REVIEW: Buffalo LinkStation Pro Duo

Buffalo

The LinkStation Pro Duo is the latest product in Buffalo’s LinkStation network attached storage (NAS) family. Representing the highest performing generation of Buffalo’s small-business NAS solutions, the LinkStation Pro Duo V-Series—like the LinkStation Pro and LinkStation Pro Quad—boasts speed improvements, data management, remote access and content sharing features that aim to elevate it above the raft of other NAS solutions on the market. How does it fare? Let’s find out.

What is it and who is it for?

The LinkStation Pro Duo is an easy to use NAS for individuals and small business. Available with a capacity of 2TB or 4TB, the wholly-black device sports a compact footprint (86 x 127 x 204mm, 1.7kg) that takes up minimal space on a desk. Encased entirely in a plastic chassis, the LinkStation Pro Duo model we reviewed combined two 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200rpm (3.5-inch, SATA) drives for a maximum capacity of 2TB (the 4TB model uses two 2TB drives). Connections on the back of the device are minimal and include 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet and USB 2.0 support—there’s no eSATA connection or a Mac-friendly FireWire 800 port.

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Pricing & setup

The LinkStation Pro Duo 2TB costs a competitive £266, while the 4TB raises the cost to £312. This means the 2TB LinkStation Pro Duo reviewed here costs just 11p per gigabyte, making it one of the least expensive two-disk NAS devices on the market. The drive supports Windows 7 (32- and 64-bit), Windows Vista (32 and 64-bit), Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004/2005, Windows Server 2003/2008 (32 and 64-bit), and Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later. It actually comes NTFS formatted, so Mac users will have to reformat for Apple HFS+. Setup is relatively straightforward as the LinkStation Pro Duo is managed via a Web-based interface. The software isn’t pretty, but it has plenty of features. The two drives are setup to use RAID 0 striping by default, but RAID 1 mirroring is also supported.

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Does it do it well?

The LinkStation Pro Duo is a decent all-rounder. The drive is compact and easy to use, and the front panel is easily removed to expose the two hard drives. Gadget buffs will also appreciate its DLNA certificiation for streaming to any DLNA-compatible media device, including Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Plus, the LinkStation family supports Apple’s Time Machine for easy backup and Apple’s Bonjour, making it well suited for Mac environments.

For Windows environments, the LinkStation Pro Duo is equipped with NovaBACKUP Business Essentials for automatically backing up Windows Server files with SQL 2008 and Exchange 2007 support. Other cool features include device spanning, mapped drive recognition, virus scanning, data encryption and open file backup support.

The BitTorrent download manager is useful for downloading files without having to leave a computer on, and advanced users might even try using the LinkStation Pro Duo as a Web server. Support for MySQL databases means it’s also possible to create e-commerce sites, though we’re not sure anyone would realistically host their own sites. Files can also be accessed remotely via FTP or using a remote access Web interface. You can create folders, users and groups, set folder attributes, and set up a print server (that’s what the USB port is for).

What’s really interesting is its iTunes app, ‘WebAccess i’ (Android version coming soon). The app allows users to save and access digital photos, video and other data to any Buffalo Network Attached Storage (NAS) device remotely. So, anyone who uses an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch can now download the app for free and start to download and upload digital content, in real time, to and from the office or home-based NAS product from anywhere in the world.

The app is easy to configure and use and works seamlessly while moving from local to remote networking environments, including 3G. The app can even “share” any file on the NAS with others remotely by e-mailing them a link that they can click and then download the file from the NAS through a browser. For security reason, the link stops working after a certain number of days. Users can download multiple files in the background and multitasking also works for uploading and music playing. WebAccess i even lets you create new folders, copy, move, rename, and delete files on the LinkStation Pro Duo remotely.

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Where does it disappoint?

While the front panel might be easy to remove, the drives are ludicrously difficult to extract thanks to the metal ring pull-style grips. And as neat as WebAccess i app is for reducing the consumption of valuable memory on an i-device, the app can’t upload multiple photos or video files simultaneously and video file formats not native to Apple can’t be played by this app (so no AVI or Xvid). Using the Web interface via an iPhone’s Safari browser to access the files on the LinkStation Pro Duo is clunky and the app is not AirPlay capable, which is a real disappointment.

Would we recommend it?

Protecting and managing digital content is a time consuming task for home and small-business users. The LinkStation Pro Duo is an affordable NAS box with an array of highly useful features and performance to match. The drive’s RAID redundancy for data protection and user “removable” hard drives makes servicing possible without the need for tools, and the ability to perform scheduled backups to an external USB hard drive or any other Buffalo NAS device adds an extra level of data protection or disaster recovery preparation. It’s also easy to administer, though we wish the interface was more attractive and the hard drive tray more refined. Overall, it’s a well-rounded, practical network storage system that can be used for backup, as a media server, or both.


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