In terms of external connectivity, about the only thing missing is eSATA – by no means a common connection on NAS devices at this price point. There are two USB ports, one at the back and one at the front, and a memory-card reader that will take CF, MS, SD/SDHC, xD and MMC, while the Ethernet port is thankfully of the Gigabit variety.
Despite its 176 x 220 resolution, the 1.8in 64,000-colour LCD screen is nice and sharp, and excellent viewing angles mean it’s just as visible from the side as the front. However, though it does offer a few handy features, generally its use is somewhat limited.
Most of the time it shows the Hub’s status, though when importing from external media it will show progress as a percentage, information that’s oddly not made available on your main monitor through the browser-based interface (where all you get is a progress bar). It’s almost as if Linksys is forcing you to look at the Hub’s display just to remind you of why you spent the extra £40 for it and the memory-card reader.
To be fair, using the four-way d-pad and central OK button below the screen you can also access certain functionality and information without needing to turn on a PC at all. You can choose to backup various connected devices and check the usage or remaining capacity of your drives with colour pie-charts to illustrate it. Still, if we were just talking about the LCD screen we’d say the price difference with the 300-series isn’t worth it, but the addition of a card reader just about tips the balance.
Installation of Linksys’ Media Hub is as simple as it gets. After inserting the included DVD, you’re walked through the entire process step by step. Merely hook the Media Hub up to the same network or router as the PCs you want to install it on, and after entering an administrator password, device name and choosing what drive letter you want Windows to map it to, you’re all set.
This is also where you’ll be asked if you want to install NTI’s ShadowTool, a handy backup program that comes with the unit and is preconfigured to backup the contents of your Documents folder every hour – though of course you can set it up to backup any files or folders at your convenience.
Last of all, the installer asks if you want to perform an initial scan, where it can search for compatible media in any number of locations to add to the Hub’s library. This brings us to the main feature that supposedly sets the Media Hub apart from a ‘normal’ NAS box: the browser-based media interface. To run this you’ll need either Windows Vista or XP and at minimum Firefox 2 or Internet Explorer 6.