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Cisco Linksys Media Hub 500GB home NAS

The wireless router company does NAS

The units are neatly designed in the glossy black-and-silver that's currently flavour of the month for Linksys’ consumer products. It stands about 20cm high, 11.3cm wide and 16.3cm deep, so you can sit it on your desk or on a shelf without it taking up too much room. The internal fan makes a worryingly loud noise when you first turn the power on, but quickly calms down to an unobtrusive hum.

Linksys Media Hub

It's loud when it starts up, but it soon settles down

They also have a small LCD screen on the front that displays information such as the amount of space used by music, photos and video files. We found that we barely looked at the screen during our tests, so you can save some money by buying the 500GB NMH305 model, which omits the LCD display and comes in at a more affordable £300.

One handy feature is a button on the top of the Hub. This pops open the lid of the unit to reveal a spare drive bay so that you can quickly drop in a second hard disk to add some more storage. The Media Hub supports RAID 1 ‘mirroring’ mode to store identical copies of your files on each drive. That’s the only RAID configuration available, and the drives aren’t hot-swappable in the event of drive failure. But at least RAID 1 gives you the option of providing some extra protection for your important files.

The only real omission from the hardware is the lack of an HDMI interface that would allow you to play your files on an HD TV. This means that playback has to be done primarily through computers on your home network. The Media Hub does support both UPnP and DLNA networking, though, so you can also play your files through other devices which also support these standards, such as an Xbox 360, PS3 or Nokia N95.

Setting up the Media Hub is fairly straightforward for PC owners, as Linksys includes an installer program that guides you through the process one step at a time, sets up a password and then copies all your files onto the Hub. By default, the installer program simply copies the contents of the ‘My Documents’ folder on the Media Hub, but you can specify different folders if you want. After the initial transfer of files the Media Hub software continually monitors those folders and automatically updates the Media Hub whenever the content of the folders changes. It took us about two hours to copy 20GB of music and video files over Ethernet wiring. Linksys says that it's working on a Mac version of the installer for future release.

Linksys Media Hub

Pop the lid to add an extra HDD

Once you’ve gone through the initial installation, the Media Hub can then be used by anyone on your network – regardless of their computer or operating system – simply by opening their web browser and typing ‘mediahub’ in the browser’s address bar. As well as accessing files on your home network you can also connect to the Media Hub across the internet by logging into the Media Hub web site and using the password that you created during the initial set-up process.

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