ZyXel NAS220 review: New-school hardware, old-school software (in a good way)

Excellent hardware and performance, as well as a broad array of ports, highlight this slickly designed NAS box.

The ZyXel NAS520 is fast, cleverly designed, and just a generally great media-streaming and backup box. But it’s better for those with above-average computer chops—the interface is just a tad geeky. Still, $190 for a NAS box with a FreeScale FS1024 CPU, 1GB of system memory, and dual ethernet ports is an undeniably good deal.

Design

That clever design we refer to concerns the quick-removal drive trays, which are hidden behind the magnetically-attached front cover. They’re great for 3.5-inch drives, using pressure pieces that obviate the need for screws. You can install or change a drive in this puppy in no time.

The design, however, seems much less clever when you have to spudge out the somewhat delicate plastic pressure pieces to fit 2.5-inch hard drives or SSDs. Zyxel includes two spare pressure pieces in case of overzealous prying or other mishap.

zyxel b Zyxel

The NAS520 has twin ethernet ports that support aggregation, a speed-enhancing feature if your home network supports it.

The NAS 520 has a wide selection of ports, including a USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot on the front. There’s also a quick-copy button to initiate the transfers from those ports, which are normally hidden behind a captive, pop-off cover, so they won’t collect dust when not in use. Two USB 3.0 ports on the back are for attaching mass storage, printers, and the like.

The average user can’t make use of the NAS520’s dual gigabit ethernet ports, but if you’re rocking a business router or a Netgear NIghthawk X10, they will significantly increase your bandwidth when aggregated (data is split and transmitted and received over both).

Operating system, interface and apps

zyxel6

The ZyXel interface is similar to QNAP and Synology’s, though drilling down you’ll find less colorful pages. But less colorful can also be easier to use.

The NAS520, like the QNAP, Synology, and TerraMaster boxes, features a windowed operating system inside a browser, though it’s not as slickly realized and not implemented throughout. Truth be told, having all the settings within easy reach in a collapsible tree as shown below, is far more efficient than a stack of windows, it's just not as sexy.

zyxel7

ZyXel’s settings page may not be sexy, but it’s far faster to use than the new-school, stack-of-windows interfaces.

Performance

The NAS520’s backup performance was excellent. Streaming via DLNA and iTunes, or simply launching files from Windows Explorer was also quick and smooth. Zyxel provides the ZyXel zCloud app for iOS and Android that lets you browse files, but playback is up to the client OS and/or its third-party apps. Most boxes provide their own client apps, though they’re rarely as good as what third parties provide.

NAS box benchmark revised Jon L. Jacobi

The ZyXel NAS520 delivered surprisingly good performances for the money.

Plex Media Server would be a nice way around this. There's talk in ZyXel’s forums about installing it, but it’s only doable if you have considerable expertise manually installing Linux packages—that's not part of the average user’s skill set.

The NAS520 will sync with Dropbox and Google Drive, and you can easily access the box online via the company’s myZyXelCloud portal. There are quite a few other server-like apps available, as well as auto-upload of video and photos to YouTube and Flickr.

Conclusion

Though it takes a relatively high geek IQ to configure and administer, the NAS520 is a very good performer at a nice price. The DLNA streaming and backup basics are great; so if that’s all you need, and that describes most of us, have at it.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags network attached storage

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jon L. Jacobi

TechHive (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?