The LaCie Wireless Space is an original NAS as much for its Neil Poulton design as its range of functions. In fact, as well as the regular host of services typically found in network-attached storage systems (UPnP server, DLNA, iTunes, Time Machine etc.), this NAS also features Wi-Fi b/g/n connectivity and an Internet router mode. But has LaCie sacrificed quality in favour of quantity? We'll be putting the 2 TB Wireless Space through its paces to find out (1 TB model also available).
Hardware & Handling
LaCie has a wide selection of products designed by Neil Poulton which, we have to admit, are all sleek, stylish and attractive devices. Thankfully, the Wireless Space NAS is no exception. However, the compact casing only contains one hard drive, so you can't back up one drive's contents onto another for extra peace of mind. You should therefore make sure all the files you save to this NAS are already stored somewhere else. For example, you can copy files stored on the Wireless Space NAS to an external hard drive connected to one of its three USB 2.0 ports (one on the front and two at the back).
On the back of this NAS you'll also find three Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps sockets and a Gigabit Ethernet port for connection to the Internet. That means you can use the Wireless Space as a Wi-Fi router. This function is obviously optional, and it's still possible to use this NAS like any other connected storage device by connecting it to an existing network with a cable or to a Wi-Fi network as a client device. It can even be used as an access point for setting up a Wi-Fi network.
Basic set-up (without using the router mode) is quick, easy, and similar to most other NAS. LaCie Network Assistant software detects and configures the NAS during installation. You then won't have to use this software again, as a web browser is all you need to administer the Wireless Space once it's up and running.
If you want to use the NAS as a router or a wireless access point, you will need a basic knowledge of how to set up this kind of network. It shouldn't be too complicated for those of you who are used to working with IP addresses, networks etc.
We were obviously expecting to see data transfer performances drop with the NAS connected via Wi-Fi, so we decided to start our tests by seeing what the Wireless Space could do when connected via its Gigabit Ethernet port. Although its transfer speeds aren't the best we've ever seen, the results aren't all that bad.
However, transfer speeds are still up to twice as slow as with a 'regular' NAS, such as the Synology DS209
. Although we chose to compare the Wireless Space to the Synology DS209
, we could just as well have pitched it against the LaCie 2big network 2
, which also clearly out-performs it. As expected, once you switch to Wi-Fi, performance drops markedly.
This drop in performance is openly acknowledged by LaCie, who told us first-hand that activating the various other functions (router and/or Wi-Fi networking) would reduce performance, due to the fact that the built-in processor has extra tasks to perform.
Here are the data transfer speeds we measured in Wi-Fi mode:
These results were obtained using an Atheros Wi-Fi G card. We had planned on using an Intel Wi-Fi N card, but this didn't get on very well with our Wireless Space NAS and the connection kept dropping out. That's a bit of a shame really, as the speeds were not far off 10 MBps when reading a large file. Instead, we had to make do with 5 MBps with the Atheros 54 Mbps card.
Data transfer via the USB port to an external hard drive was measured at between 13 and 14 MBps in read mode, and between 11 and 13 MBps in write mode. These results are by no means bad but, once again, they are a little lower than what we're used to seeing.
Functions & Operation
The interface is very similar to that of LaCie's 2big Network 2 NAS. It has the same basic functions as found in most NAS systems, including file sharing protocols (SMB, AFP, FTP, HTTP), user management, groups and quotas, a Time Machine server for backing up with a Mac, a DLNA server, a photo server and a BitTorrent client. We did find the BitTorrent client a little troublesome with certain downloads—something we had already experienced with the 2big Network 2.
Note that there's no print server in this NAS, so you can't set up a printer next to the router and expect to print wirelessly. Plus, there's no function for scheduling on and off times for certain functions (back-up, BitTorrent client etc.).