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Asus has traditionally steered clear of consumer NAS appliances and the WL-700gE represents its first stab at this market. However, it’s more than just a box with a hard disk inside as it combines a router, an integrated four-port Fast Ethernet switch, SPI firewall, wireless access point, web, media and FTP servers, a message board and even facilities for networking USB webcams and adding motion detection.
When it comes to design the WL-700gE is another clinical white plastic box - Apple and Netgear have a lot to answer for. However, it does look good on the desktop and you get a very solid plastic stand for placing it vertically. The appliance is supplied with a 160GB Hitachi Deskstar IDE hard disk installed in a metal tray which can be accessed by flicking back a couple of tabs and removing the lid. Don’t think about changing it for a larger model though as the tray is protected all round by warranty invalidation stickers.
Asus is determined for you to hit the ground running as it provides a complete toolbox of installation and configuration utilities. Its EZSetup Wizard makes light work of initial configuration as you press the EZSetup button on the back of the router, load the utility and watch it search for the appliance. On first contact it sets up wireless access, forces you to choose from WEP or WPA encryption and auto-generates a key. Next up is Internet access where you can pick from an Ethernet enabled cable or ADSL modem, PPPoE, PPTP or static IP addressing. Drive mappings can be added immediately and the appliance is then set up ready for use.
The main logon screen provides four options where you can access the appliance’s configuration interface, browse shares, fire up the personal web site and run the Download Master. The latter looks interesting as it supports HTTP, FTP and BitTorrent downloads to the appliance and can be left running without a PC switched on. It also adds a couple of extra options to the standard HTTP right-click download menu for sending files directly to the appliance. However, the only way we could get it to work was to use the Download Master run from the logon screen and it would occasionally pause for no reason during our FTP download tests.
The appliance provides a web server with a set of predefined pages where you can post messages, display your photo albums and add favourite links. A separate export utility makes light work of adding pictures as it takes all selected images, sends them to the web server and even creates thumbnails for them.
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