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Network Storage: Three NAS Units Rounded Up

Promise NS2300N

With its NS3200N, Promise delivers a compact NAS device well-suited for home networking use. The workmanship on the plastic enclosure is decent and reasonably attractive. While the design is plain, it's still easy on the eyes. The built-in 80 mm fan runs only at a fixed setting of 2,400 RPM, but is not disturbingly loud.

The administrative interface for the NS2300n is Web-based, with excellent menu organization highlighted by mostly self-explanatory entries and options. It's also available in 10 major languages, including English, of course.

The only negative in our overall evaluation of the NS2300N comes by comparison with the other NAS devices we examined--it offers much lower network throughput overall. But to offset this behavior, it also consumes much less power (12 W in sleep mode) and is very inexpensive (under $170).

Qnap TS-509 Pro

Qnap brings the old motto "if you're going to do something, you might as well do it right" to mind. The decision to outfit the TS-509 Pro with an Intel Celeron M420 CPU and 1 GB of RAM was a good one; the hardware helps enhance performance, which can be clearly felt when it comes to measuring network throughput. This device delivered the best results overall, and earned the top spot in nearly all our benchmarks, leaving the other NAS devices well behind. In addition, the TS-509 Pro also offers a wide range of services and capabilities, which should make it attractive for small businesses as well as enthusiast users.

The tradeoffs are twofold: overall cost and power consumption. The TS-509 Pro really sucks up the juice and ignores the credo that NAS devices should consume less power than PCs do.

Co-World ShareDisk Pro 400

With its ShareDisk Pro 400, Co-World offers a high-performance device. But in this rarefied atmosphere, purchase costs weigh heavily. These come in at over $1,200, not to mention prices on the hard disks to populate its four hot-swappable drive bays.

For their money, buyers obtain a speedy storage subsystem that offers some advantages over conventional NAS devices. Although it works across the network, the ShareDisk Pro 400's NDAS technologies makes it look and act like a local hard disk on the systems to which it is attached. This lets them decide what file system to use on the device and even permits them to use aliasing to access various files across the network. They can also attach this device directly to a single PC using either eSATA or USB, where it is clearly the most flexible storage device we've tested so far.

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