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With a few trendsetting exceptions (like the original Apple iPhone), technology evolves to keep up with consumer demand. Where multimedia content is concerned, these demands are pretty high: the discerning techie these days wants a device that can stream all kinds of content throughout the house from central storage without needing to turn on a PC. Linksys feels it might have the answer with its new Media Hub NMH405, offering NAS functionality, RAID SATA storage and a memory card reader, multimedia playback and a colour LCD screen.
Linksys (a division of Cisco) has made its Media Hub available in several different versions. The cheaper 300 series come without the LCD display or memory card reader and include a ‘bare' model without pre-installed drive. This makes a lot of sense, especially since the biggest drive any of the Media Hubs come with is 1TB (1,000GB) - enough for most needs, but others may disagree.
Unfortunately, you can't get the high-end 400 series without a preinstalled drive, so your choices are limited to the 500GB NMH405 (the model under review here) or 1TB NMH410, both of which come with quiet and thrifty Western Digital Green hard drives. However, since all the Media Hubs are dual-bay you can always add an extra 3.5in drive, bringing the maximum capacity up to a more respectable 2TB in RAID1 (the only available RAID configuration on the Media Hubs, giving you 1TB of ‘mirrored' storage) or full 3TB in unsecure JBOD.
Though drives aren't hot-swappable, installing and replacing them is easy. The NMH405's top comes off with a single press of a button, after which you can simply slide out the plastic drive trays. HDDs need to be attached using four screws and Linksys has been thoughtful enough to provide pre-mounted rubber grommets to reduce noise and vibration. Despite the small 60mm fan at the back, the Media Hub is very quiet indeed during operation and stays nicely cool even after hours of use.
Linksys' Media Hub is fairly attractive too, though its looks don't quite live up to the £250 price tag. It measures a compact 198 x 111 x 168mm and is relatively light at 2.1kg with a single hard drive installed. Build quality is solid, with no sign of flex, creak or give in the plastic outer chassis surrounding the inner metal frame.
Most of the case is a sensible matte black, with a slightly-recessed piano-black section containing the top HDD-access panel, front connections and controls plus the screen. When turned on, the power button is nicely backlit in blue.