The ZyXEL NSA310 is the follow-up to the successful NSA210, which I reviewed a while ago. It’s a single bay media server that connects to your home router – you can then read and write to it via your home network.
Cutting away from the hype of features, pretty much the main difference between this and its fore-bearer is a much-improved hardware specification. The NSA210 had a 370 Mhz CPU with read/write speeds of 22/11 MB/s respectively In comparison, the NSA310 has a 1.2 Ghz CPU with read read/write speeds of 79/76 MB/s. As you can see, much improved. Although you can connect additional drives it’s not been updated to USB 3 so access times to those will remain slow.
Using the administration screens, the hardware change shows – everything is a lot more responsive and crisp, compared to the sluggishness of before.
One of the big new software features that ZyXEL promote is Polkast – a personal cloud service. Install Polkast on the NSA310 (it’s easy to do via a dedicated “packages” menu option) and on your Smartphone and you can access the files on your NAS. There are PC and Mac apps too but they simply share files – you can’t access files via them. It should also be noted that the Polkast package is now available for the NSA210 too.
One of the most recent firmware upgrades was to replace the existing media server with TwonkyMedia Server – theoretically this should provide greater compatibility with other hardware. However, I had some issues with the firmware upgrade.
You don’t get a hard drive with it – you provide your own. The up-side to this is that if the drive fails it’s a cinch to then replace it. Firmware is held on the device itself so there’s no installation of software on the new drive – simply swap the drives. The only thing lost are packages you may have installed and individual settings – but these are easily restored.
I bought a version of the NSA310 that came with a free 500GB hard drive. If you do buy this, be aware that the provided drive is not easily removable – probably so that it’s stable during transport they’ve added an internal screw to hold it in place. To remove you need to first remove the front, as you would if changing a drive in it, but then also remove the 4 additional screws beneath this and the 4 on the back too. Slide out the entire mechanism and you should see a large silver screw on the rail above the hard drive. Remove this and the hard drive should pull out of its mechanism.
Packaging wise you get a meaty manual, software CD and cables. All of this is held in some sturdy cardboard packaging which is easily recyclable.
Now, it’s at this stage where the review gets a lot more negative. I’ve found the device noisy – the fan isn’t as quiet as the one on the NSA210. It’s all supposed to be “green”, quoting variable speed fans and the drive going to sleep when not in use. But I’ve never heard the fan do anything than run at full speed and it’s rare for the drive to stop – the hard drive in my NSA210 only lasted just over a year and I suspect the same will happen here.
Hammering a drive to death is not very reassuring and the vibrations through the all-metal case can be heard downstairs, via the desk that it’s sat on.
At around £53 the NSA310 is a bargain price. It has lots of useful packages available for installation (although I don’t rate Polkast as great as its promoted) and it’s a lot, lot quicker than it used to be in use. However, I remain concerned about the drive accessing – an almost constant accessing of the drive can’t be good for it.