Cisco/Linksys Launches the Media Hub NAS Family

Storage might not be the sexiest of tech categories, but the undeniable truth is that we wouldn't have files or electronic media without someplace to store them. And as the world becomes increasingly digital, the sheer quantity of files we accumulate--such as music, photos, and videos--seems to grow at what often feels like an exponential rate. Not only are we faced with the quandary of where to house all this media, but we also want to be able to access it from multiple devices in multiple locations. Cisco thinks it has the answer with its new Media Hub family of media-based NAS devices.

The full name of the new product family is the "Linksys by Cisco Media Hub," and it consists of three models: the NMH305 ($299.99), the NMH405 ($349.99), and the NMH410 ($429.99). The three models have almost the same functionality--which we will get to in a moment--with only a small handful of differences between the models. Both the NMH305 and NMH405 come with 500GB of storage space, while the NMH410 comes with 1TB of space. Also, both the NMH405 and NMH410 include an LCD status panel (1.8-inch, 176x220, 64K colors) and a 6-in-1 card reader.

The main purpose of the Media Hub devices is to be used as centralized storage for your digital media files. It can serve this media to nearly any networked device on your home network. In fact, the Media Hub devices even come with a free one-year Remote Access service so you can access media stored on the Media Hub over the Internet when you are away from home (you will have to pay for the service after the first year if you still want to use it). The Media Hub will also search for and catalog media that is stored on other devices on your home network. The Media Hub support DLNA 1.5, UPnP DMA, and includes an iTunes server. Cisco claims that the Media Hub can play up to three simultaneous HD streams at once. The Media Hub supports a wide-array of media formats:

  • Audio: M4A, M4B, MP4, 3GP, WAV, OGG, FLAC, AAC, MP2, AC3, MPA, MP1, AIF, ASF
  • Photo: PNG, TIF, TIFF, BMP, GIF
  • Video: MP1, MPG, SPTS, MP4, AVI, VOD, DivX, 3GP, VDR, MPE, DVR-MS, Xvid, M1V, M4V, MOV, MPV
  • Playlists: M3U, M3U8, PLS, WPL

All three Media Hub models include one Gigabit Ethernet and two USB 2.0 ports. The Media Hubs models all come with a single SATA hard disk; and since the device has two SATA ports and a second drive bay, you can expand the storage capacity if you want. The Media Hub supports both RAID 1 and JBOD configurations.

Some of the information that Cisco provides says that the device is Windows and Mac compatible; while other information indicates that the Media Hub is only compatible with Windows XP and Vista. After sifting through the information, our best guess is that the Media Hub should be able to serve most media types just fine to both Mac and Windows computers; but only Windows PCs are fully compatible with all the Media Hub's features. The Media Hub supports SMB/CIF and the the primary client interface with the Media Hub is browser based, so any networked system be able to access files and any compatible browser (regardless of OS) should be able to access it. Some of the included features, however, such as the NTI Shadow automatic backup software, will only work on Windows systems. Also, Mac users might need to do a bit more leg work than Windows users will, in order to make sure that their systems have all the right codecs installed.
Tags:  NAS, Media server