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Buffalo LinkStation Mini review: Buffalo LinkStation Mini

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MSRP: $519.99

The Good Small footprint and near silent operation; dual drives offer data redundancy; USB port allows for easy expansion or print sharing; DLNA support for streaming media files over your network.

The Bad Pricey per gigabyte; remote access feature took some work to enable.

The Bottom Line The tiniest of NAS drives, the Buffalo LinkStation Mini keeps up with its full-size competition in terms of both features and performance. However, you'll pay a premium price for this small, silent networked drive.

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7.0 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 7

Editors' note: CNET tested the 1TB model in the LinkStation Mini series.

The Buffalo LinkStation Mini is the tiniest dual-drive NAS device you'll find. While it's impressively small, portability probably isn't high up on the list for something you'll have hard-wired to your network. More beneficial to NAS drive shoppers is that fact that its use of 2.5-inch hard drives and well-ventilated enclosure means it's fanless and, thus, nearly silent during operation. And you need not sacrifice performance to gain its small size and silence; its pair of notebook drives kept up with the 3.5-inch competition. The LinkStation Mini features DLNA and print servers along with a Web access feature, which took a little finagling in our case to enable. At $699 for the 1TB model, you are paying a premium for its small size and operational silence over larger NAS drives such as the Synology Disk Station DS-107+ or Buffalo's LinkStation Live. Given that you can purchase a 500GB 3.5-inch internal drive for less than $100 these days, the empty D-Link DNS-323 two-bay enclosure presents an even more affordable route to network attached storage if desk or shelf space isn't at a premium.

Setup and design
The Buffalo LinkStation Mini is smaller than many single-drive NAS solutions. It measures 3.2 inches wide by 5.3 inches long by 1.6 inches high. Vents run along the sides and back of the black, plastic shell. On the front, a LinkStation logo glows blue next to a green LED light, which tells you that the drive is working powered on and connected to your network, respectively. On the back resides a Gigabit Ethernet port, the power connector and power switch, and a USB port. The power switch can be set to on, off, or auto. Auto means the drive will power down when your last networked PC with the bundled Navigator application does so and power back on when such a PC is turned on.

A mysterious Function button sits on the right side of the drive. It serves no purpose currently; Buffalo tells us it's for feature additions to be delivered via firmware update.

Setup has you connect the drive to a power outlet (the power brick is tiny), to your router with the included Ethernet cable, and then install Buffalo's NAS Navigator app. We installed the bundled NAS Navigator application on both Macs and PCs on our network (the LinkStation Mini using the Linux-based XFS file system), and each was able to read and write to the LinkStation Mini. The application lets you see the shared network volume and basic network information including remaining drive space. By default, the drive is configured in RAID 0, but with just a few clicks on the LinkStation Mini's straightforward Web application you can mirror the two volumes in a RAID 1 configuration. With RAID 1, the 1TB LinkStation Mini serves up 458.1GB of drive space.

The Web application--accessed by right-clicking on the drive icon in the NAS Navigator application--also lets you set access restrictions, granting read/write access to groups or individual users. You can also enable the media and print servers as well as set up Web access and scheduled backups of your LinkStation to a USB drive.

The only bit of software on the installation CD other than the NAS Navigator application is a 30-day trial of Memeo's backup software.

The LinkStation Mini packs two 500GB laptop drives inside its tiny case. They're currently the largest capacity 2.5-inch drives on the market and were introduced only a few months ago. Hence, they aren't cheap--$200 and higher for each.

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