Iomega StorCenter ix2-200 NAS Review

We liked the original Iomega StorCenter ix2 back when we reviewed it roughly twelve months ago, but the rest of the home NAS market has advanced in the intervening period and the ix2 is looking a little stale. To address that fact, Iomega have launched the StorCenter ix2-200, their second-gen version of the dual-drive backup station, now boasting removable storage and more. Check out the full SlashGear review after the cut.

The new StorCenter is generally similar to the old model, a compact box with two 3.5-inch SATA-II hard-drives, but the design is far slicker and more suited to home use. Where the ix2 had no front-mounted ports, the ix2-200 gets a USB port, quick-transfer button (that automatically sucks the contents of a drive hooked up to that USB port onto the internal storage) and useful indicator lights. Round the back there are a further two USB 2.0 ports – which can be used to plug in further hard-drives, printers for network sharing, or Iomega's optional Bluetooth dongle for wireless transfers from cellphones and the like – and a gigabit ethernet port, along with the power input and a Kensington lock slot. You can also see the two drive bays, now user-accessible.

One of our key criticisms about the original ix2 was that, should a drive fail – and you can set up S.M.A.R.T. drive alerts which will email you should that be predicted imminent – you needed to send the whole NAS to Iomega in order for them to switch to a replacement drive. Attempting to replace it yourself, or upgrade the stock drives for faster or larger versions, voided the NAS warranty.

The ix2-200, however, makes replacing the drives yourself more straightforward. Two screws (on the underside of the NAS) hold each in place, and once removed the caddies pull straight out. There's no support for hot-swapping, unfortunately, but the ix2-200 will automatically rebuild the standard RAID-1 array; more concerning, though, is the fact that Iomega insist you use their own replacement drives rather than any generic SATA-II 3.5-inch hard-drive. Not doing so will void the ix2-200's three-year warranty, and we're disappointed that Iomega seemingly bury this tidbit in the user manual rather than making it clear on their product pages (which only say that the drives are user-replaceable).

Setup is reasonably easy, especially if you're content with the default settings (which most home users should be). A single network connection and power connection gets the ix2-200 running, while a setup CD loaded in one of the networked computers locates the NAS and opens up the webserver-based UI. While you'd think this would be a reasonably speedy process, it took longer than you'd expect for the Iomega Solutions CD to grab the ix2-200's IP address; however, subsequent tweaks to the settings are easily done by punching in that IP directly, rather than reaching for the setup CD.

The UI is reasonably unchanged from the first-gen model, about which you'll hear no complaints from us. Seeing as the ix2-200 gets all the ix2's skills and more, that means you have a choice of UPnP DLNA and iTunes media server functionality, standalone BitTorrent downloads (complete with bandwidth throttling), folder quotas, Remote Access and Active Directory support. Apple users will find the ix2-200 compatible with Time Machine for straightforward integration, while Windows users get EMC Retrospect Express Backup (with unlimited client licenses) to handle automated backups. We're also glad to see scheduling support, which means you can copy files to and from the StorCenter at preset times to other NAS or USB drives (using rsync or CIFS). Since we'll be the first to advocate having a regular, offsite backup of your data, scheduling can make doing that all the more straightforward.

New and notable to the ix2-200 is iSCSI support, borrowed from its bigger ix4-200d sibling, and automatic drive power management. The former is unlikely to be much use to most home users, but small offices might find its ready integration with Microsoft Server useful. As for the latter, that's much more appealing; the ix2-200's drives automatically spin down when not in use, and the NAS is paired with an Energy Star certified PSU. Iomega have picked a pair of Seagate low-power HDDs, which are reasonably quiet but still louder than the StorCenter's fan.

There's plenty of functionality on offer, and certainly, and much of it – like iSCSI – seems of limited use to the sort of home buyers who'll be drawn in by the ix2-200's reasonable pricing. The NAS can work with up to five IP webcams, for instance, supporting recording and monitoring without a client PC; useful, but we'd rather Iomega had made Bluetooth support standard and integrated the Bluetooth chip, rather than demanding a separate USB adapter be used.

As for pricing, the new range starts at $269.99 for the 1TB model (which, in standard RAID-1 setup, will offer 500GB of storage), then $269.99 for the 2TB model, and finally $699.99 for the 4TB NAS. Of the three, we'd plump for the 2TB, balancing space versus pricing. Compared to the ix2, the ix2-200 is a significant improvement, not least for the native Time Machine support for OS X users and the power saving functionality. The enterprise functionality may mean relatively little for the StorCenter ix2-200's target audience, but drive redundancy and the flexibility of print and media servers, backup and cost-efficient pricing make this a successful improvement on the first-gen NAS.