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Wi-Fi Router Charts

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Mesh System Charts

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Wireless

Although wireless connectivity is one of the iConnect's claims to fame, the function is somewhat buried. Among all those pretty blue lights on the iConnect, there isn't one to show wireless connection or activity. This proved to be a problem during my testing, since I had inadvertently left the wireless connection active while running performance tests via what I thought was only the Gigabit Ethernet port.

The wired and wireless connections each get their own IP addresses so the dual connections don't cause network storms, i.e. all lights on your LAN's switch blinking wildly. But the dual connections did slow down the performance test results significantly. I didn't discover the dual connections until after I'd completed the testing, so I had to re-test. A wireless link / activity indicator sure would have saved a lot of hassle.

The wireless settings are buried in Settings > Network Services > Network Settings, which brings you to the screen shown in Figure 9 where the wireless connection hasn't been enabled.

Wired and wireless network settings

Figure 9: Wired and wireless network settings

Figure 10 shows the screen you get when you enable wireless networking and a network has been found. Note there is no wireless security mode information shown (WEP, WPA, WPA2).

Connecting to a wireless network

Figure 10: Connecting to a wireless network

The Select Network dropdown has an Add Network option that allows entry of an SSID, Security Mode and password. Once you're connected to a network, you'll see its IP in the screen shown in Figure 9. You can then click on the little link under the Network ID to bring up more information about the connection (Figure 11), which is the only wireless status information available.

Wireless network status

Figure 11: Wireless network status

Once connected, there is no way to forget networks, or reorder their priority. So while these wireless controls will get they job done, they ain't pretty.

Performance

As with other simple "NAS" products, I didn't run our iozone-based tests on the iConnect and instead just ran the Vista SP1 filecopy (described here). I used an Iomega Ultramax Pro [reviewed] with the two drives configured in a RAID 0 volume and ran tests with the volume formatted in FAT 32 and also in NTFS.

Drive Format Write
(MB/s)
Read
(MB/s)
FAT32 17.38 23.15
NTFS 8.47 23.22

Table 1: Vista SP1 file copy test summary

Table 1 clearly shows that using NTFS formatted drives will cost you dearly in throughput for writes. But reads are about as fast as you can get using a USB 2.0 drive using either format. The reduced NTFS performance is pretty common and also seen in embedded router NAS functions like that on the NETGEAR WNDR3700. Unfortunately, FAT is long in the tooth and limits maximum file size and drive size. So you're forced into a not-so-great tradeoff. I'd expect that using an EXT3 formatted drive would produce results similar to those I got with FAT32, but I didn't test that format or HFS+. Note that there is no built-in format function, so you need to format drives before plugging them into the iConnect.

I started to run some throughput tests using the wireless connection only. But since my retesting already delayed this review by a day, I quit after the 4.35 GB test folder took 45 minutes to copy (throughput ~ 1.6 MB/s) and didn't wait for the read test to complete. For this test, the iConnect was located in my office and the router in the location described below. (The iConnect wireless status showed "Medium signal" strength.)

I also ran a quick range test by moving the iConnect to Locations D and E (described here). I ran the test using my house router, which is currently a NETGEAR WNDR3700. This router sits in a more central location (the wall between the Laundry and Utility room shown here and I have no problem getting a 2.4 GHz band connection in either location with my iPod Touch or any of my notebooks.

The iConnect was able to connect in Location D (showing a very weak signal), but not Location E. I didn't bother running throughput tests in either Location, since I know they would have bordered on unusable. Keep in mind that even 60 Mbps of wireless bandwidth from a single-stream N, 40 MHz mode connection would yield only around 7 MB/s maximum file transfer speed. So if you're expecting to get large files moved around in any reasonable amount of time, you shouldn't be using a wireless connection with any NAS.

Closing Thoughts

For around $100, the iConnect can get your USB drives onto your network and perform some nice tricks with them including making media files available via UPnP AV / DLNA and iTunes, letting you view slideshows from your web browser and automatically downloading Torrents. And it will even share your USB printer if you're lucky (and it's not a multifunction printer).

But, for me, the iConnect's main attraction is its network copy features, which are rivaled only by much more expensive NETGEAR ReadyNASes or Iomega's own ix2-200 and ix4-200d. If you're not a fan of running backup clients on your computers, that feature alone can be worth the iConnect's rather modest price.

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