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Buffalo LinkStation Duo

At a Glance
Product Buffalo LinkStation Duo (LS-WX1.0TL/R1)
Summary Marvell Kirkwood-based dual-drive home / SOHO NAS with media servers, BitTorrent downloader and remote, secure web access.
Pros • LAMP webserver
• Secure, hosted remote access
• Media and print servers
Cons • Slow for a Kirkwood NAS
• Slow USB backup
• No non-Buffalo rsync support for network backup
• Only one USB port

The LinkStation Duo is Buffalo's attempt to produce a more affordable dual-drive NAS than its TeraStation Duo. Although it has a pretty good feature set, unfortunately, I think Buffalo left too much performance on the cutting-room floor.

The Link Duo introduces a new enclosure that gets many things right. While not as compact as the LinkStation Mini, which uses 2.5" SATA drives, the Link Duo is about as small as you can get for a dual 3.5" SATA drive NAS. The matte black (thank you, Buffalo, for not creating yet another glossy black fingerprint magnet!) plastic case is wrapped around a metal chassis.

Figure 1 shows the two drives that are easily accessible by simply sliding off the front cover. This makes the drives easy to get to when they fail, although they are not hot-swappable.

LinkStation Duo with covers removed

Figure 1: LinkStation Duo with covers removed

And speaking of drive swapping, the Link Duo doesn't have the ability to start naked and let you add your own drives. This is because part of the OS is on the drives and can't be loaded from flash.

You can, however, remove a single drive, replace it with a larger one, let the array rebuild and then repeat the process for the first drive. But Buffalo tells me that this is "not a supported configuration". So you might want to wait until the Duo's one year warranty period expires before trying this.

Figure 2 shows the front and rear panels with all indicators and ports explained. Note that there is only one USB 2.0 port, no eSATA ports and USB hubs are not supported. The single 10/100/1000 Ethernet port supports up to 9K jumbo frames.

Front and rear panels
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: Front and rear panels

The power switch is the three-way Off / On / Auto type that Buffalo puts on all its NASes, which requires you to run their NAS Navigator app in order to have the NAS automatically go to sleep when you shut off your computer. I wish they'd dump this "feature" and instead add the much more useful idle drive spindown like everyone else. Fortunately, Buffalo has included the ability to set three sleep / wake schedules for power management.

The Link Duo drew 13 W and was very quiet with only a slight bit of fan noise audible in a quiet room and no drive noise.

Internal Details

Unlike many of Buffalo's smaller NASes, it was relatively easy to get to the board. Figure 3 shows the compact board, which mates with a separate small drive backplane mounted to the chassis.

The Link Duo uses the popular Marvell 88F6281 Kirkwood processor mated with only 128 MB of RAM and 256 MB of flash. A Marvell 88E1118 provides the single Ethernet LAN port. Note the empty spaces on the board for a second LAN port, which Buffalo apparently decided not to include.

LinkStation Duo board
Click to enlarge image

Figure 3: LinkStation Duo board

The Kirkwood is also used in the LinkStation Pro LS-XHL, which was a chart-topper for single drive NASes not too long ago. But where the LS-XHL uses a 1.2 GHz Kirkwood, Buffalo opted for a less expensive 600 MHz version for the Duo, which unfortunately results in significantly lower performance.

Two Samsung HD502HI EcoGreen F2 500 GB drives came in the 1 TB version that Buffalo sent for review. You can also get the Link Duo in 2 and 3 TB versions or a single-drive 1 TB flavor. Like other Buffalo NASes, the drives are XFS-formatted.

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