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Should You Buy the Synology DS920+ or Wait for a DS923+ NAS is Released?

9 octobre 2022 à 18:00

Should I wait for a Synology DS923+ or just get the DS920+ NAS?

Let’s be honest, it is a REALLY good question. Right now as the first quarter of 2022 draws to a close, many users who are thinking of upgrading their existing Synology NAS system, pondering migrating over to the platform or are about to make their first NAS purchase (and are concerned with longevity) are looking at the currently available highpoint of the range, the DS920+ 4-Bay, and wondering if it is due an update any time soon. This consideration is pretty valid. Synology has generally adhered to a 2-year refresh cycle on the Synology Diskstation plus series of Prosumer/SMB solutions in 2 and 4 bay, and given the 26 months (!!!!) since the release of the DS920+ (depending on where in the world you are), it is logical to imagine that a Synology DS923+ NAS could be on the horizon for Winter 2022. Synology runs a pretty tight portfolio and over the last few years in the diskstation tier have created a well-spread range of solutions that tend to be around $50-100 different in price at each tier and with each being a little more ‘extra’ than the last in terms of storage supported, CPU architecture, memory or network connectivity and a lot of the layering of their portfolio in this way is made possible by different ranges refreshing on rotation. Now, the value series of solutions (Plat, J, standard) are all ranging from 1.5-4 years since their original release and with the 20+ series all gradually hitting 2.5 years old apiece, there is a good chance that Synology (in order to propagate that layered portfolio) will need to start releasing those 2023 series of devices soon, for fear of their diskstation range becoming a little stale vs the competition. As highlighted, the currently available DS920+ is the darling of the portfolio for many, but with all indications that Synology will be refreshing solutions in 2022, a Synology DS923+ looks increasingly likely and for many that are sat on the fence, choosing between buying the DS920+ or waiting for a potential DS923+ is a tough call to make. So, today I want to go through four reasons why you should pull the trigger NOW and buy the DS920+ and four reasons why you should get comfortable, sit on your wallet and wait it out for a DS923+ NAS.

Reasons you SHOULD Buy the Synology DS920+ NAS

The Synology DS920+ NAS is a really impressive piece of hardware that, although plays it a little safe in areas of it’s hardware (I am looking at you 1GbE ports) is still a great prosumer Synology solution that is arguable the best currently fully-featured entry point into Synology NAS hardware, DSM 7 and what the brands offer that separates them from the other brands out there. Here are four reasons why you should not wait for a DS923+ NAS and just pull the trigger on the DS920+ you have in your basket.

Very Small Difference in DSM 7 Performance

For those that are not aware, all Synology Diskstation NAS solutions (big or small) arrive with DSM 7 (or DSM 6.2 in some cases is still an option) which is a complete network storage software and services platform that general can rival a lot of the software as a service (SaaS) platforms out there with the range of things it can do. From tailored file access, multi-site backups, Virtual Machine deployment, Surveillance, office administration tool, communication management, database hosting tools and more. All this is managed over numerous first-party tools, via the web browser GUI and via many client applications. It is genuinely an impressive all-encompassing platform that is far more comparable to an entire operating system than a simple data storage tool that your NAS includes. This platform allows you to create numerous users wit their own dedicated access and privileges to the NAS file/folder structure, with each user having their own DSM login/sessions running at the same time as needed, as well as being able to run many, many applications at the same time. In the event that Synology release a DS923+ NAS, as Synology have a very layered portfolio, a refresh to any system still typically maintains the structure of it’s predecessor in terms of CPU and memory. They will be upgraded, but still very much in the same basic architecture to either the DS920+ or the recently released DS1522+. The result is that a Synology DS923+ NAS will likely arrive with the AMD Embedded Ryzen R1600 or still possibly an Intel Celeron CPU and 4GB of memory by default, therefore unless you are going to particularly push the Synology NAS hardware in terms of multiple users and/or active processes internally or are prioritizing multimedia and want to be guaranteed an embedded graphics CPU, you will not see any real difference on the user side compared with the current DS920+. Synology NAS hardware will make the most of the available hardware (especially memory) it can to stay as fast and responsive as possible, intelligently flushing the case when things are getting particularly busy. Therefore, unless you are going to be running tasks that were going to tax/stress the DS920+ to begin with, the DS923+ isn’t likely to provide a significant/noticeable improvement in the general DSM 7 user experience right now. Maybe a few years down the line as the software further develops into DSM 7.1, DSM 7.2, DSM 8, etc, but not for quite a while!

