The Gadget: Linksys' Media Hub seems like a server, since it backs up data, gathers your media files automatically, and streams media over IP, but it's more like a super functional NAS drive with RAID support.
The Skinny: The Media Hub NAS drive is built on top of a custom linux platform that works with Mac or PC, complete with automated backups, remote access, and specific functionality, such as iTunes Server. Simillar to theHP MediaSmart Server, it presents music, photos and video in a browser based UI, that can be accessed over both local and remote connections. That means you can stream all your media from your web browser without any additional apps. It also plays nice with Linksys' new Wireless Home Audio system.
The Linksys Media Hub comes in three configurations—the 500 GB NAS without a navigation LCD screen will cost $350. The 500 GB NAS with an LCD screen will cost $400, and the 1 TB NAS with an LCD screen will cost $430.
Wilson got a chance to check it out, and here are his shots and basic impressions:
Setup was easy, provided you have a Windows PC. Even gaining remote access to files over the web required nothing more than a quick sign-up on Cisco's server website. While you can't configure it on a Mac, you can access it via Bonjour or DLNA, so moving files is reliable and fast.
The Media Hub web interface controls the system, and comes in two flavors, a full featured one you can only access locally, and a more content-oriented one you can reach anywhere. The interface has its own media player, so you can queue up music and play away, right there. You can also play movies and photo slideshows if you run IE on a PC. If you're running Firefox or any other browser, you can get at your videos and photos, but you tend to have to download them to view them. The same goes for AAC audio, which can be played back via your browser, but currently can't play from the hub media player.
Dumping files directly from a memory card or USB stick was a cool feature—it auto detects, then it's just a simple matter of clicking OK. I did have trouble with an 8GB SDHC card from SanDisk, but Linksys tells me that shouldn't be the case generally, that SDHC is supported, so I assume it's just a temporary bug.
In all, the system does a fair amount—solid backup, good media accessibility. The biggest differentiator might be the direct access to the drive from the card slots and USB. Linksys promises future features like Time Machine backup and better media handling, but for now, it's a solid product for the PC world.
Cisco Simplifies Digital Media Access for Consumers
Linksys by Cisco Media Hub helps consumers enjoy all of their digital photos,
music and video anytime, anywhere
Las Vegas – January 7, 2009 – Cisco® today announced the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Designed to simplify access to and interaction with digital content, the Media Hub gathers, organizes, and presents all the digital video, photos and music that users have spread amongst various devices in the home. With a Media Hub consumers can enjoy all of their media through an easy to use interface that is not only accessible in the home, but throughout the world via a web browser. The Media Hub is the perfect solution for consumers with extensive digital media libraries who are looking to eliminate the complexity of managing their collections.
Centralized Access to Digital Photos, Music and Videos Sharing media on multiple devices within the home is easy with the Media Hub's media and iTunes server capabilities. The Media Hub automatically searches the network for other media devices to present all available digital media to the user in a single location.
Easy Graphical User Interface
Content accessible to the Media Hub is presented in a browser-based, simple to navigate user interface. Music albums are consolidated and presented together with the appropriate Album Art, regardless of where the tracks reside within the network, eliminating the need to know which device music is stored on. Photos and videos are presented using thumbnail images that are easily organized by date or name. All available media, regardless of type, can be located by using the available search function.
Simple Remote Access Remote Access can be enabled on the Media Hub with just a few clicks of a button. Users are not required to install any special software or change their network configuration. The Media Hub takes care of everything with the exception of choosing its Remote Access name. Whether accessing the Media Hub on a PC at home, or through a web browser anywhere in the world via www.ciscomediahub.com, consumers are presented with the same easy to navigate user interface that enables them to access their digital media and upload or download files from a remote location.
Backup Automated backup software is included with the Media Hub to help ensure that even the most treasured memories and digital libraries are protected. Folders on a computer within the network that contain Digital Media can be set to automatically copy any new files to the Media Hub for added piece of mind.
Consumer Friendly Design
The product's sleek design makes it possible to place the Media Hub virtually anywhere in the home and with its near silent operation it will not disturb daily life. With two drive bays and external USB ports consumers can easily expand their Media Hub if and when their Digital Media storage needs grow.
Configurations and availability:
In the US, the products are available now from authorized Linksys by Cisco retailers, resellers, and VAR partners. Cisco anticipates availability in Canada, UK, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands during the first quarter of 2009. The Media Hub comes in both the NMH300 Series and the NMH400 Series. The NMH300 series is a cost-effective solution that offers all of the core features of the Media Hub, and is designed to be used primarily with a PC or Mac to interface with the device. On the NMH400 Series, an LCD screen that displays information such as available space, drive usage by type of media, and network status teams with a 6-in-1 card reader to enable the simple transfer of new media and entertainment onto the Media Hub without the need for a computer. Firmware upgrades and instant backups can also be initiated via navigating the LCD.
The following configurations of the LinksysMedia Hub will be available from launch:
NMH305 – Linksys by Cisco Media Hub (500GB hard drive) MSRP: $299.99/ €299.99
NMH405 – Linksys by Cisco Media Hub with LCD and 6-in-1 card reader (500GB hard drive) MSRP: $349.99/ €349.99
NMH410 – Linksys by Cisco Media Hub with LCD and 6-in-1 card reader (1TB hard drive) MSRP: $429.99/ €429.99