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|At a Glance|
|Summary||Flexible but slow NAS device that doubles as an external USB 2.0 drive|
|Pros|| Both a NAS and an external USB disk
Accepts IDE or SATA 3.5" drives
Built-in UPnP AV Server and BitTorrent download client
No Backup Software included
I've been using Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices on my home network for a couple of years now and I really like them. I can stick one of these off in the basement or a closet where it's out of the way. They give me the ability to add massive amounts of storage; they're quiet, flexible and generally handy.
But what they are not is fast. Even the quickest consumer-level NAS pales in comparison to an external drive for raw speed. When you want to move tens of gigabytes around, a NAS gets old fast. Normally, you get a NAS or you get an external drive, but in this review, I'm going to try out an inexpensive NAS device from Coolmax that can be either. For casual use it can be used as a NAS, but when you need an extra burst of speed, you can hook it up as an external USB 2.0 drive.
As consumer-level NAS devices go, Coolmax's CN-570 has a fairly large and heavy case with a bit of a clunky feel. The body of the case is constructed of thick aluminum with plastic caps on the ends. The front of the unit is unadorned except for a status LED.
The CN-570 is a Bring-Your-Own disk box, so when I opened the case up to install my drive, I was a bit surprised to find no disk mounting brackets. Instead the drive gets screwed directly to a slide-in tray that contains the main circuit board. I also noted that there was a lot of dead space in the box as if it were originally designed for another purpose.
On the mainboard of the unit, there were connectors for installing either an IDE or a SATA 3.5" drive. This is the first unit I've tested that supports both and it's a nice feature. In my case, I grabbed an IDE drive I had on hand, screwed it in and slid the tray back into place. Figure 1, from the Coolmax manual, shows the back of the unit with the various connectors labeled.
Figure 1: CN-570 Back Panel
Gigabit LAN ports are starting to become common on these units, but the 570 is 10/100 only. And to be fair, my tests have shown that a gigabit port is overkill for most consumer-level NAS boxes. Many times the internal CPU in these devices just can't keep up with a gigabit LAN.
Also note the presence of host and device USB connectors. When the CN-570 is used as a network device, external USB disk, flash drives or a printer can be plugged in and made available across the network. Note also that there is a fan vent, but when I plugged everything in and powered it up, I found the unit to be fairly quiet. Perhaps one benefit of using a large case is that a larger fan can be used.
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