Freecom Classic SL Network Drive review

£96
Price when reviewed

Freecom’s Classic SL is an unusual product. Like the LaCie, it’s a cross between a straightforward external USB hard disk and a NAS appliance. This means you can use it as a portable, directly connected disk for fast file transfers, or you can hook it up to your network so everyone can store and share files, albeit at a slower pace.

Freecom Classic SL Network Drive review

The other unusual aspect is that it requires client software in order to be able to access it over a network. Instead of appearing as a computer on the network and having an IP address for remote management, the Classic SL uses the NDAS protocol and shows up as a local hard disk in Windows. This isn’t a big disadvantage if you only need to share the appliance on a few computers, but a pain if you have to install the software on many.

When you install the software, it prompts you to input the code on the bottom of the appliance. This is used to locate it on the network. An additional code must be input if you want that client to have write access to the disk; otherwise, it can only read files. An icon sits in the Windows System Tray and provides access to the limited number of settings.

The default file system is NTFS and this boosted transfer rates to around 10MB/sec over 10/100 Ethernet, noticeably quicker than the LaCie, which uses FAT32. However, you’ll have to format the disk to FAT32 if you want to use the SL with Max OS X – and you can expect speeds to drop in line with that of the LaCie drive. Over the USB 2 interface, we saw write speeds increase to 21MB/sec and read speeds to a shade under 18MB/sec.

As there are no Type A USB ports, you can’t connect any printers, hard disks or flash drives to the Freecom and, naturally, it doesn’t have a print server. There’s no FTP server either, and while you can create individual user accounts to restrict access to shares, you can’t set up groups. You can’t set the appliance to power up or down at particular times either, but it will hibernate after around ten minutes of inactivity and it supports hidden files.

The appliance is no bigger than most external hard disks, and is the smallest, most portable one on test. Producing only 28dBA when idling, you’re unlikely to notice it’s even switched on. If the dual interfaces are appealing to you and you don’t need print or FTP servers, the 160GB Classic SL is a sensible choice. The LaCie is cheaper per gigabyte, but the Freecom offers better performance.

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