TUAW review: LaCie Network Space 2 low-cost NAS

Everybody needs storage, and lots of it.

The race for space began when we started taking digital pictures, accelerated when we began purchasing music online, and went positively orbital when movies and TV went digital. While big drives in desktop machines are becoming commonplace (1 TB drives are now standard in most iMac configurations), what happens when you have a couple of laptops or older machines that you want to back up, or if you want to share data with others in your office or home? That's when some sort of network-attached storage comes in handy.

Network-attached storage is nothing new; you can even consider Apple's US$299 Time Capsule to be a wireless NAS. Now storage manufacturer LaCie has released the US$190 Network Space 2 device, providing 1 TB of storage and speedy connectivity. LaCie provided TUAW with a Network Space 2 for review purposes, so we put it through its paces before sending it back to the company. Read on for a review of this attractive and useful peripheral.

The Network Space 2 is an upgraded version of a previous LaCie device. Both versions come in a sleek enclosure created by award-winning product designer Neil Poulton. The enclosure is quite small (4.6 x 7.6 x 1.8 inches -- 117 x 193 x 45 mm), so the Network Space 2 can provide unobtrusive storage capacity in almost any home or office environment.

Fortunately, Poulton chose to go with a small and unobtrusive AC adapter as well. It's a tiny brick that comes with your choice of a standard North American 110V and two European 220V plugs that can be snapped on as required. The same box that contains the power brick also has Gigabit Ethernet and USB cables tucked inside.

Setup of the Network Space 2 is, quite literally, plug and play. I plugged the device into a power outlet, plugged the Ethernet cable into the Network Space 2 on one end and my AirPort Extreme on the other, and then turned it on. With no configuration required, the device showed up in the Finder with the default name of NetworkSpace2. Total time from opening the box to having a terabyte of network-attached storage was about a minute.

The Network Space 2 can be many things; it's a location for private and public file shares, it's a UPnP/DLNA and iTunes media server, it can be set up to do unattended torrent downloads, and it's a handy Time Machine backup device. You can even use it to do such clever tricks as backing up a memory card or flash drive automatically when one is plugged into the USB port.

Customized configuration of the Network Space 2 is possible, and a snap to do, through the included software. The LaCie Network Assistant application runs continuously, providing a way to easily bring up the configuration window or open the full Network Space 2 control panel in a Web browser.

The configuration window has two simple tabs: one for setting up the network connection to your device, and one for declaring which shares you wish to auto-mount. The full control panel is accessible through your Web browser and adds much more granular control of the Network Space 2. The individual screens and descriptions can be found in the gallery at the end of this review.

For users who may want the convenience of directly-attached storage for one reason or another, that's possible as well. All you need to do is plug the Network Space 2 directly into your Mac using the USB 2.0 cable. Of course, this won't be as fast as using a Gigabit Ethernet network (which operates at up to 65 MB/second), but if you wish to connect directly to the device for a slower (up to 30 MB/second) transfer, it is possible.

One of the few complaints I have about the device is that it's not expandable. Of course, if your router has a number of Ethernet ports on it, you could theoretically add a Network Space 2 to each port in order to expand your storage. However, unlike the new Data Robotics Drobo FS, the Network Space 2 comes in only one size -- 1 TB. Now that 2 TB 3.5" drives are becoming commonplace and dropping in price, I'm hopeful that we'll see a 2 TB version of the Network Space 2 soon. My only other concern is that the device seems to run quite hot. On the other hand, it is extremely quiet, so the lack of a fan might be an acceptable tradeoff.

For those who need affordability and easy setup, the Network Space 2 is an excellent choice for Network Attached Storage. I have no problems recommending this device to anyone who needs another terabyte of storage and wants to share it on a local network. At a price of $190, the Network Space 2 is a very affordable way to add a good-sized, shared storage space to any home or small-office network.

LaCie considers the Network Space 2 to be a "prosumer" device, so it comes with a 2 year limited warranty. Other companies offer similar warranties; OWC's drives are often guaranteed for 3 years, while the Data Robotics Drobo boxes usually have a 1 or 2 year warranty.

Check out the gallery below for photos of the Network Space 2 in action, as well as a description of the various control panels that are available to users.