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Updated 12/8/2008: Updated Cons in At-A-Glance Table

Buffalo DriveStation FlexNet

At a Glance
Product Buffalo DriveStation FlexNet (HD-CE500LU2)
Summary Easy to use, but slow combination NAS / USB External drive
Pros • Very simple to set up and use
Cons • Low performance
• Limited NAS features
• Not expandable

If you're one of the people who wants a NAS that also can serve as an external USB drive, your options are pretty limited. The options have been LaCie's Ethernet Disk mini [reviewed] and Ethernet Big Disk [reviewed] or a few drive enclosures from lesser-known manufacturers. But now Buffalo has decided that this market is worth pursuing, with its DriveStation FlexNet.

The fact that Buffalo has put the FlexNet into its DriveStation External (attached) drive product line signals the basic approach. Where the LaCies are NASes that also directly attach using a funky IP-over-USB mode, the FlexNet is a USB drive that also supports a SMB/CIFS 10/100 LAN connection via a roundabout USB - IDE - SATA bridge. In non-geek speak, this means that NAS performance is low and features are very basic.

Figure 1 shows the FlexNet's front panel. You can connect both USB and Ethernet cables at the same time; you just switch modes using the Mode button.

Front panel controls and indicators

Figure 1: Front panel controls and indicators

Figure 2 shows the backside of the FlexNet with its controls and connectors. Note that the Ethernet port is 10/100 only. You'll see why when I run through the Performance tests.

 

Rear panel controls and indicators

Figure 2: Rear panel controls and indicators

Note that there is no fan, so the FlexNet is very quiet. It draws only 12 W when active and 5 W when the "Eco Management" drive spin-down kicks in after 10 (default), 20, 30 or 60 minutes of idle time.

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