Promise Technology SmartStor NS4600

Home media servers are an emerging market, combining the utility of network-attached storage (NAS) with the consumer-focus of external hard drives. Designers have many visions for the home media server, and Promise's is perhaps the most ambitious we've seen yet. Rich in features and capable of RAID configurations and storage capacities others can't match, the is easily the most high-end home media server on the market currently.

The NS4600 will easily appeal to power users who have in-depth experience with RAID and network configuration. However, the thick instruction manual and use of removable hard drives configured in a RAID array will likely deter most midlevel consumers who want a no-nonsense server.

The SmartStor NS4600 is on the pricey side for a home media server ($499 without hard drives), but is one of the most feature-heavy units we've seen. Unlike other home media servers, the NS4600 supports different RAID levels. You have to populate the SmartStor NS4600 with hard drives (which you have to purchase separately from a third party) and format the drives using AppleApple's Disk Utility before attaching the server to the network and allowing user access. Alles zu Apple auf

The cryptically designed SmartNavi desktop application comes with the SmartStor NS4600 for administration. When you launch SmartNavi, the program opens a small window with a series of colorful icons on the left side that are actually configurable shortcuts. To use these shortcuts, you'll need to follow the instruction manual on setting up accounts and passwords, and formatting the hard drives-not exactly a simple process. This lengthy setup will only allow you to access the shared folders that appear as a network device, not necessarily fine-tune the folders for the average consumer's use. After setting up your folders, you must turn on the iTunes and backup services in a separate series of steps. If you double-click on the server icon in SmartNavi's desktop window, you can access the bigger desktop application and its full set of features. Though using SmartNavi was a chore, the controls are colorful and the available features are deep.

Promise also has a Web-based advanced management tool that allows you to configure the server in a more detailed way than the desktop application permits, but the interface puts so many options at your fingertips that it's a bit daunting. This tool also allows users to take advantage of multiple RAID options. It's easy to configure RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 with the tool, and you can also use it to access other abilities, such as managing users and groups.

Though it arguably offers the most versatile bundled software of the home media servers we've tested, the SmartStor NS4600's generally unintuitive nature and daunting setup process make it a tool best reserved for seasoned experts.

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