Synology DS920+ NAS Prices are already good and will only get better

One advantage of hardware that has been in the market for a longer length of time (but crucially is still a flagship product by a brand) is that the pricing gets considerably more flexible the longer it is in available. Barring hardware shortages caused by external/3rd party influences, this is generally always true and it has to be said that the Synology DS920+ is certainly more affordable than its launch RRP back in summer 2020, as well as deals/promotions being regularly available at different retails and seasonal events occurring with more frequency. The DS920+ can now often be seen at the £400-450 at different retailers (admittedly in short promos) and that is a decent step down from the approx £550 it was listed at launch in most retailers.

Although Synology generally maintains a steady price point when refreshing a series (typically mating the predecessor pricepoint and increasing in single-digit % in line with inflation or standout hardware upgrades), so alongside the DS920+ already being at a nicer price point right now than ever, it seemingly appears in more promos AND if/when a DS923+ NAS is launched, expect that price to be even better. So, that means that buying a DS920+ is a better price choice and even allows you to hedge your bets a bit and still catch the DS920+ later in the event of clearance sales, etc.

Unlikely but possible HDD Compatibility Factors in a potential DS923+ NAS

Now it should be stressed that I do NOT think that this is hugely likely to happen, but not impossible. In recent Synology Diskstation series devices for business and enterprise, the brand has changed its policies on hard drive compatibility. This has resulted (after arguably some too and frow between users and the brand online) Synology’s own hard drives and SSDs being fully supported and compatible with all the storage services of their DSM software, whereas third party drives from Seagate and WD (such as the WD Red and Seagate Ironwolf series) still work and are visible to the Synology DSM storage system, but some features and services are not available (as well as the system displaying a warning message in conjunction with the unsupported HDDs being used and changes to how the brand supports users with these non-Synology HDDs – highlighting the need for their support teams to emulate their end-user setup being integral in support in many cases).

Now, this is NOT a compatibility question on the Prosumer and SMB desktop Diskstation right now solutions such as the DS920+ NAS. Indeed, I cannot see this policy being extended to a potential Synology DS923+ NAS, as the likes of the HAT5300 Hard Drives are crafted for considerably more rugged use than that expected by a plus series 4 bay. However, this is still not 100% confirmed and if Synology were to release a more affordable/value tier to their drive media that is designed for these smaller systems, such as re-purposing the Toshiba N300 NAS range as they did with the Toshiba MG06/07/08 in their enterprise tier (again, there have been ZERO indications about this right now and I am hypothesizing here)  – THEN that would bring into doubt the HDD compatibility of a new DS923+ NAS and make the DS920+ a much more attractive purchase for many new users. Again, I would say the chances of this one are very, VERY small, however, if you hear Synology reveal a value HDD series in the future – then maybe it’s something to ponder. Recent testing of the new WD Red Pro 22TB Hard drives in the Synology DS920+ NAS HERE shows that they clearly work AND work well in the older generation. The Synology DS923+ NAS will almost certainly support these new bigger WD Red drives too, but how they are presented in DSM 7.1 and it’s storage manager is still TBC.

Synology Have R&D’d the Intel J4125 and J4025 Significantly in the DSx20+ Series

When Synology release a hardware solution and introduce hardware combination (typically a CPU+MEMORY+NETWORK INTERFACE combo), they then integrate that combination and chipset towards a fleshed out range of different scale solutions. We have seen it in the Intel Atom ranges that spanned out into 5, 6, 8 and 12-Bay desktop solutions over several generations, we saw it in the Realtek RTD1296 ARM processor combination across 1, 2 and 4 Bay solutions and with the DSx20+ series released in 2020, we saw the Intel J4125 and J4025 span out into 2, 4 and 5-Bay solutions across 3 different sub-ranges. When Synology does this, you tend to find that they really push the envelope on what a processor can do and as further firmware updates roll out and development of new apps and this hardware architecture in advance also takes place in the R&D for months or even YEARS, it means that the longer a hardware combination is available, the more Synology are able to do with it in their proprietary applications.

This is no exception in the case of the DS920+ and the Intel J4125 Celeron Quad-Core processor features have been extremely well stretched by the bods in the Synolgoy R&D and Product Management teams for their platform. Now if a Synology DS923+ NAS was released, it would use a new CPU and although it is almost certainly going to be either the dual core AMD Ryzen R1600 or the quad core Intel N5105/J6412 (though I would bet on the R1600 AMD chip), it will still be a different chip and Synology will start the merry-go-round again to learn how much they can get out of it for their applications and service – pushing it as much as they can in terms of efficiency and capability. So, if you want the best and most efficient experience of Synology DSM 7 and are choosing between a very real and established DS920+ or a theoretical and potential DS923+, the DS920+ will be the better choice in terms of a product that has been significant;y road-tested by the brand.

