|At a Glance|
|Product||Belkin Home Base (F5L049)|
|Summary||USB device server that connects via 10/100 Ethernet or 2.4 GHz b/g/N|
|Pros||• Simple setup
• Works with Mac OS and Windows
• Simple photo sharing with Picasa and Flickr
• Built-in media server
|Cons||• Media server has typical DLNA oddities
• Only one client served at a time in Network USB mode
• Slow file serving
• Very basic backup options
With many households now having a wireless network and multiple computers, it only makes sense to share devices. We have reviewed lots of full-featured and powerful NASes. But sometimes all you really need is a simple way to share storage, and possibly a USB printer or scanner.
Belkin's Home Base is a simple four port USB device server that connects to your LAN by either 10/100 Ethernet or 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g/N wireless. USB devices plugged into the Home Base can then be shared on the local network.
Figure 1 shows the FCC photo for the Home Base's board. The photo is too fuzzy to identify all of the devices. But close-ups in the FCC docs show key devices including an Atheros AR9130 400 MHz Wireless Network processor, AR9102 2.4 GHz 2x2 11n radio and AR8012 10/100 Ethernet PHY. I didn't open the case, so couldn't determine how much Samsung RAM or Macronix flash (on the bottom of the board) there is.
Figure 1: Home Base board
While it’s probably easiest to set up the Home Base with a wired Ethernet connection, it also supports WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) to help you easily connect to your secured wireless network. Figure 2 shows the front panel of the Home Base which sports a power indicator, WPS setup button and two wireless status indicators.
Figure 2: Front Panel
Although I did my initial setup using a wired Ethernet connection, I also tested WPS setup, which supports both push button and PIN code methods. I used the push button on the Home Base and clicked on the virtual WPS button on my wireless router’s management interface, and the Home Base correctly negotiated a secure connection to my wireless network.
The instructions state that you should only use a wired connection or a wireless connection – not both. When I checked my router, I understood why. Both the wired and wireless connection share the same MAC address – something I haven’t seen before.
If you plan to share only storage on your network, you don’t really need to install any software. By default, all four USB ports on the Home Base are configured in “NAS” mode. Storage devices plugged into any ports will appear in Windows explorer as shown in Figure 3 or in the Mac OS finder.
Figure 3: Drive mapped on Win 7
Although the specifications for the Home Base don’t include Windows 7 or Snow Leopard (OSX 10.6), I was able to connect to USB drives on both of those platforms. By default, the Home Base appears on the network as Bk-HBxxxxxx where xxxxxx are the last six digits of the Home Base MAC address.
If you plan to share USB printers or other devices or want to take advantage of some of the Home Base’s advanced features, you’ll need to install the Home Base control center. Belkin supplies a cross-platform application that runs both on the PC and the Mac, but requires the installation of Rosetta, Apple’s binary translation software that provides backwards compatibility to Power PC-based legacy Macs.