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The Buffalo LinkStation Live is a network-attached storage drive designed for home users who want to share files over a local network. It includes a built-in print server and a DLNA-compliant media server that allows you to easily stream multimedia files to other DLNA-compliant devices. At $350 for the 500GB version, it's quite a deal, given its bells and whistles. On the downside, it's not the fastest at writing, and it's downright sluggish when reading files. For comparison, the similarly priced Ximeta NetDisk Portable is much faster, but lacks both servers. Also, as the LinkStation Live contains only one disk, you can't set up a RAID array, as you can with the more expensive and faster HP Media Vault MV2020. While the Buffalo LinkStation Live is a good product for the money, its slow read speed gives us pause. If you want the fastest network storage, we say go for the Ximeta NetDisk Portable, even though it's slightly more expensive (in terms of features) than the Buffalo LinkStation Live. If you're willing to spend a little more money for a more flexible drive that offers even more features, spring for the HP Media Vault MV2020.
The Buffalo LinkStation Live NAS drive is compact and will easily slide in next to your router or hub. The charcoal-gray drive stands 2.4x6.3x8.5 inches. It can only be oriented in one direction. The front of the drive houses the power button and four LEDs. On the rear of the drive, you'll find the power port, an Ethernet jack, and two USB ports for connecting printers or USB hard drives.
The Buffalo LinkStation Live comes in four capacities: 250GB, 320GB, 500GB, and 750GB (for this review, we tested the 250GB version). All versions contain a single, 7,200rpm drive. Setup is simple: just connect the drive to your router or hub using an Ethernet cable and plug in the power cord. Then run the included CD to install the LinkNavigator utility. Upon installation, two icons should appear on your desktop: one will take you directly to the folders on the LinkStation drive, and the other will open the LinkNavigator window. You also can access the drive by going to My Computer; during setup, the drive is automatically mapped to drive letter L (or the next available letter if L is already occupied). The LinkNavigator lets you check on the status of all the LinkStations and Buffalo TeraStations on your network, while the Web-based configuration interface lets you set passwords, change access permissions, manage attached drives, add or delete shared folders, and otherwise configure your LinkStation Live drive.
The Ethernet port supports both Fast and Gigabit Ethernet. Built into the drive are a print server for network printing (it doesn't support multifunction printers) and a DLNA-compliant server for distributing multimedia files over your network to another DLNA device, such as a digital media adapter. The user guide includes clear directions for how to use the media streaming ability (called PCcast). If you want to expand your storage capacity or back up the LinkStation Live, you can attach a USB storage drive (or two) using the USB ports. For backing up PCs on your network to the NAS drive, Buffalo bundles Memeo Auto Backup software (for Windows only). Using Memeo, you can schedule regular backups.
In CNET Labs' tests, the Buffalo LinkStation Live proved to be an average performer when writing and a bit on the slow side with reading. It took 16 minutes, 15 seconds to write a 5GB folder of mixed file types over a local network, and 26 minutes, 49 seconds to read it back. The Ximeta NetDisk Portable (which lacks both print and media servers) was much faster at both tasks.
|5GB read test (min:sec)||5GB write test (min:sec)|
Service and support
Buffalo backs the drive with a standard one-year warranty. Toll-free phone support is available 24-7, or you can fill out an online query form on the company's Web site. Buffalo's site also includes downloads and a searchable knowledge base.