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Introduction

ASUS 802.11g 54 Mbps WLAN Hard Drive Box

ASUS 802.11g 54 Mbps WLAN Hard Drive Box (WL-HDD 2.5)
Summary Compact 2.5 inch drive enclosure that provides Ethernet and 802.11g wireless NAS features. Functions as AP or wireless client. Includes DHCP and FTP servers
Update None
Pros • Compact and portable
• Both Ethernet and wireless network connection
• Good wireless performance
• WDS-based bridging / repeating
Cons • User interface needs work, especially NAS features
• Slow write, slower read performance
• Can't shut off radio
• 2.5 inch drives limit capacity, raise cost

Consumer-priced NAS devices are springing up like dandelions in spring and manufacturers are busy trying to differentiate their products before the eventual commoditization sets in. ASUS has once again taken a slightly different path than its better-known networking competitors with its WL-HDD 2.5.

Instead of a diskless Samba-based box like Linksys' NSLU2, or a NAS like Buffalo's Linkstation, the WL-HDD is more like Buffalo's Kuro Box, but without the hackability, with a built-in 802.11g access point and in a much smaller box (Figure 1).

Smaller than a soon-to-be-obsolete VHS tape

Figure 1: Smaller than a soon-to-be-obsolete VHS tape
(click image to enlarge)

The WL-HDD is about the most flexible NAS product that I've come across in its connectivity options, both wired and wireless. In a nutshell, about the only thing it doesn't do is share an Internet connection. But otherwise it can connect to an existing non-WDS wireless network, bridge or extend (repeat) a WDS-based one, or form the core of a new WLAN.

It's also perfectly happy not having a drive installed, and being used just as an AP, although that sort of defeats one of its main selling points. On the flip side, you can also use it as just an Ethernet-based NAS. But since you can't shut off the radio, I recommend you remove the antenna, enable hiding the SSID and set the Wireless Access control to Accept with no entries.

ASUS has also thrown in a few other twists that I'll get to shortly, and the result is quite unique among a growing field of NAS devices.

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