Reasons You SHOULD WAIT for a Synology DS923+ NAS

As good as all of the benefits (both realistic and potential of course) that I have outlined above that suggest buying a Synology DS920+ NAS now is the right thing to do – it’s not all so cut and dry. There are several considerations that, based on Synology’s behaviour in previous generation refreshes, as well as changes in modern hardware architecture, that would comfortably support waiting for a Synology DS923+ NAS. Below I have outlined four reasons to wait for a DS923+, some you might be already thinking, but I bet you didn;t think of all of them. Let’s go.

The DS923+ will almost certainly feature either Optional 10GbE or 2.5GbE Network Connectivity

When the Synology DS920+ NAS was first revealed in the months before it’s formal release, one factor about it’s hardware specifications rubbed quite a few users up the wrong way – namely the continued inclusion of 1GbE (gigabit ethernet) network ports on the system. It features two ports (as found in the previous few revisions of this series and allows via link aggregation/port-trunking to hit 2GbE with a supported switch) but in spring/summer 2020, most other NAS hardware vendors were providing 2.5GbE ports at the same price point as 1GbE, alongside a few hardware client hardware that would share the network environment (switches, routers, etc) starting to implement 2.5GbE. Fast forward to spring/summer 2022 and 2.5GbE is a noticeable degree higher in uptake. Its still nowhere near as ubiquitous as 1GbE of course, but it is now being rolled into ISP routers, multi-port affordable switches, computers and even the late 2021 revealed Synology RT6600ax features a 2.5GbE port. Now, this means that Synology will almost certainly integrate the optional 10GbE upgrade port (the E10G22-T1-mini supported adapter that was featured on the DS1522+) or finally introduce 2.5GbE on their DS923+ NAS – to not do either would not only leave to steeped disappointment but also with greater than gigabit internet connectivity being more widely available globally, the thought that your NAS over the network could potentially be outpaced by an internet-connected cloud would be pretty damning.  There is of course the users who think that the DS923+ is long overdue for a default/on-board 10GbE revision and, as ideal as that would be, realistically unless Synology fundamentally changes their hardware portfolio and structured hardware pricing, 10GbE is pretty unlikely to land on the DS923+ or gen after. That said, never say never!

Potential for Synology to double jump the CPU to the AMD Embedded Ryzen R1600 or Intel J6412 Celeron in the DS923+

Since the release of the Synology DS1522+ 5-Bay Diskstation, many have been sharing their thoughts and experiences of the system and it’s unique CPU. The AMD embedded Ryzen R1600 that it features is a dual-core architecture, 2.6-3.1Ghz clock speed and support of DDR4 ECC 3200Mhz memory upto 32GB. Although that means that embedded graphics or hardware transcoding is off the table, in most other respects it is a great CPU in terms of power vs efficiency. In the past when Synology released the 4/5 Bay systems, they tended to use the same CPU+Memory combo, but increase the level of hardware and expandability in the 5-Bay version (eg DS918+ vs DS1019+, DS920+ vs DS1520+ and now the possible DS923+ and DS1522+ NAS). So there is a good chance that a new DS923+ will have that processor.

Alternatively, they might well continue pushing forward with Intel’s in this product series, but which one? This was an intriguing factor and one that I would not put past Synology to action if the DS923+ becomes an increasingly later and later release. The next-generation refresh of NAS from the bulk of the established off-the-shelf NAS hardware providers that we know so far for 2022 have all seemingly opted for the Intel Celeron N5105/N5095/N5095A Quad-Core processor for their prosumer/SMB desktop hardware. Now, there are a couple of things to unpack. First off, yes, I listed three different CPUs there. Thanks in part to hardware shortages, to the pandemic and to disruption at the production level moving forward through 2021/2022, this has resulted in Intel’s own refresh cycle of their individual ranges overlapping quite considerably. Typically they phase out (retire) a specific component after a period of time and introduce a new revision or a completely new version, with the Intel Celeron series being no exception. However, due to those interruptions mentioned, it has resulted in these three CPU revisions running and having stock spread across them. They are all very, very similar revisions with only small differences in video encode/decode (favouring the N5105 marginally) and most feel that one, two or all three of these will run in the DS923+ NAS upon it’s reveal (likely N5105 and/or N5095). I largely agree with this and although it is a better CPU than the current J4125 in the DS920+, it is a small jump that does not really justify ignoring the DS920+ on it’s own.

