Together with rivals Maplin and Lindy, Canada-based Startech could well be described as the online equivalent of Ali Baba’s Cave for DIY enthusiasts; and its tagline says it all “Hard-to-find made easy”. The company sources and sells a bewildering array of common and unusual devices (including an XGA Volari Z7 video card). Still we couldn’t find a RAM Drive or RAM disk of any sort.
We received the S2520U2WUKEU from them, one of those gadgets which pleasantly surprises whoever receives it and pull a “why aren’t there more of these around?” interlocution from my lips. For this device is a Wi-Fi/USB 2.0 to 2.5in SATA hard disk enclosure.
In other words, put a hard disk drive in it and it converts it into a wireless storage unit, either as a DAS (Direct Attached Storage) or a NAS (Network Attached Storage). Startech lists it for £108 but it is much cheaper elsewhere; Ebuyer lists it for as little as £58 with two year warranty.
You can either create a local wireless hotspot with a shared hard drive or a combination of wireless external storage with a wireless access point. Swapping between the two is as easy as toggling a switch at the back of the device; “client scan” for the former and AP for the latter.
Interestingly enough, Startech’s enclosure comes with an RJ45 port (which can be used to connect to a broadband modem or a switch) and a microUSB connector which means that you can use it as a traditional tethered external hard disk drive (USB and networked).
You still need to connect it to an external power supply, which reduces its appeal a bit, although because it requires 10W, you will be able to power it using two USB ports in tandem using the bundled cable.
The device itself is a plastic box with air vents all over. It’s worth noting that the S2520U2WUKEU does get warm to the touch even when running a SSD drive. There are eight indicator lights, a retractable antenna and a reset button. Installing the hard disk drive is merely a matter of “firmly” pressing on the rear panel of the enclosure “just above the mini USB connector”. Not as easy as it sounds as we managed to break one of the latches. Then you just need to slot in the hard disk drive in place. A seamless, tool-less and fairly painless process altogether.
The S2520U2WUKEU supports FTP, Samba and UPnP media server with a built-in BT client should you want to run that in the background. It can take drives up to 9.5mm in height which, in theory means that you should be able to shove in a 2TB hard disk drive (like this £104 WD My Passport portable hard drive).
Amongst the features, we’d like to see in future, the ability to power it via USB, the ability to connect external drives, support for 802.11ac and PoE, an integrated battery and a card reader and, dare we say, the ability to run it as a standalone computer (by somehow integrating one of those nifty HDMI dongles). Very ambitious but well worth the try.
If you encounter issues with that device, bear in mind that this product is foremost a portable access point with storage so to access the data that is on the drive, your device will need to connect its wireless connection or be physically connected to the Ethernet port. If the S2510U2WFEU is connected to your modem or router, it will act as an access point providing both data access and internet through the wireless signal.