Seagate’s BlackArmor NAS 110: Not Very Media-Friendly

Most of the network-attached storage drives I’ve tested recently have been decidedly un-geeky products. But not Seagate’s BlackArmor NAS 110. While this networked drive is incredibly easy to install, its management software is a bit too techie for my taste, making this an imperfect solution for someone looking for a simple way to stream media files throughout their house.

The BlackArmor NAS 110, which is available in versions with 1TB and 2TB of storage, is designed for the small/home office or “prosumer” user, according to Seagate. And it does have some very business-focused features, such as the ability to back up as many as 10 connected PCs and support for Windows Server 2008, so that a small office could use the device as its primary server.

But it also offers some home entertainment features, too, such as the ability to share media files with DLNA-compliant devices, like many set-top boxes. It also works as an iTunes server, letting you share audio and video files with other computers on your network running Apple’s software. All of its media sharing features worked as advertised, but the BlackArmor NAS 110 doesn’t offer any extra media-friendly features that would make this drive stand out from what it becoming an increasingly crowded market.

Seagate’s BlackArmor NAS 110 sports a sleek black design that belies its geeky interior; it’s a bit smaller and more square-shaped than your average hardcover book. To install it, you just connect it to your router using the included Ethernet cable and then plug it in. You then install the BlackArmor Discovery app on your computer (Windows or Mac) to locate and map the drive. Seagate also includes a BackArmor Backup app that can be used to set up automatic backups.

Seagate’s Discovery app automatically finds your Seagate drive, and you just click a button to see the drive details. It shows you the folders that exist on the drive, and you can connect to them from within the software, or you can choose to map them so that you can access them later, without using the software.

But things go downhill when you enter Seagate’s Web-based interface for actually managing your BlackArmor drive. You get a Spartan interface — which I actually like, as it loads quickly and doesn’t overwhelm — but the options become more complex. You can delete the existing folders on the drive and add new ones, but when you create new folders, you’re presented with options that can be difficult to navigate. For example, when you add a new folder you have to select which of the following services you’d like: CIFS, FTP, or NFS. While a technically-savvy user may be able to select his service without a second thought, a home user who’s looking to share some video files may be confused.

Also confusing : Once you create a folder — selecting the services you want — you’re then presented with a second screen where you have to set access rights to the drive. I thought I had granted myself (as the admin) rights to all of my folders, but found myself unable to access any of them a few minutes later. My error was easily resolved by a quick trip back to Seagate’s software, but a clearer setup process could have helped me avoid it altogether.

Once you get past all of the administration woes, though, the BlackArmor NAS 110 performs well. It streams files to DLNA-compliant set-top boxes without incident, and allowed me to share audio files between two computers running iTunes.

But performing well on these, the most basic of media streaming tasks, isn’t reason enough to buy this drive. When you compare it to Netgear’s Stora, which has its own embedded media player software that lets you play back music and video files right from the drive, Seagate’s drive feels downright pedestrian. If you’re a business user looking for secure file storage and backup, the BlackArmor NAS 110 could meet your needs. But if you’re a home entertainment junkie looking to share audio and video files throughout your house, you can do better than this drive.