Linksys by Cisco Media Hub NMH-305 NAS device

With the Media Hub NMH-305, Linksys by Cisco has delivered a capable NAS device with DLNA media aggregation and a simple Web interface.

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Linksys by Cisco Media Hub NMH-305
  • Linksys by Cisco Media Hub NMH-305
  • Linksys by Cisco Media Hub NMH-305
  • Linksys by Cisco Media Hub NMH-305

Pros

  • DLNA media aggregation, expandable storage, Web-based file and media browsers, simple Web interface

Cons

  • Could be faster, Web interface doesn’t provide enough advanced options

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a way to get all your media in the one place, Linksys by Cisco’s Media Hub NMH-305 NAS device is a decent option. It has some shortcomings, however.

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If you have large numbers of MP3s or videos scattered across various computers or other devices on your home network, Linksys by Cisco's Media Hub NMH-305 network-attached storage (NAS) device offers easy access to them all, as well as offering expandable storage.

The Linksys by Cisco Media Hub NMH-305 NAS device has a 500GB WD Digital Caviar Green hard drive installed (we recently looked at the 2TB WD Caviar Green). You can add a second 3.5in desktop hard drive or replace the existing drive using the tool-less caddies. The NAS device offers RAID1 and JBOD linear drive configurations but lacks a RAID0 option. A small fan cools both hard drives effectively, although it does make some noise during operation.

The Media Hub NMH-305 has a similar design to Linksys by Cisco's network router range, with blue LED power and hard drive indicators, as well as a backup button, Gigabit Ethernet, and two USB ports for attaching more storage.

Like the Western Digital MyBook World Edition and the Iomega StorCenter Pro NAS ix4-100 Server, the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub NMH-305 has a simple Web interface that won't be too confusing for people new to NAS devices.

The home page of the Flash-based interface lists the most recent music, photos and videos. It also offers access to a password-protected advanced configuration page and a general file browser. The media browsers support playback of a large range of formats — including MPEG4, FLAC and DivX/XviD files — though WMA audio and WMV video files aren't supported. Loading and navigating these pages can also be slow due to the use of Flash. The advanced configuration page is disappointingly simple, offering little more than enable/disable settings for most services. This is understandable for basic functions like iTunes and media streaming but power users will want greater control over the source folders for media aggregation and network shares.

Linksys by Cisco's Media Hub NMH-305 NAS device can aggregate media from various devices on a local network using DLNA, a simple to use standard that allows you to stream media between computers with certain operating systems (like Windows Vista), as well as newer game consoles, compatible televisions and even some mobile phones.

Rather than copying videos and music onto its internal hard drive from your attached DLNA-capable devices, the Media Hub NMH-305 NAS simply links to all the media it finds on those DLNA devices, as well the media on its internal hard drive. The caveat is that you won't be able to play media from your DLNA devices unless they are switched on and connected to your network. Unfortunately, there isn't an option to automatically copy media from the DLNA devices onto the internal hard hard drive. If you wish to copy media files from your DLNA devices to the Media Hub NMH-305 NAS, then you have to manually copy them (you can use the plain old drag-and-drop method through Windows).

The Media Hub NMH-305 NAS device showed adequate bandwidth throughput during testing with Intel's NAS Performance Toolkit, scoring 14.9 megabytes per second in a high-definition playback test, and 13.3MBps in a direct file copy test. It also managed 16.5MBps in the write-focused backup test and 13.9MBps in HD record. The synthetic benchmark showed that the Media Hub NMH-305 NAS device is inferior to the Western Digital MyBook World Edition, but it still manages sufficient throughput speeds for both backup and high-definition media streaming.

We conducted real-world testing by copying two lots of files from a Western Digital Velociraptor (WD3000GLFS) to the Media Hub NMH-305. Our first test, copying 1000 1MB files, showed a write speed of 10.2MBps, a read speed of 14.7MBps and a speed of 5.1MBps in simultaneous read/write (copying files from one areas of the NAS device's hard drive to another).

Our 20GB test used several files ranging in size from 2GB to 3GB and yielded slightly faster speeds of 12.8MBps write, 18.7MBps read and 6.8MBps read/write. The results in the large file test results are slower than the Western Digital MyBook World Edition, but the Media Hub NMH-305 NAS device performed better in the 1000 1MB file test, indicating it is better as a backup option and with small files.

The Media Hub NMH-305 NAS provides DLNA media aggregation and a simple Web interface, so it's a viable solution for centralising your media files. However, there are still some things we would like to see, such as an option to automatically back up media files as well as wider drive configuration and media share options.

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