Articles: Networking

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Exterior Design

At 20 x 12.5 x 8.5 centimeters, the LinkStation Pro Duo is rather small for a dual-disk NAS. The panels of the case are made of dark, almost black, matte plastic. In the right part of the front panel there’s a glossy translucent decorative detail that is used for three system indicators: Power, Function and Info/Error. The indicators are not very bright. Unfortunately, the activity of the HDDs is not indicated. A part of the front panel has to be removed in order to access the disk bays.

The NAS’s single USB port can be found on the back panel, next to the fan grid, LAN port and power connector. The Power button is designed in an unusual way as a 3-way switch with Off, On and Auto positions. A multipurpose button labeled Function can also be seen here. There are two inconspicuous LEDs next to the LAN and power connectors, indicating network activity and voltage, respectively.

The NAS is ventilated by a fan located at its back. There are vent grids in the top of the front panel and in the sides of the case.

Installing or replacing HDDs seems to be easy. You just take off the front panel, lift the lock with one hand and pull the ring with another. However, you may find this difficult to perform at first attempt. It’s good that you don’t have to use any frames and screwdrivers, though.

Hardware Configuration

Like many other peripheral devices, today’s NASes have a minimum of chips due to the general trend towards integration and miniaturization. The PCB of the LinkStation Pro Duo carries an ARM processor Marvell 88F6282 clocked at 1.6 GHz. The amount of system memory is 256 megabytes. A 512KB flash memory chip is used for the OS.

The NAS’s I/O capabilities, namely two SATA ports, Gigabit Ethernet and one USB port, are all serviced by the processor.

The PCB is compact at only 10x10 centimeters. There is an additional card with HDD connectors. They are fastened to the metallic chassis wrapped into the external plastic.

The NAS is cooled by a 50mm fan. While it’s rather hard to dismantle the whole NAS, it is very easy to clean its fan. You just pull out the plastic locks accessible from the outside and reach the fan. The NAS’s processor lacks a heatsink.

Our sample of the NAS is equipped with Samsung HD103SI disks. The NAS manufacturer doesn't limit your choice of HDDs, but it's not very easy to replace the default ones.

According to the official specs, the NAS consumes about 26 watts when working, 7 watts in idle mode and less than 1 watt in standby mode.

Getting Started

Starting the NAS up was made as easy as possible. The preinstalled HDDs are already formatted and configured as RAID0. They have the firmware installed and even contain a couple of predefined shared folders. So, you only have to connect the cables and move the switch into the On position. Then, you enter \\LS-WVLxyz into Windows Explorer where “xyz” are the last three characters of the MAC address you can read from the sticker on the bottom of the NAS. After that you can see an “info” folder with software for the NAS as well as a “share” folder with unrestricted access.

If you enter the same host name into your web-browser’s address bar, you will see the device’s web-interface. The first page has a link to a catalogue of NAS-related documents (user manual, HDD replacement instructions, descriptions of software tools and how to set up internet and mobile access).

Again, you need to have the device’s address for that. If that’s too complex to you, you can launch the installation tool NasNavi2 from the included CD. Taking about 8 megabytes on your hard disk, it can instantly find the NAS on your network, creating a link to it on your desktop, and perform some basic setting up. Some of its setup choices are far from obvious, though. For example, it assigned a static IP address from an unknown subnet for our LinkStation instead of using a dynamic one from the router. This may have been corrected in the newer versions of the utility.

NasNavi2 can also report the current status of the HDDs, connect external disks, set up the NAS’s IP address, and access its web interface.

The NAS’s web-interface is available in several languages and accessible via both HTTP and HTTPS. It is designed in a user-friendly way. Links to the main groups of settings are at the top of the window with a second-level menu below them. On the left there is an informational block with the NAS's name, firmware version, IP address, workgroup and HDD status.

The web-interface pages are generated dynamically and rather slowly, but that’s hardly a problem since you don’t have to change the settings often.

We tested our Buffalo LinkStation Pro Duo with firmware 1.54 (this version adds support for Time Machine in Mac OS X).

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