Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/15/review_storage_network_buffalo/

Buffalo Linkstation Pro

No nonsense Nas box?

By Nigel Whitfield

Posted in Hardware, 15th October 2009 13:52 GMT

Review Buffalo has been making NAS boxes for years and the LinkStation Pro is its latest iteration for home and small office use. Housed in a sleek and shiny black unit, the model we tested includes 1TB hard drive – other options are 1.5 and 2TB.

Buffalo Linkstation Pro

An easy option? Buffalo's Linkstation Pro

The front has a blue LED at the top and a ‘Function’ button near the bottom. On the rear panel there is Gigabit Ethernet, a USB port, power switch and socket with an external PSU.

As you’d expect in a network hard drive, there’s support for sharing files using CIFS/SMB, and also with AFP, and an FTP server is provided too. Additional features include printer sharing from the USB port on the rear, a DLNA-certified media streamer, iTunes server, BitTorrent client, plus support for Apple’s Time Machine and remote access to your files.

Set up is pretty straightforward, when hooked up and powered on, in a minute or so the drive will appear on your network. The supplied NAS Navigator software, for both PC and Mac, will detect Linksys storage devices on the network, and let you open the web page to configure them, as well as updating the time or making it easy to connect to the shares.

There’s one pre-defined share on the LinkStation Pro, but creating others is easy from the web interface, which is much improved and more responsive than previous versions. The user and group level access control, makes even fairly complex configuration simple, and the web interface is – on the whole – quite straightforward.

Buffalo Linkstation Pro

Gigabit Ethernet, USB printing and Apple Time Machine support

You can delegate authentication to an external SMB server, if you have a domain controller on your LAN. Yet it’s a shame that the FAQ link on most pages is only very general, and not specific to the section you’re looking at. Thankfully there’s a link to download the PDF manual on each page.

The built-in BitTorrent client is straightforward to use – pick a folder for your downloads, and then use the download manager web page to either browse for a torrent file, or enter the URL of one. We had no difficulty grabbing the latest Ubuntu release, and there are settings to limit bandwidth, if you wish. Without that, it happily maxed out our ADSL connection. It’s a shame there’s no desktop widget to kick off a download though, as you have to sign in to the web interface.

Buffalo Linkstation Pro

As is the norm, a BitTorrent client is included
Click for a full-resolution image

Still, there are some quirks to the LinkStation’s interface. Apple’s Time Machine backup is supported (for Windows users, Memeo is included), but setting it up isn’t entirely straightforward. You have to enter the name of the Mac you want to back up, and it’s Ethernet MAC address – both of which the manual explains you need to dig out of preferences panels.

It’s a shame you can’t simply browse for the information. Once you’ve entered the settings, you’ll then see a message telling you that the backup disk is being created. What it doesn’t tell you, but the manual does, is that you should wait around ten minutes before attempting to connect, otherwise you’ll get an error from the Mac.

Another niggle we found here was that setting up Time Machine automatically enabled Apple’s file sharing protocol on the share we chose as the destination. Fair enough, but another share was set to SMB only, and as a consequence it effectively disappeared from the Mac’s browser, leading to much head scratching. Presumably, it’s a Mac issue, but a warning note would have been useful. That aside, Time Machine appeared to work well, and it’s certainly an alternative to Apple’s Time Capsule, which is another £50, albeit with wireless.

The Media server is an improvement on older LinkStations, though there’s not much in the way of configuration options, beyond setting a refresh period and picking a folder to share. You can allow USB drives to be shared too, and restrict access to specific DLNA clients, but that’s about it.

Buffalo Linkstation Pro

Buffalo's Nas Navigator includes a Mac version as well as Windows

It had no issues serving up a variety of files, including MKVs, to our streamer, and we were able to scan backwards and forwards through an HD stream without any glitches when we stopped, with perfect sync. iTunes spotted the music files, and happily played bought tracks that we’d copied to the LinkStation, too.

On a gigabit network, you can set up jumbo frame sizes, up to 9694 bytes; we did our speed testing using standard (1518 byte) frames. When writing a single large file, we managed a write speed of 25.5Mbytes/second, which is quite respectable, and means backups won’t take too forever.

Buffalo Linkstation Pro

Easy to configure with plenty of useful options

Reading the same file, we achieved a rate of 29Mbytes/second, which is adequate, but exceeded by quite a few other drives that have been tested here recently. And with large groups of files, performance dropped quite a lot from that – a 290MB folder of 10,000 files managed only around 4Mbytes/second reading and writing, though much of that is undoubtedly OS overhead – even so, that’s still only around a minute for 10,000 files.

Finally, there’s a useful email warning facility, that can provide you with status updates, plus a disk power down option, and scheduled sleep facility – though that seemed to go to sleep even though we were in the middle of a TimeMachine backup – to help save energy.

Verdict

All in all, it’s a neat package, with a good range of options. It won’t suit the more technical user, perhaps, but the interface is clear and straightforward enough for casual users, without over complicating things. ®

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