If you have a few external hard drives that are full of data and want to quickly share them via your network, the Synology USB Station 2 is for you. This little device gives you a taste of what it's like to have one of Synology's full-featured NAS servers, which generally come with a vast number of features and an incredibly intuitive Web interface to manage them.
Unlike other NAS servers from Synology, however, the USB Station 2 fails where it matters the most: its performance is the slowest among its peers. For a price of around $150, the USB Station 2 is also comparatively expensive. Nonetheless, it's a nice device to have, especially for those who want to be familiar themselves with advanced features in case they want to upgrade to a full-featured Synology NAS server later.
If a USB hard-drive network storage host device is what you need, we'd also recommend the Iomega iConnect.
Design and setup
Fitting right in your hand, the USB Station 2 is one of the smallest USB network storage host devices we've seen. The iConnect, which was the most compact device we'd seen until now, has about a 50 percent larger footprint. Not surprisingly, the Synology has only two USB ports, whereas the iConnect has four.
The number of USB ports translates into how many external hard drives or printers the device can host at a time. With external hard drives offering up to 3TB apiece lately, such as the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk, this means the USB Station 2 can host up to 6TB of storage, which is substantial.
On the front, the little device has three LED status lights that indicate power, the connection, and the hard drive's activities. On the back, are the two USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and the power connector.
Setting it up was rather simple. Like all NAS servers from Synology, the USB Station 2 comes with a CD that contains the Synology Assistant software. Once installed on a connected computer, the software helps detect the NAS server, map share folders onto the network drive, and launch the Web interface, which you can use to further customize the device.
Once an external hard drive is plugged into the NAS' USB port, it will be automatically turned into a public share folder that anybody in the network can access. You can later restrict access by using the device's Web interface.
As the server supports both Mac and PC platforms really well, in order to turn a USB external hard drive into a NAS server all you have to do is plug it into the USB Station 2, connect the station to the network using its Ethernet port, and turn it on. Now it will be automatically detected by both Windows and Mac OSes.
The USB Station 2 doesn't have as many advanced features--such as the Surveillance Station, Photo Station, or the ability to handle RAID configurations--as do full-size NAS servers from Synology, like the DiskStation DS410. Nonetheless it has plenty of other features and also supports Apple's Time Machine.