All this said, Synology has been moving several of their premium series to an AMD Chip (with the R1600, V1500B and now even AMD EPYC processors starting to appear in their SAS SA6400 and SA6200 series). So although it would be nice to see these Intel processors in the DS923+, I think that we are more likely too see comparable hardware to that found in the DS1522+ NAS. That said, I can definitely see Synology keep the likes of the DS223+ and DS423+ series on an Intel CPU, to perhaps reshape the portfolio and distinguish between the home and Prosumer tiers better. Regardless, any/all of this means that waiting on a DS923+ NAS will almost certainly result in a more capable CPU in the NAS for you.

Higher Maximum memory to upgrade too in current AMD Embedded Ryzen and 2021/2022 Gen Intel Celeron Processors

This is a much more minor point than CPU procrastination and second-guessing. Regardless of which CPU the Synology DS923+ NAS arrives with, practically all of the post-2020 AMD and Intel processors that would be serviceable in a desktop NAS solution arrive with 16/32GB maximum memory support. Now, the Intel J4125 that the DS920+ arrives with has an 8GB officially supported maximum and Synology largely adhere to this, with 4GB of soldered memory in the DS920+ and a DDR4 SODIMM slot that can allow an additional 4GB upgrade. So, on the one hand, that’s great news – the DS923+ will almost certainly support 16GB of memory at the very, very least – meaning more apps, more users and more services can be totally used on the system. Now, I say ‘almost certainly’ as we cannot ignore that Synology has steadily been integrating soldered/controller board attached memory on their SMB/Prosumer diskstation systems such as the DS920+, DS220+ and DS720+ over the years.

In the case of the DS920+, it wasn’t a huge deal – 4GB soldered, 4GB upgrade slot, 8GB max , done. However, in the DS220+, DS420+ and DS720+, the fact they arrived with 2GB of pre-attached memory means that a 4GB SODIMM upgrade results in an odd 6GB maximum on these systems (despite the CPU being able to support 8GB). So, do take into consideration that if the DS923+ NAS features 4GB of memory by default and it is similarly soldered, you are looking at a maximum 12/20GB of memory being the limit on this DS923+ hardware if they repeat the design of the DS920+. Or perhaps they will return to twin SODIMM slots as found in the DS1522+ and allow an AMD powered DS923+ NAS to hit the sweet spot of 32GB! Regardless, It is still more than the memory cap of the DS920+ and something to watch out for.

Questions around Diskstation Expandability in the Next Generation

Now, this point is a little more nebulous and something that will only be a concern to a smaller % of users who are weighing up between the DS920+ and a potential DS923+ NAS if revealed. I want to talk about JBOD storage expansions – I know, sexy, sexy stuff! Hear me out! One of the appeals of the DS920+ (and indeed the DS918+ and DS916+ before it) is the expandability of the system to allow you to use a Synology 5-Bay expansion down the line to add more storage to your existing RAID/SHR (i.e. the 9 in the model ID means that this is the maximum number of bays that the system can be expanded/migrated towards). Now, why should that be something to think about? The DS920+ and the potential DS923+ would both be expandable, so it’s no dice as a deciding factor. Well, did you know that expansions on the Synology NAS hardware platform ALSO get refreshed? The DX510, the DX513 and currently DX517 are the 5-Bay expansion devices (connected by 6Gb/s) are the means to add those additional 5 bays and it would not surprise me if Synology release a new expansion chassis (DX523? DX524?) to further refresh this series (improved SATA protocol, power management, etc) and when that happens, several factors raise their heads. First, production of the predecessor (the current DX517) will decrease in favour of the potential newer expansion.

Now, very, VERY few people buy an expansion for a NAS system in the first 2-3 years of their systems life – if they are producing that much data, they would opt for a larger NAS (DS1821+ or DS2422+ for example). Some users might use an expansion as a means of creating a synchronized backup with the local system, but local backups that cannot be easily disconnected such as these are less than ideal in the long term. Regardless, the point I am making is that if you opt for a DS920+ NAS now and a few years later are looking for a DX517 to expand your system, they might not be so readily available from your preferred retailer (or indeed available new in fewer quantities and therefore at a possible premium due to necessity vs scarcity). This is still a remarkably minor point of course and hinges on a lot of ‘what if’s’, but something to factor in and perhaps – if this is something that concerns you now, you should maybe jump from the DS923+ altogether and opt for something bigger on day one such as a DS1520+, DS1621+ or DS1821+ NAS now, then partially populate it in an SHR and add drives to the array as and when.

