Buffalo's LinkStation Mini aims to put a NAS drive with RAID functionality in the palm of your hand. We take a closer look at this diminuitive network hard drive solution

As our homes become populated with multiple computers, NAS (networked attached storage) drives like the Buffalo LinkStation Mini from Buffalo become extremely compelling.

After connecting this unit to your wireless router, any computers on the local network can access it. Keep your music, pictures and documents on this drive and you can work on any computer. It's also a RAID unit housing two 2.5in 500GB 5400rpm hard drives. These provide either 1TB of combined space, or are mirrored for 500GB of backed-up storage - if one drive breaks, you'll still have all your data.

It has a diminutive stature and omits noisy fans, making it ideal for home use. It also ensures a lower power consumption, which is useful for an "always-on" media sever.

The LinkStation Mini is a DLNA-certified media server, which is handy if you have a DLNA player (such as PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360); and Buffalo's Web Access technology should enable you to access your files remotely.

Installation was easy using the NASNavigator 2 software to provide connection to the drive and access to the online Web-based menu. We found disk management, administration and setting-up shared folders straightforward enough; likewise setting it up as a media server was largely trouble-free.

After copying our music and movies across we could access them from a laptop and our PlayStation 3. Streaming music is fine on a 802.11g wireless network, but for videos and large file work we'd suggest using faster 802.11n. We managed to set up folder sharing in Media Player and it worked fine on our EeePC, acting as the perfect antidote to its limited 16GB SSD storage.

You may want to connect the LinkStation Mini direct to your computer for the initial file transfer though, as its gigabit ethernet is much faster than any wireless transfer.

The Web Access feature was the only fly in the ointment, being tricky to set up. You register a name through the web interface and it stores your IP details with Buffalo (no file information is stored at Buffalo).

You can then logon to www.buffalonas.com and access your files over the internet. Sadly we found it troublesome to create a working account and our Belkin N+ router wouldn't configure via UPnP; a second O2 test router worked but we couldn't set up a security password. We managed to get it working only by having completely open access, which is not recommended.

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OUR VERDICT

The Buffalo's LinkStation Mini combination of RAID storage and NAS functionality makes it an ideal addition to any home router. All the more so thanks to its silent functionality and easy setup. It's a shame that the Web Access function didn't work so well, but it's a feature that once running could prove very useful. As a home server for storing and sharing media around the house we found the Buffalo LinkStation Mini hard to beat.

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