Seagate FreeAgent DockStar NAS Device Review - HotHardware

Seagate FreeAgent DockStar NAS Device Review

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Network-attached storage (NAS) devices come in all shapes and sizes; some even come without hard drives--with the intention that the users will add the drives themselves. There is even a relatively new category of NAS devices that don't have any internal drives at all, and instead use USB-attached drives as their storage source. These NAS devices are typically inexpensive and super-easy to setup and use. We've even looked at a couple of them: the Addonics NAS Adapter ($49) and CloudEngines' Pogoplug ($99).



Now a big name in the storage business, Seagate, has jumped onto this bandwagon and released its own USB drive-based NAS device, the
Seagate FreeAgent DockStar. Instead of reinventing the wheel, however, Seagate chose to license the Pogoplug technology from CloudEngines and integrate it--with a few differences--into the DockStar. The most obvious difference between the Pogoplug and the DockStar is their appearance. While the Pogoplug is essentially a small white cube, the DockStar is a bit more svelte (3.39x3.351.50), with a cradle on top designed to work exclusively with Seagate's line of FreeAgent Go portable hard drives--in fact, the DockStar looks a lot like the Seagate FreeAgent Go Dock. Another major difference between the DockStar and the Pogoplug is that the DockStar has a total of four USB 2.0 ports versus the Pogoplug's single USB 2.0 port. (You could use the USB port in the DockStar's cradle to connect to a drive other than a FreeAgent Go drive, but you'd need to get your hands on a cable or adapter that has a female mini-USB port.)

 


Under the hood, both the DockStar and the Pogoplug are actually fully-functional Linux-based computers: They are system-on-chip (SoC) device, based on
Marvell's SheevaPlug Development Kit. As such, the Pogoplug is easily modifiable via SSH shell access, where users can add additional functionality to the device, such as adding iTunes server or BitTorrent functionality (unlike other more full-featured NAS devices, the DockStar and Pogoplug lack these features). Seagate, on the other hand, appears to not want DockStar users to muck with the works--you can access the DockStar via SSH shell access, but without the password, you won't be able to get past the login prompt. (If Seagate ever makes the DockStar's SSH password public or someone figures it out, then the DockStar can conceivably be hacked to the same extent as the Pogoplug.)

Another difference between the DockStar and the Pogoplug is that after the first year of ownership, the DockStar requires a $29.99 yearly subscription fee in order to continue using the DockStar's file sharing and remote access features. The Pogoplug's $99 cost includes lifetime file sharing and remote access. The DockStar comes with a one-year subscription to the Pogoplug service; if you choose to not renew the subscription when it runs out, you can still keep using the DockStar as a NAS device on your local network, but you'll no longer be able to share files with other users over the Internet and you'll lose the ability to access the DockStar remotely.
 

 

MSRP: $99.99

It is the DockStar's file-sharing and remote access features, combined with how easy it is to use, that truly makes the DockStar such a compelling product. Users can easily make any sort of files available to other users, including photos, videos, and music. When you make content available, the DockStar can even automatically publish updates to social networking sites and publish RSS feeds. By routing these features through the Pogoplug service, all content is available via a Web interface, and you don't need to concern yourself with doing any port routing on your router or even fuss with setting up a FTP server.

 


The DockStar can be accessed via the Pogoplug Web-based interface or directly from systems running the Windows, Mac, or Linux operating systems after downloading and installing client software from Pogoplug.com. In addition to four USB 2.0 ports, the DockStar has a Gigabit Ethernet port. The DockStar is covered by a one-year warranty. And for those carefully watching their carbon footprint, the DockStar comes in fully-recyclable packaging.

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It's definitely a cool device, I'm just not sure it's worth getting tangled up in there subscription service for nothing more value added than a facebook plugin.

It seems like all of the admin features could have been integrated into the device itself, instead of requiring you to pay forever.

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The subscription service does more than just integrate with Facebook. The service is what permits all remote access and remote file sharing. Without the service, you just have a NAS on your local network.

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That's part of my point:  The service facilitates easier remote access and file sharing...  but they could have implemented every one of those feature directly on the device itself.  Throw in a dynamic dns updater so that you can access it with the same URL every time, and you have links you can share and access from anywhere on the net..

They implemented it in a way that purposefully requires their service... when it doesn't actually add any value over the more direct approach I describe.  It looks like the only thing their approach truly "adds" is a crippling of your functionality if you don't keep paying them every year.

Companies are latching on to the idea that every tech device or media file should be turned into a service and leased to you.  I would rather pay once and know the true lifetime cost up front.

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Seagate licensed the Pogoplug technology for the DockStar from Cloud Engines. Cloud Engines sells a Pogoplug device for the same price, and the Pogoplug comes with a lifetime subscription to the Pogoplug service at no extra charge. The two products are not identical, and each has a few advantages over the over--one key advantage the Pogoplug has over the DockStar (in addition to not having a subscription fee) is that the Pogoplug is easily hackable--and Cloud Engines even sort of kind of encourages it, without actually endorsing it.

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It sounds like that would be the better option for the technical user.

You can always plug in a USB hub to gain additional USB ports; it's unlikely that you would be using multiple drives at the same time, so it probably wouldn't affect bandwidth to the devices.

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Quick question:  Are the stars supposed to be used to rate the product, or the review of the product?  I gave it five based on the quality of the review, but I would only give the product a 3.

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