Iocell Netdisk 351UNE review
Network direct attached storage drives (NDAS) such as Iocell’s Netdisk 351UNE offer an alternative to traditional NAS drives for shared, network storage. The idea is that, by shunning TCP/IP in favour of the NDAS protocol, overheads are reduced and performance increased.
Windows, alas, doesn’t support NDAS natively, so you have to use Iocell’s client software, but once installed, setting the drive up is easy. All you have to do is add your own 3.5in drive (the Netdisk 351UNE is supplied diskless), screw everything back together and connect it to your network. Switch it on and it appears in Windows Explorer exactly as if you’d plugged it directly into one of the SATA sockets on your motherboard.
A quick look at the rear reveals it isn’t a one trick pony, however. In addition to Gigabit Ethernet, there are mini-USB 2 and eSATA ports so you can use it as a local external drive as well. The 351UNE is clever enough that you can run an Ethernet cable directly from the drive to your computer, without the need for a router or a crossover cable.
Although there are no fancy NAS-style services on offer, the client software does offer one unique feature: attach two or more NDAS drives to your network and it will let you set them up as an aggregated storage pool (presented to Windows as one huge disk) or as a RAID array. RAID0 is supported for up to eight disks, while RAID1 is available for a pair of drives.
That’s an impressive range of connectivity, and the price isn’t bad either. Add a brand new 1TB drive to the 351UNE and the whole caboodle will set you back less than £110 exc VAT. That’s on a par with the ZyXEL NSA210 – one of the cheapest NAS enclosures we’ve seen.
Where the ZyXEL was a sluggish performer, however, the 351UNE was anything but. We slotted in the A-Listed Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB hard disk and set about testing each interface in turn. Over Gigabit in a standard network configuration, we measured average read speeds of 49.6MB/sec and write speeds of 63.6MB/sec when transferring large files. Most NAS drives we’ve tested would struggle to keep up with those speeds, let alone the ZyXEL, which only managed 15.4MB/sec and 13.5MB/sec respectively.
It isn’t bad over a local connection either. Over eSATA we recorded read and write speeds of 87.7MB/sec and 128.9MB/sec with the same large files, and 65.8MB/sec and 58.8 MB/sec in our new, ultra-demanding small file test, which totals 1.2GB over 12,000 files. It isn’t quite as quick as the A-Listed Iomega Professional External Hard Drive, but it isn’t far off and not at all bad for a disk boasting so many more features. It was more of the same over USB 2: the 351UNE achieved 28MB/sec and 29.8MB/sec when reading and writing large files, compared to the Iomega’s rates of 33.1MB/sec and 24.8MB/sec.
The major downside with the Iocell 351UNE, is that once attached to the network only computers with the client installed will be able to access it, which means devices such as internet radios and media streamers miss out. There isn’t an awful lot else you can do with this drive either. Features that are traditional NAS fare – BitTorrent clients, user passwords and storage allocation management – are missing. If you can live with those restrictions, however, it’s a good buy: lightning quick, versatile and, best of all, reasonably priced.
|Cost per gigabyte||N/A|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|Default filing system||N/A|
|UPnP media server?||no|
|Other media servers||None|
|HIbernate on idle?||no|
|Dimensions||49 x 213 x 160mm (WDH)|
Security and administration
|Kensington lock slot?||no|
|Admin support for users||no|
|Admin support for groups||no|
|Admin support for disk quotas||no|