Buffalo LinkStation review:

Buffalo LinkStation

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.

If you attach an external USB drive, you can schedule daily or weekly backups of the LinkStation's shared folders to that drive. The LinkStation also lets you choose between full and incremental backups, either completely overwriting existing data or overwriting only data that has been changed since your last backup.

We think the LinkStation offers a good set of features for the price, but it's not an industrial-strength solution. The LinkStation doesn't offer any flavor of RAID, nor does it support the Internet Printing Protocol. For these features, consider pricier alternatives, such as the Linksys EFG120. Another weakness of the LinkStation is its awkward support of extended character sets. Files and folders with Asian character names can be difficult or impossible to save to the LinkStation, depending on the combination of extended character sets you use for your data.

The Buffalo LinkStation Network Stortage Center's hard drive delivers data quickly to your networked test systems. There may be a slight delay, of the millisecond variety, but you probably won't detect a lag when you open files residing on the LinkStation. If you place the LinkStation on a network populated by multiple users who regularly stream media across it, you may experience an occasional hiccup in your media playback. This, however, has more to do with the way you set up your Ethernet network than it does with the Buffalo LinkStation. That said, the LinkStation is slower than an internal hard disk, so if you run drive-intensive database applications, you should consider either an internal drive or a network drive that supports Gigabit Ethernet, such as the Linksys EFG120.

If you're currently sharing a printer from one of the machines on your network, you can use the Buffalo LinkStation to recoup the resources required to maintain a printing queue by offloading the task to the LinkStation's print server. Printer sharing can be a very resource-intensive service, so transferring it from a workstation to the LinkStation can help pep up the computer you use to share your printer.

The Buffalo LinkStation Network Storage Center comes with a respectable two-year warranty, the same length offered on the Linksys EFG120. Toll-free 24/7 phone support is also part of the support package for the Buffalo LinkStation and is good for the lifetime of the product. When we called to test the response time of the Buffalo support staff and the reps' knowledge of the product, we were greeted by a support technician in less than 10 minutes, and the person seemed very familiar with the features of the unit.

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