Zyxel's NSA-220Plus is packed full of features and keenly-priced, but its sluggish performance limits its usefulness.
2 disk bays, N/A storage supplied, 1x 10/100/1000Mbit/s Ethernet ports
At under £140, Zyxel’s NSA-220Plus is surprisingly affordable for a NAS enclosure that can take two hard disks. The backplate is held in place by a pair of thumbscrews. Removing it reveals a pair of disk trays – each one holds a SATA hard disk in place by a set of screws. It sounds more complicated than it is – fitting a pair of disks takes less than 10 minutes.
The discovery utility and web management interface make configuring the NSA-220Plus straightforward. Although the web interface is a little ungainly and the options could be more logically organised, tasks such as creating user accounts and assigning them different access permissions to different shared folders is uncomplicated. The web interface even prompts you to change its password from the default one to improve security.
The NSA-220Plus can download files over BitTorrent or from an FTP server or website. It can even automatically download content such as podcasts from websites using RSS feeds. However, the controls for this are within the web management interface. This isn’t ideal if you want to give other users to the download manager, but don’t want them altering other settings.
Photos and videos stored on the NSA-220Plus can be also be uploaded automatically to Flickr and YouTube. This generally worked well, although it sometimes had trouble accessing our YouTube account. Sharing a USB printer or the contents of a USB disk over our network worked flawlessly, but it wouldn’t stream music as an iTunes server though, unless we set a password. Pressing the copy button automatically backs up the contents of a USB disk plugged into the front USB port.
With two disks fitted, the NSA-220Plus supports both RAID 0 and 1. Unfortunately, no matter which RAID level we chose, it was one of the slowest NAS boxes we’ve seen. In RAID 0, it wrote large files at 9.4MB/s and read them at 5.6MB/s. Small file were written at 6.4MB/s and read at 7.2MB/s. Under RAID 1, large files were written at 8.1MB/s and read at a slightly quicker 11.6MB/s. Small files were written at 5.2MB/s and read at 6.6MB/s. Transferring large amounts of data is therefore painfully slow.
We suspect this poor performance is at least partially due to the bizarre internal circuitry where the SATA disks are connected to the NSA-220Plus’s motherboard using a SATA-to-PATA adapter card. We also suspect that the poor speeds affected the NSA-220Plus’s ability to act as a UPnP media server. When we used it for nothing else, it streamed video smoothly to a network media player. Attempting any other activity – even copying a small file – made the video stutter or drop frames. This is a serious flaw in a multi-user storage device.
We wanted to like Zyxel’s NSA-220Plus as it’s inexpensive and is packed with features. Its poor performance rules it out for anything other than casual use, but if that’s the case, you’re unlikely to want a model with RAID capabilities. Synology’s DS110j may only have space for a single disk, but its superior performance, slicker web configuration interface and lower price make it a far better NAS enclosure for most people.
|Default file system||ext3|
|Price per gigabyte||N/A|
|3.5in drive bays||2|
|Free 3.5in drive bays||0|
|RAID modes||RAID 0, RAID 1|
|USB direct access ports (front/rear)||0/0|
|Other USB ports (front/rear)||0/2|
|eSATA ports (front/rear)||0/0|
|Ethernet connection speed||10/100/1000Mbit/s|
|Universal Plug and Play support||yes|
|UPnP media server||yes|
|USB disk server||yes|
|Protocols supported||TCP/IP, SMB/CIFS, FTP|
|Ethernet cable included||yes|
|Additional features||download manager, UPS support, SqueezeCenter server, FTP, Flickr and YouTube uploader|
|Power consumption idle||21W|
|Power consumption active||23W|