The Iomega StorCenter ix2 is a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device with a unique feature set. It's the first NAS drive we've tested that supports Bluetooth devices and it's also the first that doesn't offer remote, over-the-internet access. It's also one of a few that is not user-serviceable; you're stuck with the two hard drives it comes with. On the bright side, the StorCenter ix2 is dead simple to set up and use — it just might be the easiest-to-use NAS server we've laid hands on. It's also compact and the first to support writing to external hard drives in NTFS format.
Design and setup
The Iomega StorCenter ix2 is about as compact as a NAS server can get with two internal hard drives; it's barely larger than two 3.5-inch hard drives put together. The StorCenter ix2 comes with two 500GB hard drives or two 1TB drives, but you can't replace the hard drives yourself.
On the front there are two blue status lights, one for power and the other for drive activity. These lights are very bright, enough to be annoying in a dark room. On the back, you'll find a gigabit ethernet port and two USB 2.0 ports. The device has a small cooling fan inside, which is very quiet.
Setting up the StorCenter ix2 is painless. Once hooked to the network, we followed the included CD and after a few clicks and a few minutes, everything was done — including two network drives being mapped to the NAS' default share folders: Public and Backup.
The setup process also installs the Iomega StorCenter Manager software, which helps add new USB devices connected to the NAS server, shows the network drives, and launches the web-based interface where you can further customise the settings of the StorCenter ix2. Other than using the Iomega StorCenter Manager, you can also access the ix2 using Windows Explorer the way you would access another computer in a local network. We found the web interface robust and easy to use.
The StorCenter ix2 comes with EMC Retrospect Express HD backup software. The software, though easy to use, is very limited. Other than the content of My Documents and Desktop folders, you can't choose to back up any other folders on the hard drive unless you choose to back the entire hard drive altogether.
The StorCenter ix2 supplies many popular NAS features save one: remote access via the web. Iomega says it might add this feature later via a firmware update. On the other hand, the StorCenter ix2 includes a feature that we've never seen before on a NAS drives: Bluetooth support. It doesn't come built-in, but rather via a USB adapter that you'll need to insert into one of the StorCenter's USB ports. We tried it with a Kensington USB Micro Bluetooth adapter, and it worked the moment we plugged it into the NAS server. We were able to send images from different mobile phones directly into the NAS server and they were immediately available to other network users. Bluetooth access is one way; there was no way for the phone to get anything from the NAS server.
The USB 2.0 ports of the StorCenter let you extend the storage capacity by connecting an external hard drive. To our pleasant surprise, the NAS supports read and write access to external hard drives formatted in either FAT32 or NTFS format. This is the first time we've seen a NAS drive that supports both read and write to NTFS external hard drives; most support only read access, some don't even offer support at all.
Other features of the StorCenter include support for media servers (including UPnP, DLNA, and iTunes), a print server, and a security camera. The media server and print server worked well during our tryout and were easy to set up, thanks to Iomega's well-organised and intuitive web interface. The security camera feature, however, was very limited. The NAS server supports only one USB camera at a time, and it can only record based on schedule, not motion detection. Nonetheless, we tried it with an Axis network security camera, and it worked as intended. The web-based page for the camera also works well with the iPhone and the iPod Touch. We were able to view the live video on an iPhone via a Wi-Fi connection. The security camera feature of the StorCenter ix2 works better as a tool that keeps tab on kids, rather than as a surveillance system.
What we like the most about the StorCenter ix2 is its web interface. By far, it's the most organised, intuitive management tool found in a NAS server. This is the first time we felt we could say that a novice user can comfortably install and manage the device.
What a novice user might not recognise, however, is that unlike any other NAS servers where you can just launch the web interface by typing in the IP address of the device into a browser, the StorCenter ix2's can only be launched by the Iomega Manager application. The application also needs to run in the background for you to work with the web-based interface. Once you turn off the application, the web interface will register the "page not found" error. While this is not a huge problem, it means you have to install the application in every single computer on the network and have it running in the background if you want to use any of them to manage the device.
We tested the Iomega StorCenter ix2 in both JBOD and RAID 1 configurations, and its performance was acceptable.
In JBOD format, where the device's hard drives are linked together back to back without any data redundancy, the scores were 42.3Mbps on our write test and 38.6Mbps on our read test. These were just a little bit slower than those of the ZyXel NSA-220
In RAID 1 configuration, where the device's hard drives are setup in a mirrored configuration — a format that trades speed for data redundancy — the StorCenter was slower scoring 33.5Mbps and 35.8Mbps for the write and read tests, respectively.
Overall, we liked how the StorCenter ix2 worked. It was very quiet and every function we tried out worked as intended.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Service and support
Iomega backs the StorCenter ix2 with only a one-year warranty, which is very short for a storage device. You can chat online with tech support via Iomega's site or fill out an e-mail form. Iomega's site has a user forum, FAQs, how-to videos, and downloadable manuals, drivers, and software. A 2TB version is available for AU$899.