So after doing RAID-1 manually for 10 years (starting with burning countless of DVD’s with my precious data, then moving on to buying a new external drive every year as they got full), I finally decided to stop the spiral of self-torment that is manual redundant backups. I bought myself a NAS.
After standing in the store for a while (an actual physical store, weird right?), weighing different products against each other, I eventually emerged with the Buffalo LinkStation LS420D. It had seduced me with well-received reviews and its remarkably low price.
|Dimensions||87 x 128 x 205 mm|
|Processor||Marvell Armada 370 1.2 GHz dual core|
|Connectivity||1 USB 2.0 port, Gigabit Ethernet|
|Services||DLNA, AFP, CIFS/SMB, FTP, HTTP, BitTorrent, WebAccess, iTunes server, print server|
|Storage||2 x 2 TB (also in 2 x 1/3/4 configurations)|
There’s not that much to say about the hardware. It has a small form factor, as small as a 2-bay NAS can get I’d imagine, and while the construction is completely in plastic it feels rugged and of good quality. It has a fan in the back, together with all connectors and the power switch. On the front there are two LEDs and a quick-function button.
It comes with 2 Seagate Barracuda drives, which honestly was better than I expected from such a cheap NAS with included drives.
Buffalo provides a web interface with the LinkStation 420. This is where the user does all configuration, such as enabling web access, setting up a BitTorrent client, enabling DLNA and so forth. The interface is straight forward, and by default no configuration is really necessary. The interface also offers some advanced settings such as setting up password protected groups and users, workgroup/domain and sleep timers.
While the interface does provide a lot of features, it is all but fluid. Clicking on a feature link is usually followed by 5-10 seconds of waiting for the page to load. This is slightly frustrating at times, but on the other hand I never really change any settings anyway, so it’s a non-issue from my perspective.
It comes pre-configured with RAID-0 (performance) by default, something which I found a bit annoying since it took a few hours to rebuild the array to RAID-1 (redundancy). I recommend that you decide what you want to run with before transferring all your files.
Performance and other notes
The LinkStation 420 boasts with achieving speeds up to 100MB/s, an admittedly impressive number. In reality, however, I reach transfer speeds around 60MB/s which I accept as good enough since I’m running RAID-1. If I was running RAID-0 I might have been able to squeeze some more performance out of it, but in the end things like router performance, the size of the files transfered and disk fragmentation will also come in to play. Speaking of router performance, be sure to have one which supports Gigabit Ethernet, or you’ll be stuck with 12.5MB/s or less.
One thing that surprised me at first was the lack of any options to configure power-saving or HDD spin down timers. It turned out that the drives in the LinkStation 420 will never sleep as long as the device is powered, and this is by design. This was new to me, but apparently the biggest wear and tear of any drive are the spin up cycles, so much so that its better to keep a drive running 24/7 than to spin it down to save power. This had never occurred to me previously, and frankly, if you’re an energy nut like me this “feature” will be one of the biggest pet peeves of the product.
When it comes to noise levels I’m pleased to report that it’s very quiet. Of course it does have a low buzz coming from the physical drives, but standing a meter or two away makes it seem completely silent. On the other hand, it does vibrate some and depending on surface (and what other things stand on that surface) you might end up with some resonance.
The Buffalo LinkStation 420 is a no-frills budget NAS, and I love it. It does what I need, and it does it in a simple way and gives a lot of bang for the buck. I’ve had it for over a year now and it has performed flawlessly during this time. I highly recommend it if you don’t want to go all out with a QNAP or Synology setup from the get-go, but want to ease your way in with a simple and affordable solution.