Linksys Media Hub

With the availability of cheap computers, it’s not unusual to find each family member with their own laptop connected to a wireless router. But with that, comes the problem of data scatter. Mum has the holiday snaps on her laptop, Dad has the home videos, and the kids have an assortment of music and photos on their machines.

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To help consolidate all this data, you can invest in a NAS drive. These are inexpensive mini-servers that can come with huge amounts of storage and can be accessed by any machine connected to the home router. And that is exactly what the Linksys Media Hub does. It’s a network connected storage device that allows you to share files and backup your machines.

Setup is virtually non-existent as the device is ready to go straight out the box. It’s plug-and-play with most modern routers and comes with a user-replaceable 500GB hard disk with a second empty bay for adding more storage.

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Around the front of the drive there’s a colour LCD screen for viewing storage stats like how much free space is available. Two memory card slots on the front can be used for reading memory cards from your digital camera/camcorder. It’s compatible with SD/MS/XD and Compact Flash cards. A USB port at the bottom allows you to do quick transfers to the USB drive.

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The Media Hub includes an iTunes server which allows you to share an iTunes library across the network. Fantastic for giving the whole family access to music directly from iTunes. Alternatively, you can access the drive through the built-in web interface.

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The web interface includes a main dashboard to show the most recent files that have been copied to the drive. From there you can narrow down your browsing to music, photos and video files. Each of these options provides a separate interface designed for the respective media. For example, the photo browser provides thumbnail views of images and provides functionality for creating quick slideshows for playback in the browser.

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You can customise the settings for your drive from the web interface. There’s plenty of hints and tips on what each setting does without the manual – making setup for the features you want to turn on very simple.

Whilst the web interface is well designed and works well – it can never compete with the speed and ease of navigation with direct access from your computer. I tested the Media Hub with Windows 7 and Mac OS X and on both occasions, the operating system was able to detect the drive and provide me with access.

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Included with the Media Hub is a remote-access feature that allows you to get access to your content over the internet through a password encrypted gateway on the Linksys website. Whilst you only get 12-months free access to this feature, you can extend it for about £9 per year. It’s not overly expensive but there are competing devices that do offer this feature for free.

By design, the Media Hub gives you access to the drives so you can expand storage whenever you need to. A small plate at the top of the unit can be removed to reveal two storage bays for standard 3.5-inch SATA drives. You can configure these drives to give you access to the total storage available on both drives (both drives need to be of the same capacity or it will take the lowest capacity for both) or you can set it up to create an extra copy of any data that is stored on the first drive – so if the first drive ever fails, you have a copy of it on the secondary drive.

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The Linksys Media Hub is a competent NAS drive that delivers a full complement of connectivity and backup capabilities. With simple setup and an easy-to-use browser interface, getting the drive setup and working won’t take long.

2009-11-15 Onwah Tsang

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