Does its job so well that it's largely forgettable - but also because it offers nothing outstanding
No Mac support
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An external hard drive as a home entertainment essential? There's no wireless network support, no audio or video line-outs and certainly no controls to play any media files stored on the drive. No, what we have here is an ordinary USB 2.0 compliant external hard drive.
Despite the drive's lack of credentials though, it makes a solid case for itself when hooked up to your Media Center PC - laptops in particular. Setting up and installing the drive is simplicity itself and shows how much attention Buffalo has paid to making the DriveStation as unobtrusive as possible.
Wherever they could, the designers have attempted to remove any need for interaction with the drive, for once adhering to the often untrue 'plug and play' school of computer hardware. You connect the power supply, plug one end of the USB cable into the DriveStation and the other into your PC.
Pre-formatted, the drive pops up under My Computer with a cheery chime and a few seconds later you've got an extra 80GB or more (capacities up to 300GB are available) at your fingertips. Once it's connected to your PC it can be shared over your wireless network and it'll even turn itself on and off as your PC does.
Until the advent of USB 2.0 and Firewire the mere thought of depending upon an external hard drive for entertainment purposes was heresy. The previous generation of interconnects meant that saving and loading data to and from the drive was as slow and laborious a process as reading Proust.
But housed within the aluminium chassis is a hard drive that manages to wring levels of performance out of the USB 2.0 connection that come close to matching those of an internal hard drive. Certainly, if you're using the DriveStation to store digital audio, video and photography, there's no noticeable lag when you're opening and playing files directly from the drive.
Another key factor in the DriveStation's entertainment eligibility is its silence. Some external hard drives are accompanied by a cooling fan which will spoil any atmosphere that a film or piece of music is trying to create. The DriveStation avoids this by abandoning the fan altogether and instead utilises its aluminium housing as a giant heatsink, not that it gets all that hot and bothered.
Although the drive hasn't been designed as a portable device and lacks many of the self-protection mechanisms that the drive in an iPod boasts, it's sturdy enough in its heatsink housing to survive repeated journeys between homes.
Thanks to its driverless operation you could quite easily dump all of your digital media files on to the DriveStation, carry them to a chum's pad and enjoy your digital movies and music on their PC. The case isn't particularly pleasing to the eye to start with, so any scratches it picks up won't be upsetting.
In fact, there's very little about the DriveStation to upset anybody as it's so unassuming and unobtrusive that you'll completely forget it's there, which is the highest compliment you could bestow on such a device. We'd like to see a few more connections and Mac support, but if you're a Windows user you'll find it to be a practical companion to your Media Center laptop or PC.
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