Buffalo LinkStation Pro

A chunky looking NAS with macho, 1980s styling, the Buffalo LinkStation Pro is industrial strength in more ways than one. The version we tried stores 250GB on a fast Serial ATA drive, but there are also 300, 400, 500 and 750 GB variations available. Like the SmartDisk, there are USB and Ethernet connectors on the back of the LinkStation Pro so you can use it as an external hard drive or for network storage. There’s no USB-B port for a printer or chained storage device, but there’s a second USB-A port for connecting additional storage.

The LinkStation has its power transformer built in, so there’s no external brick to plug into. The front panel features power, connection, information and error indicators. In fact, as it starts up the unit looks a little like a mini-computer – and that’s essentially what it is. Like the SmartDisk SOHO NAS, the LinkStation was almost silent in operation. The real difference became apparent after installation.

The drive negotiates its own IP address with the DHCP server in your router and it’s ready to go. There was no configuration software for the Mac supplied with the review device – and the specifications on the box don’t mention Mac OS. However, we were able to download a utility from Buffalo that configures the drive for use on a Mac, adding the LinkStation Pro to your Workgroup. A utility called NASNavigator is installed too, enabling you to view the status of the device and search for shared drives. Most configuration settings are accessed through a separate browser control panel. You can manage and maintain the disk, set up shares and add users. You can also reformat the drive to FAT32, if conflicts with other machines on your system demand it.

The main partition is formatted to EXT3 by default; a built-in Samba server enables you to shift huge files between Mac, Windows and Linux powered machines with ease. Combined with the LinkStation Pro’s SATA guts, this makes the drive surprisingly fast. Buffalo claim real speeds of up to 250Mbp/s over a Gigabit LAN.

OUR VERDICT

What the LinkStation Pro offers in performance it lacks in features. There’s FTP access built-in, but no Bonjour connection, print server, HTTP service or media serving capability. What you get is a robust, easy-to-install drive that will make the most of your Mac’s Ethernet connection.

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