At around $500 with 2TB of storage included (or $400 with 1TB), the Acer Aspire EasyStore H340 is one of the most--if not the most--affordable NAS servers on the market, in terms of how much storage you get for your money. It also offered fast throughput performance in CNET Labs' tests.
However, the Atom-based NAS server doesn't come with any extra features, apart from what Windows Home Server 2003 gives you, which is already ample for most situations. To make up for that, you can add more hard drives to the Acer Aspire EasyStore H340's three empty bays without using any tools. It also comes with five USB ports and one eSATA port to host more storage. Similar to other windows Home Server-based NAS servers, it doesn't support any RAID configuration but uses the Folder Duplicate feature to protect data stored on it.
If you are looking for a fast and simple Windows NAS sever, the Acer Aspire is one of the best choices. If you want to get even more of your NAS, we'd recommend the similarly priced HP MediaSmart EX495 or the significantly more expensive Synology DS209+ NAS server .
Design and setup
The Acer Aspire EasyStore H340 is, at its core, a Windows-based computer powered by a 1.6Ghz Intel Atom 230 processor and 2GB of RAM. All it lacks is a mouse, a keyboard, and monitor support. That said, the server can be controlled from a second computer on the same network via its Windows Home Server Console (for home users) or via remote desktop (for advanced users). The strength of Windows Home Server-based NAS servers lies in the fact that they are very friendly to Windows users. This Acer Aspire is no exception.
The Acer Aspire EasyStore H340 looks like cube, with a smooth front where the access to the hard-drive bays are. Each bay comes with a removable tray that can host a standard SATA hard drive. Accessing this can be done completely without tools. The server comes with its first bay preoccupied by a 2TB hard drive (or 1TB in the cheaper version) that includes the operating system. If you want to expand for more storage or duplicate to protect your data, you can install more hard drives, either via the other bays or use an external hard drive to connect to the server's ports.
The Acer Aspire EasyStore H340 has one eSATA port and four USB ports on the back. These ports are solely for external storage devices. There's no support for printers or a USB camera, unfortunately. There's also another USB port on the front that works with the server's one-button copy feature. Just plug a USB drive into this port and press the Copy button above it, and the entire contents of the drive will be copied onto the server's internal storage. This is actually a very neat backup feature that a lot of NAS servers offer.
Setting up the Acer Aspire is as easy as popping its included "Software Installation Disc" into a network PC and following the onscreen instructions. The setup process, which includes detecting the NAS in the network and installing the Windows Home Server Connector software, took us longer than expected, at about 20 minutes. The process bugged out twice for no specific reason and we had to do it again.
The server also comes with two other DVDs, labeled "PC Restore Disc" and "Server Recovery Disc." The first restores a network computer from a backup image stored on the server and the second will recover the server from a backup if need be. This set of DVDs is standard for all Windows Home Server-based NAS servers we've reviewed.
Apart from the quick Copy feature mentioned above, the Acer Aspire EasyStore H340 doesn't offer any special features of its own--unlike the MediaSmart EX495 from HP, for example, which comes with comprehensive digital content management features that allow you to convert video files into different formats for different media streamers or upload photos to social Web sites.
The Acer Aspire EasyStore H340 comes with only the standard features of all Windows Home Server-based NAS servers, including:
User account and share folders: Like any Windows machine, the EasyStore H340 features a standard user management setup. To create a new user, run the Windows Home Server Console and click on the tab called User Accounts. Here, you can create new users just as you would in a Windows computer, with one difference: you have the option of giving the user remote access to the NAS server. Once a user is created, the wizard will display a list of existing share folders that the new user can be given access to. Access privileges include Full (write and read), Read (read only), and None (no access).
Creating a new share folder is similar to creating a new user: simply click on the "Share Folder" tab and follow the wizard. Once a new folder has been created, the wizard allows you to assign access to that folder via a list of existing users. An unlimited number of share folders can be created.
The NAS server comes with four media-related default folders, including Photos, RecordTV, Music, and Video. Files inside these folders are streamed to any media server-compatible devices, including set top boxes, game consoles, iTunes, and other computers. You can turn the streaming features on or off at the Windows Home Server Console's Settings page. The server supports virtually all popular digital content formats currently available on the market.
As the Acer Aspire EasyStore H340 is just another Windows computer, it's very easy to access its share folder by browsing your network with Windows Explorer. Mac users will also see it automatically in Finder. Unfortunately, unlike the HP EX495, the Acer Aspire doesn't offer any support for Time Machine.