Zyxel NSA221 review
Zyxel is better known for its range of routers than it is for network storage, but the NSA221 is actually the latest in the company's long line of network attached storage (NAS) devices. We had high hopes for the NSA221, especially as Zyxel's previous models have fallen behind the competition in terms of performance and value.
At just under £130, the NSA221 is surprisingly affordable for a NAS with two drive bays and RAID support. Since it's an enclosure, you'll have to provide your own SATA hard disks. Installation is straightforward. The disk bays are hidden behind an easily removable front panel. The included carriers need to be screwed to the sides of each disk before they can be inserted. Unfortunately, it's not clear from the poorly illustrated manual which way up the carriers should be fitted but it's easy enough to figure out with some common sense.
Configuring the NSA221 is straightforward thanks to the logically organised web management interface. Although it initially looks identical to the management interfaces of previous Zyxel NAS devices, it has been streamlined in places. For example, when creating a shared folder, access permissions to that folder can be set without having to go to a separate screen. Similarly, new user accounts can be organised into groups as they're created without having to use a separate set of controls.
Like many other NAS devices, the NSA221 can be used to share a USB printer and the contents of a USB disk across your network. It can also be used as a UPnP media server and as an iTunes music server. Shared media can be browsed and enjoyed through a web interface, although you may the appropriate browser plug-ins to play them depending on which file formats you use. The interface often felt sluggish though, especially when trying to play large movie files or browse through folders full of hundreds of images. Using Windows Explorer was much smoother and trouble-free.
The download manager lets you download files over BitTorrent or from a website or FTP site without the aid of a computer. Unfortunately, the download interface is only accessible to users with an administrator password which would also give them access to the rest of the management interface.
There's also an upload manager that can automatically upload photos and videos from designated folders to Flickr and YouTube, but the NSA221 can only store one set of account details for each service at a time. If multiple users want to upload files to their own accounts, you'll need to frequently alter the NSA221's settings which would be tedious.
File copying performance isn't unuseably slow, but we were expecting faster speeds in a NAS at this price. We used two identical 250GB Hitachi Deskstar disks. Whether configured as RAID 0 or RAID 1, large files were copied at around 12MB/s and small files were copied at around 7MB/s.
Zyxel's NSA221 isn't an awful NAS - if you want RAID support on a budget, then its low price is certainly tempting. You'll have to put up with sluggish performance and some clumsily implemented extra features. If you don't need RAID, we'd rather have the Synology DS110j which is far faster at copying files. If you do want RAID, the cheaper Netgear Stora is better value.
NSA221 now better value
1. 1TB Stora = $179 USD, empty NSA221 = $89 USD. Add your favorite 1TB drive to is and you're still well under Stora pricing.
2. Stora firmware is garbage/buggy. Unfortunately, you cannot learn everything about a device in a review, but only as a customer and using it day to day over some extended period of time.
3. NSA221 feature set is significantly richer than what Stora provides.
4. I've had Stora for 6 months and am moving to the NSA221 because it is not a quality product. When I entrust my data to a device like this, beyond anything else "featured" I expect it to perform its most basic function of protecting my data, providing near perfect uptime and reliability, and the Stora has proven it cannot do even that.
The fact that the Stora was cheaper only made it a better "value" from a price perspective - which it no longer commands. As a NAS device, the Stora is not a quality product, so assuming the NSA221 does what it is supposed to, then the Stora isn't even something which should be a comparison.
By rsinj on 26 Dec 2010
Having purchased on of these i now have the problem that not all music files display in the correct folders. i have multilpe single folders by the same name but containing only one MP3.
My take.....NSA221 is JUNK. dont buy
By Croy55 on 2 Feb 2011
ZyXEL Tech Support
Croy55 we are sorry to hear you are having problems with your NSA221. Have you tried calling the UK-based tech support team on 0845 122 0301, they should be able to help you.
By zyxel_uk on 14 Mar 2011
Existing data drive Insertion
I am moving from another NAS to the Zyxel NSA221. The existing hard drives have data already on them. Will my data be lost or will Zyxel recognize the volume?
By doodahddy on 8 Sep 2011
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