Cisco Linksys Media Hub 500GB home NAS
The wireless router company does NAS
Review Linksys has always been one of those dull, boring companies that makes dull, boring networking products for business users. But since its takeover by networking titan Cisco in 2003, Linksys has slowly tried to turn itself into a more consumer-friendly firm - all the better to grab a slice of the burgeoning home networking market.
Linksys' Media Hub: ready to take on ReadyNAS?
In fact, Linksys’ official name these days is ‘The Cisco Consumer Business Group’, though it's kept the Linksys brand to slap on its packaging as that sounds a bit catchier.
As part of its move into the consumer arena, Linksys recently released a range of wireless routers with trendy flying-saucer designs, and even took the unprecedented step of acknowledging the existence of the Mac. Now Linksys is making a serious bid for the ‘digital home’ market with its new range of Media Hubs.
In essence, the Media Hub is a glorified NAS drive that can be shared by multiple users on a home or office network. Once it’s installed you can treat it as an ordinary network drive and copy files back and forth simply by dragging and dropping. If you’re using a PC, the installer program can automatically assign the Media Hub a drive letter, and the Media Hub showed up automatically on our Mac desktop. So you don’t need to fiddle around with IP addresses in order to get the drive up and running. Linksys also bundles a utility called Shadow so you can schedule regular back-ups of all your files.
However, the Media Hub's emphasis is very much on storing media files and on playing those files through its custom web interface.
Dinky status display included - but the memory card slots are more useful
Our review unit was the NMH405 model, which costs £350 and is equipped with a 500GB hard disk, but there’s also a 1TB model called the NMH410 that costs £430. Apart from the disk size, the two models are identical – there’s a Gigabit Ethernet interface tucked around the back for connecting to your network, two USB 2.0 interfaces for plugging in additional storage devices, and a memory card reader so that you can quickly transfer photos from a digital camera.
Further proof, if any were needed ...
... that this device is too damned expensive, today I ordered:
- 1x IcyBox IB-NAS4200-B (£97 inc.VAT)
- 2x WD 'Green' 1Tb drives (£80 each inc.VAT) - could have had SeaCrates for slightly less, but after an interesting incident with a bricked Barracuda that was a road I wasn't prepared to travel.
Delivery costs came to about £15 as I used two different suppliers, so we're looking at £270-ish for a 1Tb NAS solution with gigabit ethernet and RAID capability that pulls around 27W at full load (see: http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/storage/2009/02/01/icy-box-ib-nas4220-b-network-storage/4) - not too shabby.
Certainly better than paying a £70-80 premium for the Cisco name and a pretty looking LCD-type display.
Additional - ICYBOX - Hint
Where as I'm a great fan of the ICYBOX, I would urge caution when 'hacking' it. If you leave it 'as is' (albeit with the supported downloads on the Raidsonic site), it works like a charm. For those that want to 'hack' it, make sure you know what you are doing (and have a good understanding of Linux [BusyBox]) - unlike this muppet typing this, I'm sure you'd get more out of it. For me, I'm crap at Linux and have since given up on adding extra things to it (shame really, but as a vanilla box, it's awesome!)
My experience with Cisco Linksys is similar.
I bought a WRT54G years ago, and it was great. The stock firmware was fine and there's numerous 3rd-party firmwares for it. (I have DD-WRT on mine.)
Bought one more recently (ver 5). Useless! The firmware was so buggy, it'd crash within hours, AND scramble the settings! It was nice, you'd power it back up and it STILL wouldn't come back up without hooking ethernet up and resetting the settings on it. Right after Cisco bought Linksys, they stripped the fully-functional Linux firmware, cut the RAM and ROM in half, and put in a barely-working version 1.00.00 firmware. Why they didn't at least get the hideous bugs out first, I don't know. I returned it!
I think they still sell them. I don't know how the stock firmware is, but there's a special extra-small DD-WRT version for it I guess. But, if you're running 3rd-party frimware anyway, the WRT is like twice as expensive as competitors (since Cisco cut RAM and ROM, but not the price.)
Cisco Linksys - we don't need no stinking customers!
I have a couple of Linksys Media Center Extenders (a DMA2100 and a DMA2200). The DMA2100 is a great little box at it's current "street price" of ~$100, but the only support from you'll get from Linksys is to have your posts on the Linksys forums deleted if you suggest that Cisco doesn't give a damn about supporting these products.
They have moderators that actually read the forums editing or deleting posts that they don't like, but in the 2 months that I checked the forums out on a regular basis, I never once saw any of these moderators actually answer any questions.
There are a couple of small firmware changes that these devices need (support for "magic packet" WOL, Divx fourcc tweaks, some aspect ratio consistency between differnt codecs) to make a good device better, and a couple of slightly more involved changes (support for multiple pairings, much shorter boot time - 90 seconds, wtf?). But good luck getting a response from Linskys/Cisco admitting that these flaws even exist, never mind that they'll do anything about them.
The bottom line is that Cisco/Linksys seems to still have some pretty good engineers creating their products, but the beancounters won't spend the money needed to make the products great. Those little niggely bits spoil the whole effect.
For a box that may be always on, it would be a good idea to include the power consumption in the review. And no, the Linksys product page does not include this in the specs either, which is not a good sign.