Manufacturer:Zyxel UK Price (as reviewed):£59.00 (inc VAT) US Price (as reviewed): N/A
NAS boxes are yet another device that looks set to eat into PC retail sales, vying amongst all the other gadgets out there that claim to be able to do what a PC does, only quicker, easier or with less hassle. The current crop of NAS boxes are basically mini, low-power PCs to begin with, though, but with the advantage that they've been designed from the ground up to run as autonomously and discretely as possible, focussing on a select number of tasks.
Being a single-bay NAS box, the NSA310 isn't vying for a fight with the RAID or iSCSI-touting dual bay monsters we've looked at recently, such as Synology's DS211+. In fact it supports neither of these things (strictly speaking it does support RAID 1 if you hook up a second hard disk to the external eSATA port), so unless you have your data backed up elsewhere, this isn't a device that offers anything in the way of redundancy.
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Features-wise, it's pretty thin on the ground in general compared to more expensive models - the enclosure itself doesn't look particularly new or innovative and is equipped with the usual tiny cooling fan we're used to on these type of products. The insides are pretty spartan too, and in terms of other features, there's no USB 3, Dual LAN, multitasking OS-style user interface, surveillance support, WiFi dongle support or compatibility with online cloud backup services.
In terms of specification, though, the NSA310 isn't entirely lacking. A 1.2GHz Marvell Kirkwood CPU combined with 256MB DDR2 memory should suffice for dealing with what the unit is apparently built for - streaming your videos, music and photos over your network.
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The NSA310 is akin to a media streamer, with separate user interfaces which allow you to view photos and videos within a web app in your browser. That's where the similarity ends though - there no WDTV-style link in with your TV for example, only the usual DLNA and UPnP support.
More on these features in second, but it's clear from the outset that this is where Zyxel has spend most of its time with the NSA310. In the way of external ports, there's front and rear USB 2 ports and a rear eSATA port. The former support USB flash drives, memory card readers and external hard disks.
The USB copy button on the front of the device is fully configurable in the NSA310's interface, allowing you to upload certain files to certain locations automatically. The eSATA port isn't anything special, other than you're able to link an external hard disk and the internal one in RAID 1, as previously mentioned.
Setting up the NSA310 is relatively simple, using the included software which, once installed, hunts for the NAS on your network and provides a menu system outside the device for you to configure or activate certain features. This was a little unintuitive, as you'll need to create a volume before you can do do anything else, yet there's nothing pointing you in the right direction, which might confuse the NAS noobs out there.
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Once you figure this out, the rest is straightforward and creating and sharing a volume on our 1TB hard disk took less than five minutes, after which you're able to create several different user accounts for other people to access the NAS through the main interface.
Local connections Front: USB 2, Rear: USB 2, eSATA
Network connections 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
Storage Up to 1 x 3TB hard disk (not included)
Cables 2m Cat 5 Ethernet,
Wireless security N/A
Features FTP server, webserver, photo server, video server, independent download (via HTTP, FTP and BitTorrent), iTunes and UPnP media sever, DLNA, print server, storage server for external USB hard disks