Last year I wrote a column claiming that NAS appliances would become invaluable consumer products, and it seems that LG agrees with me. Taking pride of place on the LG stand at IFA was the N4B1 NAS, which aims to bring network attached storage to consumers and small business alike, by providing features not offered by more established networking brands.
Although NAS appliances don’t tend to be the most stylish of products, LG has done a good job of making the N4B1 as attractive as possible. In fact this new LG looks better than the TR favourite, ReadyNAS from Netgear, although to be fair, it looks pretty similar.
The big news with the N4B1 is the integrated Blu-ray drive, which not only allows Blu-ray discs to be shared over the network, but also lets the user create images of discs on the appliance and then share them as virtual volumes across the network. How this imaging system will work with copyrighted material is a little vague, but LG did confirm that Blu-ray movies can not be streamed across the network, although it is a feature that’s being considered for future firmware upgrades. Again though, the strict copy protection could prove to be a stumbling block.
There are four hot swappable drive bays in the N4B1, and the device will be sold both populated and unpopulated - with 1TB discs available for under £90 these days, it’s not going to cost a fortune to fill LG’s new box of tricks with 4TB of storage. The N4B1 supports RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5, with the latter being the default. Using RAID 5 with a fully populated box will give you 75 per cent of the total capacity, with complete redundancy. Netgear’s X-Raid still gives it a slight edge, where discs can be swapped out, and capacities changed on the fly, without incurring any downtime. Whether the M4B1 will support a similar system remains to be seen.
LG scores highly when it comes to connections though, with a built-in memory card reader, three USB ports and even an e-SATA port. The card reader will let you dump digital photos direct onto the NAS, while the USB ports will allow for copying data from USB keys or external hard disks. The e-SATA port is a great feature though, which will let you add an external hard disk that can run as fast as the internal ones.
Of course the M4B1 also supports Gigabit Ethernet for lightning fast network access. Oh, and that Blu-ray drive is a writer, so you’ll be able to archive off important data and store it securely. LG couldn’t confirm pricing for the N4B1 yet, but as far as features go, this could be the most versatile NAS appliance to hit the market.