Though not as flexible as the similar NetGear ReadyNAS NVX when it comes to expansion, the Buffalo TeraStation III TS-XL offers twice the bang for your buck. The catch is that it's not as easy to manage for non-network experts, but IT specialists won't have any trouble exploiting its rich set of features.
Good value; quiet.
Unclear web admin panel.
NetGear isn't alone in the compact server market, and Buffalo also offers a similar range of compact network attached storage (NAS) devices. The Buffalo TeraStation III TS-XL is perhaps closest to the recently reviewed NetGear ReadyNAS NVX. It's a little larger than NetGear's device, but offers the same four-bay set-up for 3.5in Sata drives. We reviewed the 2TB model with four 500GB drives, but capacities currently go up to 8TB.
As with the NetGear ReadyNAS NVX, getting a pre-populated Buffalo TeraStation III TS-XL up and running is simply a matter of connecting the mains lead and one or two Ethernet cables. The device is much quieter than the ReadyNAS when running - no doubt the larger case allows better air circulation so the rear fan doesn't need to spin quite so quickly. That said, one of the drive bay covers on our model did rattle each time the NAS was powered up and made an awful noise, but a small nudge soon put a stop to it.
The supplied NASNavigator2 application can be used to identify the Buffalo TeraStation III TS-XL on a network using Windows or a Mac before opening the browser-based admin panel, but this can be bypassed by noting the assigned IP address from the device's front LED panel.
The admin panel isn't particularly user friendly and some settings are squirreled away in less-than-obvious places. It also relies on the administrator having a good understanding of server and network terminology. This may not be the case in a small office/home office environment, and we much preferred the NetGear ReadyNAS NVX's approach of explaining the NAS key settings within the interface.
Raid modes 0, 1, 5 and 10 are supported if all installed drives are deployed as part of the array, but if Raid mode 1 (with two disks) or Raid mode 5 (with three disks) is used, there's the option to keep another drive as a 'hot spare' that will be automatically deployed should one disk fail.
It's worth noting that, unlike the NetGear ReadyNAS NVX, the Buffalo TeraStation III TS-XL’s Raid volume can't be expanded once created. Its data must be backed up, the drives replaced and a larger array rebuilt, while the ReadyNAS drives can each be swapped out in turn for larger drives and the array expands automatically.
Shared folder access can be restricted via local per-user and user groups with quota management for simple networks, and NT domain controllers for more sophisticated set-ups. Both SMB and AFP protocols are supported too, though these are unhelpfully listed as 'Windows' and 'Apple' in the admin panel's shared folder options.
Like the NetGear ReadyNAS NVX, the TeraStation TS-XL can also act as a hub for USB printers and also offers a Time Machine mode for the Mac's built-in back-up utility.
The Buffalo TeraStation III TS-XL isn't as pretty or as speedy as the ReadyNAS NVX (it has a claimed data transfer speed of 60MB/sec) but it is considerably cheaper. The 2TB model we reviewed is available for around £660. The base ReadyNAS NVX costs around £700, but has half the capacity.
The TeraStation III TS-XL is also available in an 8TB capacity for around £1,470, while the ReadyNAS NVX currently tops out at 4TB for around £1,300.
For more information on setting up the Buffalo TeraStation III TS-XL, you can view our In Pictures step by step guide here.