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Buffalo Adds To AirStation Wireless-N Range

Posted by Andrew at 1:00 AM on October 22, 2010

Buffalo Technology has added three new wireless-n (802.11n) products to its AirStation range, including the N-Technology USB 2.0 Adapter, N-Technology 150Mbps router and the Nfiniti Dual-Band Wireless-N Ethernet Converter.

Starting with the AirStation N-Technology USB2 adapter, this is the smallest wireless-n adaptor I’ve seen – it’s more like the little Bluetooth or wireless mouse transmitters – but still manages 150 Mb/s.  It would be perfect if you’ve already got a laptop that only has 11g wi-fi and you want to upgrade.  At just £19.99, it’s a bargain!

And if you want to upgrade your whole wireless network, then you’ll need to take a look at the complementary router, the AirStation N-Technology 150 Mb/s router (RRP £29.99).  Finished in fashionable white, it draws design cues from the Link- and DriveStation range.  There are four 100 Mb/s LAN ethernet ports round the back for hard-wiring.  There’s a further single port for the WAN so note that this is a pure router – there is no modem; ADSL, cable or otherwise.  DHCP, NAT and SPI firewall features are built-in.

Finally, for those devices that have ethernet ports but don’t have wireless-n, then check out the Nfiniti Dual-Band Wireless-N Ethernet Converter. This plugs straight into a power socket and incorporates two ethernet ports for connections to games consoles, DVRs, Blu-ray players and so on.  Unlike the other devices, this converter can transfer data at 300 Mb/s and given that it’s likely to be used for streaming media, this is a good thing.  You’ll be able to pick this up for £39.99.

All the devices above use Buffalo’s AOSS (AirStation One Touch Secure System) which simplifies the process of wirelessly connecting them together.

With luck, GNC will be able to bring you a hands-on review of these in the next few weeks.

Buffalo have also released an application called “WebAccess i” for the Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that allows owners of the Tera- and LinkStation NAS devices to download and upload files across the internet.  It’s available from the iTunes store.  (I’m told that it’s “really cool”, but I haven’t yet been able to test it.)

Buffalo DriveStation Quad Review

Posted by Andrew at 1:00 AM on October 18, 2010

To describe the Buffalo DriveStation Quad as merely an external hard drive would be doing it a considerable injustice and likely to miss the point.  This is an external drive on steroids and with attitude.

To start with, you’d be hard pushed to call it portable.  It’s 14.9 cm wide, 15.4 high, 23.3 cm deep and weighs somewhere in the region of 5.5 kg, so you won’t be just slipping this in your coat pocket to nip round to your friend’s house.  This is no weedy 500 GB unit for some MP3s and photos from a couple of holidays either.  This monster packs four 1 TB Seagate drives – yes, four – giving a total of 4 TB.  And to top it off, there’s an integrated RAID controller to keep your data safe.

On the front there are four LEDs in the centre that indicate the status of each of the internal drives.  There’s also a single power LED on the right.  Round the back there’s both USB2 and eSATA ports.  The USB2 can be used for both data and configuration of the device, whereas the eSATA connection can only be used for data.  If you’re missing an eSATA port, don’t worry, there’s an eSATA bracket in the box that will convert a free internal connection to an external one.  There’s also a simple auto/off switch.

So what’s it like in action?  Let’s take a look.

Installing the DriveStation Quad software was simple.  The main element is the RAID configuration tool which allows you to configure the array in five different ways, including four independent disks, one big disk, RAID 0, RAID 10 and RAID 5.  It’s all very straightforward and the disk(s) are reformatted after array changes.  Frankly, once you’ve decided what kind of array you want and have configured the Quad, you’re done.  Just get on and use it.

The configuration software also allows you to configure email alerts for a variety of conditions, such as out of space or disk failure.

In addition, there’s a bit of extra software including various drivers to “speed up” your PC, a backup utility and a RAM Disk utility.

After playing with Quad under Windows 7 for awhile, I transferred the Quad to my Ubuntu Linux PC and connected it up with eSATA.  There is no RAID configuration utility for Linux, but as it was already configured as a RAID 5 array, I had no difficulty re-formatting it to one of the Linux formats (ext3) before mounting it.

Running a couple of speed tests, I was able to get an average read rate of just under 260 MB/s, which is actually better than spec (235 MB/s).  To test the RAID capability, I removed one of the disks from the array and then copied some files to the remaining disks.  On restoring the disk to the array, a red flashing light appeared on the front indicating the affected disk.  The other three green LEDs flickered away while the array was rebuilt.  Now, it did take a good few hours rebuild the array but I was still able to read and write to the unit during this time.  Brilliant.

When I first got the Quad out of the box, I have to say that I was a bit unsure of its target market.  It’s too big to be portable.  It’s not a NAS for central storage.  It’s a bit much for just backup.  So what’s it for?  In my opinion, this is a additional hard drive for data hungry users.  Remember when articles said you should store your OS on one partition (or drive) and your data on another? Well, this is how you do it – you have your main disk for your OS, you plug this in via eSATA and you’ve got your data on a rock solid RAID5 array.  Would I want one?  Definitely.

