Buffalo LinkStation Live

The second hard drive that I’ve been reviewing these past few weeks for this external storage feature is the Buffalo LinkStation Live at a whopping 500GB. With the intention of connecting this device to your internal network using either a wired or wireless router or access point. This enables you to share the hard drive contents on the entire network with multiple machines as well as store your files on the hard drive, making it an ideal way for storing your music, photo and video collection for a networked home or sharing documents, presentation files and spreadsheets for the connected office.

Connectivity comes in the form of an RJ-45 port at the back that supports up to a Gigabit Ethernet connection which can either directly connect to the network card on your machine or jack it straight in to a wired or wireless router.

The LinkStation Live is available in four capacities from 250GB right up to 750GB with 7200RPM SATA drives so depending on your budget there is the potential to add over half a terabyte of data to your setup.

At the rear there are also two USB 2.0 ports but unlike other drives where they can be used as alternatives to the Ethernet port, these ports are for connecting devices like printers and any other external hard drives you want sharing as well.

Management software for controlling the firmware settings on the hard drive can be accessed just like a router by tapping in the IP address in to your browser address bar and logging on. Settings such as e-mail alerts for activity, status and critical system errors can be done automatically as well as FTP settings for getting your hard drive accessible over the net.

The vertically stood unit design has a decent size to it considering the capacity it holds and is similar dimensions to a Nintendo Wii but a bit wider. On the front of the unit you’ll find a clear reflective panel with four indicator lights showing power, network activity, info messages and the dreaded error light that we all hope to never have to see in the drives lifetime.

Whilst other manufacturers have opted for clean stylish designs, Buffalo have gone for the dark grey corporate look and shouts seriousness, it’s clear that Buffalo are aiming this at high end users that are going to be perhaps working with several of these devices linked to a fast network backbone.

My initial attempt at getting the LinkStation Live to work were met with a resistance and when I did finally get the connectivity issues resolved the drive was painfully slow and for some reason was causing my entire XP system to lock up whenever I tried to access any of the data on the drive.

This prompted me to do a reset using the handy ‘reset’ button on the back of the drive and failing that I looked for a firmware update which was available as a 100MB download from the Buffalo site – a hefty chunk of data for a firmware update. Failing that, it appears that I had a dud.

A prompt replacement was initiated and once everything was set up I was on my way to transferring files again. Using a 100Mbps Ethernet connection, the Buffalo drive was able to transfer the 1.07GB AVI file in 2 minutes 23 seconds, making it the slowest of the drives. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get it working with my Mac so I wasn’t able to test the 1 Gbps connection which I believe does require CAT 6 cabling to achieve that kind of throughput. The 1020 files totalling 3GB took 5 minutes and 39 seconds which, again makes it the slowest in the benchmark test mainly due to the restriction in the bandwidth available on the 100 Mbps connection.

The Buffalo LinkStation Live was somewhat of a battle for me and after resolving the set up issues with the working model, the transfer rates and responsiveness were still slower than I would expect from this £200 networked storage solution. For that kind of money I expect to have all available interfaces that exist today such as eSATA, FireWire 400/800 and USB 2.0 because for a little more money than the LinkStation Live, you can for instance get the Western Digital My Book Pro II which, has double the storage and the same Gigabit Ethernet connection.

One of the features that are great on the Buffalo LinkStation Live is the ability to set it up as a media server that dishes out content to either a Mac or PC using the Ethernet connection attached to a router or wireless variant. With iTunes 7 integration as well as the DLNA certification, brands from Sony, Toshiba, Pioneer, Philips, NEC, CyberLink, Acer and many more will be compatible and you can find a full list of these products to see what works and what doesn’t at http://product.dlna.org/eng/browse_company.aspx

This product hasn’t been as much of a turn as the others have been but it has a subtle but serious look and is well built without any tacky extras or gimmicks, which is expected considering the market that this drive is targeted at.

Buy this product from Amazon today:

2007-05-28 Onwah Tsang

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