Zyxel Communications NSA210 2000 GB Network Storage Server Reviews
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Zyxel Communications NSA210 2000 GB Network Storage Server

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No-nonsense compact network storage

Jul 12, 2010 (Updated Sep 20, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Ease of Installation:
  • Ease of Use:

Pros:Compact and inexpensive alternative to its competition.  Simple design and setup.  Energy saving.

Cons:Technical Support may be weak and slow.

The Bottom Line: Recommended as a less inexpensive and more compact alternative to its competitors.  Uses less energy than most other NASs in its class.


Background:
I came across this media server because I was looking for something inexpensive, compact, AND would work as a Logitech Squeezebox server.  I only happened to come across this unit because someone recommended it on a Logitech Squeezebox forum.  Logitech does not seem to endorse or recognize this product.  Logitech recommends the Netgear ReadyNAS Duo, which was a bit too expensive/extravagant for me and way too large.  The Zyxel was offered at half the price (but only accommodates one drive.)
I was looking for a media server (Network Attached Storage or NAS) because I wanted a means to stream my personal music collection over my wireless router, but I didn't want to do it from my PC because I do not leave my PC on all the time.  The NAS is basically like a PC but has a lot less functionality with no attached keyboard and monitor.  NAS for the home is typically used for storing and streaming media, and for backing up files in a centralized fashion.  NASs are usually on all the time but typically use less energy than a PC (mainly because there is no monitor or additional things like a video card.)
Please note that the Zyxel NSA210 does NOT come configured with a hard drive (like most NASs)...you need to add your own.  For the purposes of my review, I added a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Green.

Physical Design:
The design is definitely compact...basically just small enough to encase the hard drive.  There is one power button in the front with all the necessary LED indicators, all intuitively labelled.  The NAS comes with an optional stand to prevent it from tipping; however, I found that the stand comes off easily when knocked...not a big deal.

Physical Setup:
This was the easiest network component that I have ever setup.  The only tool I needed was a coin.  You simply open the case by unscrewing a bolt with a coin, slide your hard drive in...no cable attachments or ribbon alignments involved!  Then, just close the case, attach the power cord and attach the CAT5 to your wireless router.  You are done with the physical setup!

Software setup:
Okay, not as easy as the physical setup but still not bad.  You first install the CD software which will give you a program that will seek out the newly attached NAS on your network (and provide some general status).  Once it is detected, then you can do the actual configuration, which I believe is done through a website on the NAS itself.  Overall, the setup is fairly intuitive.  If you are already familiar with setting up network appliances, it should be fairly easy.  If you are not familiar, you will need to use the manual, which does a fairly good job of walking you through the process.  For U.S. users, be aware that the default settings (time zone) will probably be set for Taiwan...be sure to use more local time servers and set the correct time zone.  Once your setup is complete, you should be able to see the NSA210 appear in "My Network" on your PC.  You are ready to transfer your files or setup a backup routine.  Since I am not using my NAS as a backup device, I will not comment on that process.  (I am a little paranoid of putting my personal files on a server that is accessible via a wireless setup.)  I am mainly using the NAS to stream music (and perhaps photos and videos) to my network appliances such as the Logitech Squeezebox and Wii/Playstation/Xbox.   This NAS has an iTunes server function too, but I have not used it.

Logitech Squeezebox Setup
At first, activating the Logitech Squeezebox Server is not obviously apparent on the interface.  But if you search the index on the documentation, you will learn that it involves downloading a module into your NAS via a "package management" section, which was a very simple process.  Once the module was loaded, the remaining configuration needs to be done on the network appliance (Logitech Squeezebox), which is also very simple.  The only downside (and I believe this is a Logitech design limitation) is that the radio needs to reconfigure itself when the user is toggling between using the internet as a music sounce and using the NAS as a media source...it's about a 1-minute delay for the toggle.  This might be a reason why Logitech does not mention the Zyxel as a compatible NAS for squeezeboxes...but I am not positive.  Apart from this, the streaming is excellent (uninterrupted, with no apparent loss in sound quality or timing.)

Other notable functions:
This NSA does many other things (hosting blogs, file backups, print server, FTP server, "Broadcaching", etc.), but since I am only using it as a media server, I cannot comment on those functions.  For a complete list of what this server can do, please visit Zyxel's website.

But one thing I must comment on is related to why I selected this unit...energy efficiency.  This unit claims to use 85% less power than a typical NAS in its class when it is turned on.  In addition, there are power management tasks where you can specify time ranges when the unit should be on and off.  Finally, the hard drive will turn off if not used within 3 minutes or so.

Weaknesses:
Minor: bootup is a bit slow and it might take a while for your PC to recognize the file directories on the media server. 

Support:
I have the impression that support for this product is generally weak and slow.  I am currently having a problem with updating a squeezebox packet and the solutions only seem to be available on user forums.  This product might only be a suitable match for tech savvy users.

Rebates:
This unit has a rebate offer (~$30) once in a while from Zyxel...watch for it.

Update 9/2010:
After updating a squeezebox add-in (package manager), the download failed (after several re-tries) and I was unable to revert to the older version.  So I was without squeezebox service for about a month.  I read about Zyxel's (lack of) customer service, so I did not bother to contact them.  I decided to wait, hoping that the problem would eventually resolve itself.  Sure enough, when the next update came a few weeks later, the add-in downloaded without problems and I have squeezebox service restored.


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 90
Driver Availability: Windows only

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