Editors' note: The rating and Editors' Choice designation for this product has been altered since the review's original publication. The reason for this is simply the general improvement of technology over time. In order to keep our ratings fair and accurate, it's sometimes necessary to downgrade the ratings of older products relative to those of newer ones.
When we took our first look at Buffalo's 120GB LinkStation earlier this year, we were so impressed that we awarded it an Editors' Choice. Now, Buffalo has added 160GB and 250GB versions and refined the LinkStation's firmware, and once again, Buffalo is setting the standard in low-cost network storage solutions. Buffalo's LinkStation adds the convenience of network-attached storage to homes and small businesses, giving you a central location for your data and letting you share that data across your network. In other words, the LinkStation gives you somewhere to save the 2,500 digital photos you've been cramming onto your hard drive, plus it offers a way to view or print them from any computer on your network. You can also use the LinkStation to back up important data to an external USB hard drive and use the device as a print server for your PostScript printer. The LinkStation lacks the high-end features you'd find in more capable but pricier network-attached storage devices, such as the Linksys EFG120. However, if you're looking for the basic conveniences of a print server and network-attached storage, Buffalo's LinkStation is a well-designed and reasonably priced solution. It takes only about 10 minutes to get the Buffalo LinkStation up and running. The printed eight-page quick-setup guide walks you through the installation process with many helpful illustrations and screenshots. Even if you lack networking experience, you'll be able to complete the basic setup process in less than 30 minutes.
A standard Ethernet cable connects the LinkStation to a router, a gateway, or a hub. A cable crossover switch on the back of the drive lets you link the LinkStation directly to a computer with the same standard Ethernet cable. The switch eliminates the need for a crossover cable and lets you connect the unit to either a computer or a hub, making the LinkStation an excellent choice even as a peripheral hard drive for a single computer. As such, it's tough competition for Maxtor's.
You can connect to the LinkStation from any computer on your network via the IP Setup Utility on the accompanying CD. The utility lets you configure the drive to join your network, then opens the home page of the LinkStation's browser-based configuration tool.
The Buffalo LinkStation's browser-based configuration pages let you assign it a name, create new shared folders, and set up security. You can elect to share folders with both Mac and Windows operating systems. Should you encounter any problems with the setup, Buffalo lists a toll-free tech-support number in its quick-setup guide.We like the uncluttered, compact design of the white-and-silver Buffalo LinkStation Network Storage Center. Buffalo integrated the power supply into the LinkStation, so there's no additional power brick dangling from the unit's power cord. The front panel houses a power button, a USB 2.0 port, and four LEDs that let you monitor the network activity, any drive errors, and the power, plus check to see whether the drive is nearly full. The rear panel contains a 10/100 Ethernet port, a switch that toggles the Ethernet port between MDI and MDIX settings, a second USB 2.0 port, and a reset button. A vent for the LinkStation's quiet fan also graces the rear panel.
The Buffalo LinkStation's two USB 2.0 ports let you connect a printer and an external hard drive to your network. You can connect only one printer and one external drive to the device at any given time, but it doesn't matter which USB port you use.