Network attached storage devices aren't exactly thin on the ground these days, with the likes of the HP MediaSmart Server and Western Digital's My Book Live being obvious examples.

At first glance, the LaCie Wireless Space looks like yet another NAS trying to snatch a bit of the limelight – albeit a rather swanky looking one.

LaCie has once again employed design guru Neil Poulton to make its NAS look sexier than your average hardware. But to label it simply a NAS would be to miss the point of the Wireless Space – it's much more than that.

The LaCie is not only a router with Wireless N built in, it's also an extender for your home devices, and can be used as a backup drive.

What should appeal most of all is that, unlike a NAS, which needs to be tethered to a PC, the Wireless Space has Wi-Fi capabilities, so it can be placed anywhere the signal can reach. It's also great if you dislike clutter, because it can be tucked away into a corner or inside a cabinet. That's probably what you'd want to do with it anyway, because it's a little on the noisy side.

With a 1TB built-in hard drive (or 2TB for an extra £60), it's got generous storage, but the drive can't be replaced with a bigger unit if your storage needs increase. You can add external storage devices via the built-in USB ports, but the lack of USB 3.0 means file copying will be a tad slow.

This slight storage limitation begs the question: would you be better off with a traditional NAS with removable bays, so that hard drives can be upgraded when needed?

To NAS or not to NAS

The Wireless Space probably won't appeal to the backup-hungry crowd, but those who have too many devices on their desks already will love the fact that you can hide it in a cupboard. But is that enough to warrant its purchase over a conventional NAS drive?

Lacie wireless space

Probably not, but the Wireless Space has one other neat trick up its sleeve: it can be used as a router, so if you want to boost the speed and range of your current modem router to the faster wireless 802.11n standard (or simply upgrade an ageing wired modem to wireless) then you can.

The only caveat is that the Wireless Space must be connected to a modem, which will probably be positioned next to your PC, somewhat defeating the objective of being able to place it anywhere.

It could be argued that you'd be better off upgrading your modem router to a superior Wireless N model and getting a standard NAS with upgradeable storage, although this would be a much costlier route.

The LaCie is reasonably simple to use, with two folders – MyShare and OpenShare – for copying files to the device. MyShare is a private folder accessible only if you have the requisite password, while OpenShare is open to anyone within reach of the network. While this takes the minimum of effort to get to grips with, anyone looking for a little more customisation will find it too simple for its own good.

The LaCie Wireless Space supports Wireless N, but not the newer dual-band type. It therefore only supports the 2.4GHz band and doesn't have the performance advantage of a dual-band device.

Copying a 2.2GB file takes roughly 14 minutes over wireless, which equates to a 25Mb/s write speed, while the other way it's slightly quicker at 12 minutes, or 29Mb/s. Transfer speeds tail off considerably the moment the device is moved further away.

Compared with transferring files via Ethernet on a NAS device, the sluggish Wireless Space disappoints.

HD streaming

This doesn't affect the LaCie's ability to stream HD content, which works perfectly, with none of the juddering you might expect. Streaming movies, music or photos to a UPnP or DLNA compatible device is also possible, which is great when you want to watch something at a distance.

If you can live with the fact that the Wireless Space can't compete with a dedicated NAS device in performance terms, it's a cost effective way of both backing-up files, with the added convenience of being able to do this wirelessly, and improving the speed and range of your current modem.

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