You can connect an external USB hard drive of any capacity to the Central Axis. We tried it with the OWC Mercury and it worked flawlessly. The USB external hard drive needs to be formatted in the FAT32 file system. Otherwise, the Central Axis gives you an option to format the drive for you. This is actually a good feature, because other NAS devices tend to require the external drive to be formatted in a Linux file system, which is then not accessible when plugged directly into a Windows or Mac computer. The Central Axis doesn't support external hard drives formatted in NTFS; this means you won't be able to connect any existing external hard drives in this format to it.
The desktop application only supports mapping the network drive, backup, and enabling Web access. For other features, you will need to use the Central Axis' Web interface, which is sluggish and not well designed. You have to dig though a few layers of menu to go to change a feature's setting. For example, it takes you through four different pages to set up the Media Server feature of the NAS.
Nonetheless, we tried out the Media Server feature with iTunes and it worked well. You can only pick one share folder to share music with iTunes at a time; you also have to manually refresh (which involves going through layers of menu again) to add newly added music to the iTunes share list.
We didn't get a chance to test the Central Axis with any other UPnP devices.
The Maxtor Central Axis performed well in CNET Labs' throughput tests, topping the read chart at 55.5Mbps. On our write test, it was slightly weaker at 54.6Mbps, trailing the D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure by a tiny margin.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The Central Axis ran hot during our testing, which raises concerns as the high heat output might affect its life span. We would recommend using the device in a cool environment. Other than that, we were very happy with the Central Axis' flawless performance throughout our testing period. It's one of the fastest drives in both our write and read tests, and it's one of the quietest performers we've come access among NAS devices.
Service and support
We were very happy to find out that Seagate backs the Maxtor Central Axis with a generous five-year warranty, especially considering the heat issue we mentioned earlier. The company's phone and online chat supports are available from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday. On its Web site, you'll find an array of support options including a knowledge base, software downloads, warranty services, and so on.