So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Seagate Personal Cloud 2-bay home media storage drive
A NAS device with a simplistic interface and useful Cloud features
- Easy to get up and running
- Simple Cloud features
- Plain, to-the-point design
- Mobile media app could be better in terms of the way it browses content on the drive
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
Looking at the design of the Personal Cloud Home Media Storage drive, it’s clear that Seagate thinks it should live right near your TV in your home entertainment unit. It looks as if it’s a set-top box or PVR rather than a traditional NAS device, and we think it’s a refreshing change of pace compared to the more upright NAS designs that we’re used to seeing.
A home entertainment look
Furthermore, Seagate isn’t hiding the main use for this NAS drive, which is to hold your videos, photos, music, and perhaps PC backups if you remember to set them up. The drive that we are looking at here is the 2-bay, 8TB version, which is the highest currently available capacity. It has two 4TB hard drives installed in its flat confines, and these can be set up by you in either RAID 0 (for making use of the entire capacity, but foregoing data redundancy) or in RAID 1 (for using one drive as a backup of the other and reducing the capacity to 4TB).
There is a single Gigabit Ethernet port at the back, as well as a USB port, there is a USB 3.0 port on the side, and the look is as minimalist as it gets, with only one white status light adorning the top-right corner of the unit -- and even that can be switched off in the NAS OS software if it’s too annoying during your video-watching sessions. The bottom has vents in a diamond-patterned layout.
Installation and configuration
Setting up the Personal Cloud drive isn’t a hard task, and Seagate has approached the finding and logging-in of the drive a little differently compared to other vendors. Instead of typing something in to the URL bar or downloading a ‘finder’ tool, Seagate’s quick setup simply tells you to double click on the drive in your Network folder (through Windows Explorer, for example) and double-click the shortcut file, which will then launch your default browser at the Cloud drive’s Dashboard.
You can’t just log in to the drive straight away. Instead, you have to initiate the set-up of the NAS OS interface, which will check for a new version to be downloaded and installed. If it finds an update, the length of time this process requires will depend on the quality of your Internet connection, but for reference, ours took about 10min on an ADSL2+ connection of about 10Mbps while we were streaming Netflix in the foreground.
It’s a simplistic set-up process apart from this NAS OS update, and one of the main features of the set-up process is to allow you to sign up for the drive’s selling point: Cloud access. You have to enter an email address and a password in order to create an account with Seagate, which will associate your drive with the Cloud service. This account will then be used to connect to the Personal Cloud drive from your mobile app (Seagate Media App), or through the desktop app (Sdrive).
Two accounts are actually created during this process: one is the local account for the drive (which uses the handle of your email address), and the other is the actual Cloud login account (which uses your entire email address as the login). A confirmation email is sent to your inbox once you enter your details, and a code is sent in order to complete the account’s association with your drive for Cloud access.
We didn’t have to touch any other settings in order for the drive to be accessible over the Internet; everything was executed automatically by the drive itself. Our router for this set-up and testing session was a TP-Link Archer C9, which we are also currently reviewing. As far as recent NAS drive configurations are concerned, this one is the easiest we have gone through, and this is by design since Seagate is targeting the mainstream market with this device, rather than users who are already used to dealing with network storage.
Cloud access and media streaming
The simplicity of remote accessibility is on show with Seagate’s Sdrive software for desktops. This software makes it look like the NAS drive is just another drive in your computer and you browse through its folders just like you would any other drive connected to your computer. You have to remember that you are connected remotely -- it’s easy to forget this because it works so seamlessly -- so don’t get carried away dragging and dropping (or opening) large video files.
The speed with which you will be able to transfer and open files over the Internet from the drive will depend on the upload speed of your home Internet connection. For example, our ADSL2+ connection afforded us bandwidth of about 800 kilobits per second (Kbps) for uploads, which made for slow going, especially when transferring video files. For MP3s and JPEGs, it was fine as long as we didn’t try to copy over too many at once.
You can log in and manage the Personal Cloud remotely by right-clicking on Sdrive’s icon in the Taskbar and selecting ‘Remote Management’. You don’t have to know what your external IP address is at home; you don’t have to set any forwarded ports in your router; you don’t even have to log in (since you already logged in to Sdrive previously to access your content); Sdrive takes care of the legwork here.
On a mobile device, you can use Seagate’s Media App to access the content on your Personal Cloud drive and play videos and music either on that device, or even send it to a Chromecast dongle. The latter is functionality that we think is very handy. You can launch the videos that you want to watch, and then click on the ‘Chromecast’ icon to connect to your dongle and view the videos on the big screen, using your mobile device and the Seagate Media App as a remote control.
However, we found that we had to store content in specific locations on the Personal Cloud drive in order for the Seagate Media App to find it. We couldn’t simply browse all the folders on the drive, and we weren’t given access to our personal, password-protected account. The end result was us having to shift video content from our own folders, to the drive’s “Public-Recovery-Public-Videos’ folder. MP3s could simply be placed in the main Public folder and still be seen by the app.
It’s this aspect of the app that needs to be improved. We think you should be able to log in to access your personal folder and view content from it through the app's file explorer, rather than having to ensure content is placed in a specific area for it to be viewed.
Read more: Imation Link Power Drive for iPhone
You’re by no means restricted to Seagate's app, though. The content you’ve placed on the NAS can be streamed through other devices (such as a WD TV Live, LG smart TVs, and Apple TV, for example), and you can use other apps for Chromecasting, such as ES File Explorer; we had a good experience using the NAS with this app and its Chromecast player plugin.
App support for the Seagate Personal Cloud drive means you can add a couple of extra features to it, such as the Plex Media Server, which will give you a richer interface through which to access and play your content. Other apps include a downloader, which can be used to handle BitTorrent files directly on the NAS. The app environment isn’t as rich as that offered by NAS makers such as Synology or Asustor, with only just over a handful currently available. For the most part, this shouldn’t be an issue as the Seagate is designed more for the user who wants simplicity than advanced features.
Performance wasn’t an issue for us during the course of our review, though we did spend the majority of our time transferring files to the NAS drive over wirelessly connected laptops and phones (this is when 802.11ac comes in handy). That’s how the drive will probably serve most people, though for copying large files to the drive, such as DVD and Blu-ray rips, as well as for large batches of photos and music, as well as PC backups, you will be better off going through a PC connected via Gigabit Ethernet, where you can get over 80 megabytes per second (MBps) file transfers.
What's the verdict?
Seagate’s Personal Cloud Home Media Storage NAS is a good drive overall, especially if you aren’t too keen on getting your hands dirty. We consider it to be very much a mainstream consumer product that anyone with a functioning network should be able to set up without fuss.
It can be used in a conventional manner as a place for you to store your backups, but the magic lies in its ability to be used easily for remote access. It’s one of the simplest drives we’ve ever set up for remote access, with minimal steps required for the Cloud function to work.
The Sdrive app makes it look like the NAS is right there as another local drive on your computer. The Seagate Media App is useful for backing up content from your phone, as well as streaming content; or you could make use of the Plex Media Server and app combo for an enriched experience full of cover art and video descriptions.
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