Zyxel's NSA210 is a feature-packed and cheap NAS enclosure, but its sluggish performance counts against it.
1 disk bays, N/A storage supplied, 1x 10/100/1000Mbit/s Ethernet ports
Most inexpensive network attached storage (NAS) devices are fairly basic, limited to just sharing files amongst your networked computers. Zyxel’s NSA210 is cheap for a NAS enclosure (you have to fit your own SATA hard disk), and is filled with features.
Although fitting an internal hard disk sounds tricky, it’s actually very straightforward thanks to the illustrated instructions. Configuring the NSA210 is also uncomplicated thanks to the discovery utility and the web management interface. Although the web interface is a little ungainly and the various options could be more logically organised, tasks such as creating user accounts and assigning them different access permissions to different shared folders are easy enough to accomplish. Usefully, the web interface prompts you to change its password from the easy-to-guess default, increasing security.
The NSA210 can be used to download files over BitTorrent, from a FTP server or website. It can even automatically download content from websites using RSS feeds, such as podcasts. However, the controls are located within the web management interface, which isn’t ideal if you want to give other users on your network access to the download manager, but don’t want them altering other settings.
Photos and videos stored on the NSA210 can also be uploaded automatically to Flickr and YouTube. This generally worked well, although it sometimes had trouble accessing our YouTube account. We had no trouble using it as an iTunes server to share music with other users on our network, which can’t be said for all NAS devices with iTunes servers. We also had no trouble sharing a USB printer or the contents of a USB disk over our network.
The NSA210’s biggest flaw is its sluggish file copying speeds. Large files were written at 12.8MB/s and read at 15.3MB/s. Small files were read at 11.8MB/s and read at 14.4MB/s. Although it’s far from the slowest NAS we’ve seen, it’s around 10MB/s slower than NAS devices which are only a little more expensive.
We suspect this sluggish performance affected the NSA210’s ability to act as an UPnP media server. When used for nothing else, video was streamed smoothly to a network media player. Attempting any other activity – even something as simple as accessing the web interface or copying a small file – instantly resulted in the video stuttering or dropping frames. This is a serious restriction for a multiple user storage device.
Zyxel’s NSA210 is a good value and feature packed NAS enclosure if you can live with its less than ideal performance. If you can’t, Netgear’s Stora is a good alternative. It’s £77 more expensive, but comes with many of the same features, a 1TB disk already fitted with room for another and far faster performance.
|Default file system||ext3|
|Price per gigabyte||N/A|
|3.5in drive bays||1|
|Free 3.5in drive bays||0|
|USB direct access ports (front/rear)||0/0|
|Other USB ports (front/rear)||1/1|
|eSATA ports (front/rear)||0/1|
|Ethernet connection speed||10/100/1000Mbit/s|
|Universal Plug and Play support||no|
|UPnP media server||yes|
|USB disk server||yes|
|Protocols supported||TCP/IP, SMB/CIFS, AFP, FTP, HTTP, NFS|
|Ethernet cable included||yes|
|Additional features||download manager, UPS support, SqueezeCenter server, Flickr and YouTube uploader|
|Power consumption active||12W|
|Warranty||two years RTB|