|LaCie Ethernet Disk mini|
|Summary||10/100 NAS that doubles as a USB external drive|
|Pros||• Can be used as either a NAS or an external USB drive
• Easy to use and set up
• Attractive case
|Cons||• Few advanced features
• Lackluster perfomance
Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are a hot item these days, since with the popularity of digital media such as photographs, music and video, people are finding a need for extra storage space. NAS devices are convenient in that you can just plug them into your home network off in the corner somewhere, mount them remotely from your computer and then use them like any other drive.
The downside, however, is speed. If you need to back up a few dozen gigabytes of your home directory, or you need to do video editing with a lot of disk access on large files, then you might wonder if an external USB 2.0 or FireWire attached drive would be a better choice.
But what if you had the best of both worlds? What if for everyday use you could use the NAS on your 100 Mbps network, but when you had an occasional heavy-duty task, you could directly plug the same device into your high-speed 480 Mbps USB 2.0 port ?
That's the approach taken by the LaCie Ethernet Disk mini. It's a NAS, but it also doubles as a USB 2.0 attached external drive when you need the extra performance.
When I first received my mini, it appeared the same as other NAS I've looked at. The box proclaimed it was a 250 GB Network Storage device with 10/100 Ethernet and USB 2.0. Typically, this means you'll plug the device into your network and then use the USB port to share an additional disk, a USB thumb-drive or a printer.
As I opened up the box I found a heavy-duty aluminum case with attractive, industrial-type styling that is typical of the other LaCie disks I've used. The box was taller than it was high, indicating that the internal drive was likely oriented on its end rather than on its side. The front of the device sported a blue LED that doubled as an on/off switch. On the back, along with a power-connector, there was a fan vent, an Ethernet port and a USB 2.0 port. Software-wise, along with installation code, a copy of the MacOS-only Silverkeeper backup utility was provided for the automation of backups to the mini.
Figure 1: Back panel
The client-type USB port alerted me to the fact that the mini was different from other NAS I've tested. A quick check of the Quick Install guide informed me that the mini can be used either a NAS device or a USB external drive (only one at a time). If the mini detects a powered USB cable plugged in, it switches to USB mode to act as an external drive. Otherwise, it expects to function as a NAS via its 10/100 Ethernet port.