Alternatively, you could plug the Quad into a server and boost the storage space available – it’s fully compatible with Microsoft’s Windows Storage Server 2003/2008 – so this would be an attractive way for a small business to easily and quickly upgrade a server with extra disk space.

The full specs on the DriveStation Quad are available from Buffalo’s website and it should be available shortly.  An RRP hadn’t been set at time of writing but I imagine it will be around £400 inc VAT.

Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the review unit.

Buffalo External USB3 Blu-ray Writer Review

Posted by Andrew at 1:00 AM on October 14, 2010

Having won the format wars, Blu-ray is the hi-def standard; USB3 ports are appearing more regularly on motherboards and 3D is definitely flavour of the month.  So it’s not entirely unsurprising that Buffalo has brought out an external drive that brings all three together.

The BR3D-12U3 Blu-ray drive was released back in September and brings together all the latest technologies into a good-looking external drive.  With a USB3 connection, it has 3D playback support for 3D movies and 12x write speed for both single and dual layer disks.  The full technical specs are here and the RRP is £199.

Buffalo kindly lent GNC a drive to test for a couple of weeks and, frankly, I liked it, probably because it matched my PC case.  However, let’s be a bit more objective.

The drive comes in the usual red coloured Buffalo-style box.  Inside, you get the external drive itself, a power supply, a USB3 cable, a quick start guide and a software CD.

The external drive is black and I think it looks good as far as computer peripherals go.  The case is a fairly hard plastic and the top surface has a shiny speckled surface which is attractive.  The other surfaces have a different matt finish which is plainer but not unattractive.  The front panel has a blue LED that lights when reading and writing.  There’s a green power LED at the back that perhaps ought to have been blue as well.

The PSU comes with UK and European plugs and connects into the external drive at the back.  There is no power button.

If you haven’t seen a USB3 cable or connector, you might be a little surprised. The A connector (that’s the bit that plugs into the PC) looks fairly normal, but the B connector (that’s the external drive end) is a bit different – it’s kind of like two connectors piggy-backed on top of each other.

The Buffalo drive was tested on an Ubuntu Linux 10.10 PC and an HP laptop with Windows 7 Home.  Neither of these actually had USB3 ports or 3D graphics cards, so some of the advanced features couldn’t be tried out.  Regardless, this was still a pretty capable drive.

Windows 7

Windows 7 instantly recognised the drive when it was plugged in via USB2 and put a new drive into Computer.  At this stage, any attempts to play a Blu-ray disk were met with errors as there was no media player installed that could decode Blu-ray disks.  Buffalo have helpfully included the ubiquitous CyberLink suite of programs to get round this.

The CyberLink installation went smoothly enough but it could have been clearer.  The laptop already had an older version of the CyberLink software and instead of saying that a previous version was installed, it simply says, “Do you want to uninstall CyberLink Product X”. This is a bit counter intuitive when you are trying to install the software.  Once I’d overcome that hurdle, it was plain sailing, though it takes a good twenty minutes to get everything loaded up.

The CyberLink suite is made up about six different components – one for playing movies, one for working with music, one for video editing, etc.  I tried out the movie player (PowerDVD) and the disk burner (Power2Go)

The Blu-ray films all looked deliciously detailed in comparison to DVDs and the playback was smooth – no problems here at all.  There were a few issues with the main menu, though.  In “Toy Story”, the animated background seemed to display over the menu so it wasn’t possible to see the options.  I was able to play the film by pressing Enter, but you’d have no hope accessing any other content.

The software also has two modes, “Classic” and “Cinema”.  The former plays the film within Windows 7, whereas the latter gives it more of a video player feeling.  The Cinema mode felt much more polished than the Classic with more attractive menus and preferences screens.

The data module (Power2Go) worked as advertised, allowing files to be dragged from the filesystem before being burned to the disk.  Helpfully, it has a thermometer style display showing you how much of your 24GB had been used.  If you’ve used any of these type of tools before, you’ll be right at home.

Apart from the issue with the top menu, the CyberLink suite seemed to work well enough, but it does prompt frequently to register and upgrade (at a cost).

Linux

Buffalo doesn’t provide any Linux software but using the drive with CDs and DVDs was trouble-free anyway.  DVD’s played well in VLC and there were no problems burning to DVD-R or DVD-RW.  Blu-ray disks were seen as data devices as there’s currently no Blu-ray players for Linux (AFAIK).  However, Brasero recognised BD-Rs just fine and wrote to a single layer disk without trouble.

Using dd to copy data from a Blu-ray disk gave an average of around 14 MB/s for 43GB disk.  Don’t forget that the drive was connected via USB2, not USB3.

Conclusion

As I mentioned at the beginning, I really liked the hardware.  However, I felt it was a little let down by the CyberLink Suite – if you are paying the best part of £200 for what is a high-spec device, you want the bells and whistles, not nagged into upgrading.

Regardless, movie playback was sweet, with the detail you expect from Blu-ray and I didn’t see any stuttering in the films I watched.

The recording or writing features worked well too, though I wasn’t able to test the high speed writing, partly because of an absence of USB3 ports but also the fastest media I could get my hands on was only 4x.

Overall, I’d say a solid and good-looking device and if you are in the market for an external Blu-ray writer, it’s definitely worth considering.

Thanks to again to Buffalo for providing the review unit.