Network USB Hub: Synology USB Station 2 review

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Synology USB Station 2Introduction:

If you don't want to shell out for dedicated NAS enclosures, the other viable option for many is to use a network USB hub. This simple device can be connected to your home network to allow easy sharing of USB devices, including printers and external hard drives, with other computers on your home network. This opens up the possibility of file sharing and multimedia streaming  across your home network simply and quickly. The latest review covers the network USB hub offering from Synology, the Synology USB Station 2.

Specifications:

 

  • Installation Free
  • Plug-and-Play USB Drive Sharing
  • Easy File Management
  • DLNA Certified Media Server
  • 24/7 PC-Less Download Server
  • USB Print Server
  • Cool and Completely Quiet

Review:

 

Based on the excellent Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM) the USB Station 2 offers a very simple plug and play USB sharing experience. To use the network USB hub, USB devices simply need to be plugged in and then setup using the DSM (accessible via any browser) and the hub itself connected to the network (preferably using a wired connection or alternatively wirelessly using a compatible wireless dongle).

Usefully, the USB station can use NTFS, FAT32, EXT3 and EXT4 file systems and allows files to be shared across platforms (NTFS - OSX, Linux and Windows) which is great if you have a mixed operating system workgroup. As well as sharing files on attached external hard drives, the software allows multimedia to be streamed using the audio station and media server utilities as well as a download server via FTP, HTTP and even torrent. Additionally a print server can be easily be condigured in order to share any USB printer. Accounts can also be easily configured for different users to restrict or allow specific features and accessibility.

In our tests the setup was incredibly easy, however the actual transfer speeds were a little unimpressive in comparison to what we are used to with the Synology Diskstations we have reviewed. We used a custom external hard drive with a USB2.0 interface in our tests and transferred files over a wired connection between the USB Station 2 and the laptop (using an NTFS file system on both devices).  In our tests we obtained an average read/write speed of ~7MB/sec (combination of large and small files) which although not the fastest we have seen, is more than sufficient for the average home user to stream music and videos to devices over a small home network (It is important to note however that faster transfer speeds can be acheived using external drives with FAT or EXT file systems - see info here)

Price:

~£75 (Amazon: Synology USB Station 2)

Verdict:

4/5 - Although not providing the fastest transfer speeds, the USB Station 2 offers an economical and very simple way of sharing and administrating files across a home network. For those with a bit more cash however, a full blown Synology Diskstation system is recommended.

Gaming Mouse: SteelSeries Diablo 3 Mouse review

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SteelSeries d3 mouse heroshotIntroduction:

SteelSeries are renowned for their excellent purpose-built gaming gear and with the release of Diablo III imminent, they have released their take on the gaming gear for this awesome looking game. Those of you who are seasoned Diablo II players will no doubt be on the lookout for the best gear to play the game with.and the SteelSeries Diablo 3 mouse won't disappoint - read on to find out why....

Specifications:

Easy Setup :Quick and effortless drag-and-Drop Diablo III skills and functions to mouse buttons

OSX & Windows : Compatible drivers for both Mac OS X and Windows

Durability : 10 million clicks per switch. 3x that of normal gaming mice

Customisation : 3 illuminated zones including scroll wheel, CPI indicator and the Diablo III logo each of which software customisable

Technology : Best-in-class technology provides excellent precision and reliability during play

Ambidextrous : designed to be comfortable whether left or right handed

Counts Per Inch : Scalable pointer speed up to 5,700 CPI in increments of 1

Lift Distance : Automatically adjusted lift distance locked to ~1mm across surfaces

Review:

The SteelSeries Diablo 3 mouse is fairly reminiscent in shape of the SteelSeries XAI gaming mouse (previously reviewed here) with a well-designed ergonomic shape that fits the hand well, and the non-slip coating makes sure that you don't lose the mouse even if you are starting to feel the heat. The mouse has seven well-placed buttons and a sturdy scroll-wheel that feeds back well between rotations (essential if swapping weapons etc.) the mouse is clearly an excellent gaming mouse. The cabling is also worth a mention, with strong nylon braid protecting the wires and a gold-plated USB connector.

The thing that really makes the mouse tand apart from the crowd though is obviously the Diablo III theming, with gothic sytle detailing and three dark red satanic led lit zones the mouse just exudes (or should that be bleeds?) evil. As with other Steelseies mice every function (buttons, CPI, illumination etc.) are customisable to make both your in-game experience as perfect as can be through a Diablo 3 customised SteelSeries configuration software. As expected from the other Steelseries software we have tried profile setup is really easy using the drag and drop interface and there is also the option to record macros.

steelseries-diablo-3-mouse-driver

In practice, the mouse is very responsive however fast you are moving it around and even for extended sessions on games the mouse still feels comfortable when used by either left or right handers. The illuminated regions of the mouse really set the mood for games (especially if you like playing in a darkened room) and despite the Diablo III theming, the mouse is equally at home with other genres of game due to the heavy level of customisation available.

Price:

~£50 (available from Amazon)

SteelSeries d3 mouse backVerdict:

4.5/5 - if you're a fan of the Diablo series and excitedly anticipating the release of the latest release, the SteelSeries Diablo 3 gaming mouse is a no-brainer: Highly customisable, cool lighting, and reasonably priced for the specifications.

In-ear headphones: Urbanista London review

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Urbanista London BoxIntroduction:

There is a vast array of headphones to choose from on the market ranging from classic over the ear to in-ear headphones depending on your preference. Most in-ear type headsets follow a common style however the company Urbanista have set out to make a change to the norm with their range of headsets and their latest in-ear headphone, the Urbanista London are different indeed, exuding the normal Urbanista style.

Specifications:

 

  • Speaker size: φ10 mm
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB±3 dB SPL @ 1 KHz
  • Impedance: 16 ohms±15% @ 1 KHz
  • Frequency: 20-20000 Hz
  • Plug: 3,5mm stereo + Adapter cable for Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung ETC included
  • Handsfree with microphone
  • Cable: Main cable diametre: 3.0mm Length: 75cm (Cable from fork to plug). Secondary cord Length : 28 cm (cable from fork to plug)
  • Weight: 9 g (without cable)
  • Works with iPad and iPhone

Urbanista London packageReview:

As can be seen from the photos, the design of the Urbanista London headset is quite different to the usual subdued in-ear headphone design, with a bold lightweight metal frame. Even the packaging shows off the headphones well, with each headphone packaged like a cufflink in a jewelery style box.  In addition to the headphone case, the London headset comes with an adaptor for non-standard audio jacks, and a selection of different size earbuds to suit the wearer. The headset can also act as a handsfree, with the microphone discretely built into the cabling which itself at 75 cm long isn't restrictive.

Despite the metal frame the headphones are very light and comfortable to wear, with the microphone at just the right height for optimum pickup. We tested them on an Acer Liquid Android smartphone we had lying around as a random test, and the London headphone worked well in all out tests. During calls the microphone provided excellent pickup, whilst the headphones themselves gave a clear reproduction of both caller's voices as well as excellent audio playback whatever the media we ran through at it (video, audio and games).  The Urbanista London headphones gave a well balanced audio reproduction across the range, and with the correct earbuds, very little background noise could be heard.

The stylish design makes them stand out from the crowd and makes them as much a fashion accessory as a phone/tablet accessory. From out tests it was clear that as much time had been put in to the audio reproduction as in to the looks and all the effort has paid dividends.

Urbanista LondonPrice:

~£40 (available from Amazon)

Verdict:

4.5/5 - Often the looks don't match the performance with products, however in this case they deserve each other: Excellent looks, with excellent performance!