changes to the expected hardware configuration and architecture that set it on a very different path than its predecessor. Those with longer memories will know that the Diskstation 5 Drive portfolio used to be very much this kind of design (i.e a file transfer focused CPU, more memory scaling, optional 10GbE, etc) and rather than building off the design of the 4-Bay (as the DS1520+ did against the DS920+), the DS1522+ seems to scale itself against the DS1621+ in it’s shape and abilities. If you were already looking at Synology NAS systems that being a heavy emphasis on scaling their architecture notably down the line in efforts to remain future proof, the DS1522+ is going to tick ALOT of boxes for you. Whereas if you were looking at a Synology NAS for home use, a Plex Media server, low client/user use and generally as more of a setup-and-forget solution, then the DS920+ will likely suit your needs better and will have the added benefit of a more palatable price point in 2022. How far Synology will extend the build logic of the DS1522+ towards other solutions in the diskstation/rackstation portfolio still remains to be seen. Most business users will want to opt for the DS1522+ though. Cheers for reading!
NAS MODEL ID
Synology DS920+ NAS
Synology DS1522+ NAS
Where to Buy:
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