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Upgrade your home network with a media-streaming, backup-ready NAS box

Jon L. Jacobi | May 3, 2013
If your home network lacks a NAS box, you're missing out on two counts: First, network-attached storage (NAS) is the easiest way to back up connected PCs. Second--and more enjoyably--a NAS box can store your media libraries and stream files to any PC or networked audio device in your house (examples include devices in the AirPlay, NuVo, and Sonos product ecosystems)

The CloudBox performed well in our tests. Both the DLNA and iTunes servers functioned perfectly, and the unit effortlessly streamed our 40-mbps video to three PCs simultaneously. File-transfer performance was very good for a low-priced box, and the CloudBox took first place on the task of reading our 10GB mix of files and folders, with a speed of 33.7 MBps. It wrote those files at 16.5 MBps, and it wrote and read our single 10GB file at 31.6 MBps and 63.5 MBps, respectively.

LaCie provides dedicated remote-access apps for iOS and Android devices, but not for Windows Phone 7 or 8. The app isn't as attractive as Seagate's handsome Dashboard OS, but it does the job. For Windows Phones, you can use a third-party DLNA- or iTunes-compatible client such as cPlayer (for Windows Phone 7 and 8).

LaCie is unique among the four manufacturers represented here in offering a free 10GB/one-year subscription to its own Wuala online storage service. Add that to the BitTorrent client, plus good performance and looks, and you have an all-around attractive deal in a household NAS box.

Seagate Central

The Seagate Central is the big easy of NAS boxes. All you have to do to to set it up for remote access is to surf to the unit's configuration page; enter your name, email address, and password; and then respond to an email message that links to a create-an-account page. Your name becomes your local network login, your email address is your remote login name, and your password works for both. It may take 30 minutes or so for everything to propagate, but once it's done, it's done.

You can use the included Dashboard software to open the aforementioned configuration page (Dashboard also takes care of PC backups), or you can manually surf to the unit's URL. Seagate automatically maps the Central's public folder to drive Z in Windows Explorer, which displays the URL. Remote access is via Seagate's SeagateMedia app for iOS, Android, and Kindle, or a Tappin-powered website where you can play, manage, and share your files.

Thanks to its fine mesh lid and perforated base, the Central sheds heat without needing a fan. The unit's near-silent convection cooling, plus its quiet drive, means that you can plop the Central next to your home-theater setup without adding appreciable noise. On the other hand, the Central's decidedly retro resemblance to an older cable or DSL modem may not be welcome in your living room.

Priced at $170, the 2TB Central is the only unit in this roundup that comes with a USB port. The port is for storage only, but any drive you attach will appear on your network as a separate shared folder, so you can copy files to it as you would to any other network resource. The Central is an always-on device with no power button; but as is true of the other boxes' drives, its drive spins down when not in use, to save power.

 

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