Our Predictions on the Synology 2023 NAS Hardware & Software

Synology is famously one of the most secretive companies in the NAS market and although we know a decent chunk of information on DSM 7.1, their surveillance hardware/software upgrades and even big movements on their router series, solid formal information on the Synology Diskstation and Rackstation information is only arriving in smaller dribs and drabs. That said, they still follow a few refresh trends and between these routines and smaller imprints they have made online, me and Eddie the web guy were able to make several predictions and assertions on Synology in 2022/2023. You can watch the video one of the two videos we have made on Synology 2023 Hardware, Confirmed and Predicted, below:

Video Article – SEPT 2022 Video Article – JULY 2022

Alternatively, you can read our Synology 2023 NAS Hardware MEGATHREAD over HERE.

More information on the Synology DS920+ NAS

If all of the above has led you to strengthen your resolve, get off the fence and find out more about whether the Synology DS920+ suits your needs, then you can find out more information on the Summer 2020 released NAS in the reviews below in both video and written form. It covers the things I liked, the things I didn’t and ultimately helps you understand whether Synology and it’s DS920+ deserves your data. If you are choosing Amazon, eBay or to purchase your DS920+, please use the links here as it helps support the site, costs you nothing extra and allow us to keep creating our reviews, guides and free support services. Cheers!

Video Review of the DS920+ NAS Written Review of the Synology DS920+ NAS
Video Review Synology DSM 7 Written Review Synology DSM 7
SOFTWARE - 9/10
HARDWARE - 8/10
PERFORMANCE - 10/10
PRICE - 9/10
VALUE - 10/10


9.2
PROS
👍🏻Dual NVMe M.2 cache
👍🏻Great RAID Options
👍🏻Excellent choice of Apps
👍🏻Snapshot Replication
👍🏻BTRFS and SHR
👍🏻Support Plex
👍🏻Virtualization
👍🏻4K Video transcoding
👍🏻Full Plex Transcoding
👍🏻Hot-Swap trays
👍🏻DLNA Compliant
👍🏻Expandable
CONS
👎🏻No Copy button
👎🏻Only 1Gbe Ethernet ports
👎🏻No PCIe slots
👎🏻Only a single accessible Memory Bay

 

 

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Plex Tests – Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ NAS Comparison

6 octobre 2022 à 08:56

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – Which Should You Buy?

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).

NAS Model DS920+

DS1522+

CPU Model Intel Celeron J4125 AMD Ryzen R1600
CPU Quantity 1 Embedded Ryzen
CPU Architecture 64-bit 64-bit
CPU Frequency 4-core 2.0 – 2.7 GHz 2-core 2.6 – 3.1 GHz
Hardware Encryption Engine (AES-NI) Yes Yes
Integrated Graphics Yes No
CPU Cache 4 MB cache 1 MB L2 cache, 4 MB L3 cache
Memory
System Memory 4GB DDR4 non-ECC SODIMM 8GB DDR4 ECC SODIMM
Memory Module Pre-installed (4GB On-board) 8 GB (8GB x 1)
TDP 10W 25W
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?

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – Understanding MEDIA!

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.

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – 720p h.264 3Mbps Video File

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.

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – 720p h.264 3Mbps Video File

Another 720p file for test two, similar bitrate to test 1:

Once again, both the DS920+ and DS1522+ NAS performed near identically in Plex and zero issues were seen.

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – 720p h.264 3Mbps Video File CONVERT to 480p

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.

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – 720p h.264 3Mbps Video File CONVERT to 240p

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.

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – 1080p h.264 3Mbps Video File

On to 1080p Plex Tests on the DS920+ and DS1522+ NAS. This was a fairly domestic HD 1080p file test, played native.

Once again, like the early 720p tests, the DS920+ and DS1522+ performed perfectly well.

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – 1080p h.264 3Mbps

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.

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – 1080p h.264 3Mbps Video File CONVERT to 160p

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.

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – 1080p h.264 100Mbps

Switching things up to an incredibly DENSE 1080p file, I selected the 100Mbps file format (h.264) to see how the DS1522+ and DS920+ would play this natively.

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.

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – 1080p h.265 – HEVC 10bit 10Mbps

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!).

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – 4K h.264 120Mbps

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!

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – 4K h.265 – HEVC 120Mbps

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.

Synology DS920+ vs DS1522+ Plex NAS Comparison – 4K h.265 – HEVC 200Mbps

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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