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Features - more

The Home Base also features simple photo sharing to Flickr or Picasa.  To share photos, click on Picture Sharing, add a share, and navigate to the folder that contains the photos you want to share as shown in Figure 8.

Picture Sharing

Figure 8: Picture Sharing

Clicking “Next” gives you the option of choosing Flickr or Picasa.  Enter in your login credentials, and the name of your target album, and you’re ready to upload photos.  I tested this with Picasa, and my entire source directory of images was  uploaded to the appropriate album on Picasa.

Not all functions of the Home Base can be configured in the control center.  Some functions, such as changing the port configuration from “NAS” to Network USB are performed through the web interface.  To get to the Web UI from the control center, you need to click on Tools, Connected Home Bases and Properties.  This seems like a fairly convoluted way to get to the management screen.  Belkin should have at least put another button or tab in the control center that takes you directly to the management screen. 

Once you land on the Home Base management page, there’s really not much to configure.  You can change the network settings, and though with WPS it’s really not necessary, change your wireless security settings.  About the only settings you need to concern yourself with are the settings for the media server and the configuration of the individual USB ports.  Figure 9 shows the configuration of the USB ports and the menu bar on the left side of the screen.

USB Port configuration

Figure 9: USB Port configuration

The Home Base also includes a DLNA media server.  The only configuration options you have are to select which storage devices are to serve as source media for the server.  According to the box specs, the DLNA server should work with the Xbox 360 and the Sony Playstation.  I tried to access the media server using the recently reviewed NETGEAR Digital Entertainer Live, also a DLNA device. 

Unfortunately, I had mixed success.  It found the separate directories that contained the audio, video and images on the Home Base, but only found the photo content.  I was able to play a slide show of photos, but could not play the audio or video.  In fairness, the NETGEAR product wasn’t listed as a supported device. But supposedly it, too, is DLNA compliant.

Performance

The Home Base doesn’t break any NAS speed records and performs similarly to the USB drive sharing features found in routers like the D-Link DIR-655, Cisco / Linksys WRT610N and NETGEAR WNDR3700. Table 1 summarizes the results of our Vista SP1 file copy test (described here) with a USB drive formatted in FAT32 and NTFS.

Test FAT 32 Format NTFS Format
Write speed (MB/s)
5.7
1.7
Read speed (MB/s)
10.5
7.2
Table 1: Routing throughput

Note that these results were achieved with a 100 Mbps Ethernet connected machine. So the FAT 32 Read performance is actually pretty good vs. the maximum LAN transfer rate of 12.5 MB/s. But write speeds leave a lot to be desired.

Closing Thoughts

Whether or not the Belkin Home Base is the right product for you depends on your intended use.  If you only need to share USB storage on your local network, a cheaper and much better solution would be the Seagate Dockstar reviewed here. For $99.99, you get much better performance as well as access to your files from the Internet. 

For some, the Home Base's 802.11n wireless connectivity will be compelling. But the file sharing speeds are too slow for heavy use or large file transfer, unless you like waiting a lot. The speeds are better matched to printer or scanner sharing, as is the one-at-a-time access method.

The Local Backup feature is basic, but will be adequate for folks who just want to get their computers backed up and don't need to finely tweak exactly what is backed up. (For me, I'd invest in a backup application to get that fine control.)

Finally, I was disappointed in the DLNA media server – especially since the specifications showed a comprehensive list of media types and file formats supported.  But the DLNA specification seems more like, uh, guidelines, with incompatibilities among DLNA devices all too common. Unfortunately, the only way to know whether DLNA devices will play together is to try them. And, at least in my simple test case, they didn't play very well.

In the end, the Home Base tries for a home run, but will get you only to First or maybe Second. But that could be far enough for you.

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