The other day I was ambling around the local Maplin when I spotted something that I’d been considering getting for a little while – a NAS kit. For those not in the know, a NAS kit is an external hard drive that attaches to your network and acts as a standalone shared drive. Previously I had set up a shared directory on my PC, and provided my
gf fiance with a script that powered up my PC and mapped the shared drive. A NAS kit would make much more sense, as it would be always powered, and wouldn’t interfere with my PC if I was gaming. But they’re always so expensive or have some down-side. Often they require drivers to work, which defeats the object in my opinion – you should just be able to map the drive and away you go.
So when I saw the “LanDisk” in Maplin for just 35 quid I thought it was a bargain. And I thought there must be something wrong with it. I’m generally fairly wary of buying unbranded hardware, but figured I could always take it back if it turned out to be “a bit shoddy”. The main problem of unbranded hardware is finding information about it – there’s nothing to give an indication of the make/model of the box, which is partly why I’m writing this now… to save people a little searching.
The box ID’d on the Maplin site as “A61FY” is actually an NS-347 manufactured by A-Tec Subsystem Inc. On the side of the rather nice brushed-metal box is the text “Mobile Landisk – External Net Storage”, which may help you to identify it. The manufacturer’s site is fairly pap when it comes to updates and support so it’s just as well that Maplin provide an updated firmware. This is actually build 45 of the firmware, the latest that I could find on the ‘net (my box came pre-installed with build 44), so it’s recommended that you install the update – it’s fairly quick to do.
Searching the ‘net for information on the kit gives a mixed set of results when it comes to opinions. It seems to be a 50/50 split between people who think it’s wonderful and people who’ve had to return it.
For me getting it working was a little bit trial-and-error. Getting a drive into the box was initially tricky as the power cable pressed against the PCB inside. I had to make do with using just two screws to secure the drive, tho’ it’s a snug fit so is unlikely to move around too much. For the moment the box contains just a 60Gb drive that I had recently removed from my PC. I tend to buy decent-quality drives, so the noise-level is fairly low tho’ it’s noticeable when the drive spins up – but then I am sitting right next to it. Sleep-time for the drive is adjustable via the standard web-interface, which is nice.
Access speed is fine for what I need it for – some people have reported slow write speed but I’ve not noticed anything too bad. I copied a directory of photos in less than a minute, which is in line with a measured speed of around 4Mb/s, but it may well depend on your choice of drive. The kit works using a 10/100 network interface, so network speed shouldn’t be a cause of any slowdown. If you need to you can also connect the drive to a PC via USB, but I would consider that a backup in case of network failure.
The web-interface works OK for the most part. I had some problems saving a new “name” for the kit (the default is “storage-xxxx”, the last 4 digits being part of the device’s MAC address – this is the… oh never mind). That said providing you don’t have any conflicts with the network name “storage”, which is also allowed, you should be fine. On problem I found with the web-interface was that, following altering some settings (name, time settings, etc) my browser could often not reconnect to the device. This invariably meant cycling the power, at which point the chance of the settings staying set were hit-and-miss. In theory tho’ these are settings that you would only need to alter once.
One of the main failings of the kit tho’ is the use of LEDs to show when the drive is powered and in use. The “in-use” indicator is a bright blue and defaults to being ON (it flashes OFF with disk accesses). When I say bright, I mean bright. In the middle of the night it looks like someone has left the TV on, with an eerie glow emanating from the desk. I guess you could put it in a child’s room to act as a night-light.
So in general it’s a fine bit of kit. It’s certainly worth £35, tho’ I’m not sure I’d be willing to pay the usual price of £60 for it. For that money I’d like something a little more… recognisable. And a little less bright.