So, how do you review a piece of kit like this? Much the same way I reviewed the last few NAS drives, testing out their features.
This includes trying out:
- Download Station
- Music Station
- File Station
While you can hook the USB Station 2 straight to your network via an ethernet cable, or wirelessly if you use an adapter, I decided to do things differently (as I didn’t want cable through my house) so it was hooked up via ethernet to my work PC, which is wirelessly connected to the network. These connections were bridged, and off we go.
The first thing you need do to use your new USB Station is install the software. The only thing you need is the Assistant found on the bundled CD. All this allows you to do is easily connect to the device. It can be done via the browser too by entering the IP address followed by a colon and the default port.
Once you’re connected, you have to login. There’s a default setup for this explained in the manual, so one of the first suggested things with the intro wizard is setting up a new user. You can also designate the name of any USB storage options that are plugged into the USB Station.
One of the things you’ll notice right off the bat though is how nice the UI is. It’s very OS like, with the important icons on the left, which expand open to give you more options.
The top left menu is a drop down that gives you quick access to admin controls (if you’re logged in as such), while the control panels holds a link to pretty much everything you can do as part of the DS 3 software.
There are basic setup options, all of which can be found in other Synology NAS drives. However, those that are more used to the full features of those will notice the missing Surveillance station. You do however still get the iTunes, Media server, Audio Station, Download Station and File station.
The File station is simply a file manager for your attached drives. However, this being a network device, it also lets you move files around among any workgrouped computers within reach. It’s a little unnecessary in some ways since likely you’ll be accessing this from a computer on the network anyway, but if you wern’t or if you were using one that wasn’t workgrouped in, it could save you some hastle.
NB. File names removed because they were completely legally downloaded…
The audio station is a pretty solid music player that lets you listen to music found on the attached storage you plug into the USB Station. It has the typical features of Windows Media player or the like with pause, skip, stop and volume controls. There’s also the option of istening to online radio stations and listing the tracks by Artist, album, genre etc.
The download station is something that will appeal to many I would think. It enables the use of rapidshare and similar downloads along with torrents and emule. The latter must be enabled along with the Download Station istself, though you must comply with download laws. Don’t we all?
The download manager isn’t the easiest to use as you still need to either download the torrent files directly, and then add them to the manager, or copy the torrent download links and then paste them into the form. It is however an easy way of having downloads run by themselves without your main PC needing to be on; as long as you have space on the attached storage.
Within the options menu there are a tonne of adjustable settings, showing that you can use any accounts you might have on rapidshare, megaupload or similar by inputting your login information and connecting through the download manager.
One issue I did have with this manager is that no matter how I formatted the settings, I could never get a very strong download speed. Even with a wireless connection, my desktop never struggles to get several hundred KB/s speeds in utorrent or with browser downloads, why not the USB station?
Another feature that Xbox or PS3 users might like is that the USB Station 2 can also be used as a DLNA server which makes it possible to steam videos, images and music to your console. This is of course doable with full NAS servers like Synology’s larger, more expensive offerings, but by attaching your own drive you can do most of these things with a smaller form factor and less expenditure.
NB. Not being an iTunes user, I’m afraid I can’t attest to the usefullness of that portion of the USB Station.
While this is nothinig new to people that have network capable printers, as many of them are, those without might find this feature quite useful. You’ll need to plug your printer in two one of the two available USB ports – most likely the one remaining as you’ll have a drive in the other – and install default drivers through Windows’ driver finder, but after that, it’s simply a case of selecting the networked printer as your default option and away you go.