Digital network media centers, once a luxury firmly in the geek domain, are now beginning to be found commonly beside large screen LCD and Plasma TVs. Connected to your home network; a virtually unlimited supply of entertainment can be pumped out to your big screen TV. Amongst the multitude of media centers out there today, we found an odd gem sticking out– the Rapsody N35.
The Rapsody N35 is simple and sleek with a matte black finish. Its front bezel offers touch sensitive basic controls that blinks in response when activated. Other information such as active LAN connection and type of video connection being used are also displayed. Behind the N35 lies a large choice of video connections which will certainly satisfy any movie buff out there. DVI, Component, S-Video and Composite video out – you name it and the N35 has it. Even when it comes to audio output, the N35 doesn’t disappoint too with optical, coaxial S/PDIF and analog stereo out. Opening up the N35, we found a spacious mount to fit a single PATA hard disk as well as the brains behind the device, a Ximeta chip for NDAS support.
NDAS (Network Direct Access Storage) might sound alien to most out there and we wouldn’t blame you as there isn’t even a Wikipedia entry on it yet. Truth be told, NDAS is actually a competitor of NAS (Network Attached Storage) technology. Designed and patented to be hassle free, no networking knowledge is needed as the Ximeta chip takes care of everything. Just a quick installation of the NDAS drivers and the hard disk is ready to be mounted and accessed across your network. Security comes in form of unique keys (Read and Write have different keys) that are provided with the chip to ensure that unauthorized users cannot access or delete data within the drive. What we found most intriguing about this technology is how it even allows users to create RAID 0, 1 or JBOD arrays with multiple NDAS enabled devices for speed, data redundancy or just pure convenience over the network!
Prior to this, NDAS technology was found usually on hard disk enclosures but the N35 is the first media center to our knowledge to feature it.
Installing the N35 was a breeze as our PC immediately recognized the hard disk within the N35 after installing the drivers. We then seamlessly transferred a multitude of media files into the N35 and connected it to a 42-inch LCD TV. When fired up, there was absolutely no lag or clunky interface experienced like in some media centers. In fact, playback was seamless among all the formats that it supports (and that is quite a few), though it would have been perfect if it was HD capable. Digging a little deeper, we found firmware updates online that were very recent, which was very reassuring for a product that lived or died by its codec support and updates. Navigation is quite user friendly as long as you figure out how to switch to the English menu's from its default Korean and the remote included is pretty helpful too.
We did however take note of some kinks in the N35 – it is problematic when attached to a wireless network that exceed standard G network speeds. The connected system usually ends up with a BSOD when a transfer is initiated.
With its ability to create virtual/networked RAID 1 arrays that allows your household media collection to have an excellent degree of redundancy and a strong suite of multimedia capabilities, the N35 is unsurpassed at satisfying those looking for a home multimedia center that doubles as a NAS. We were truly impressed by the uniqueness and capabilities of the Rapsody N35 and absolutely recommend this little gem. However, those with wireless networks that exceed current wireless G standards might want to take note that the N35 is incompatible with such speeds. The Rapsody N35 is available immediately for a modest price of S$479 (~US$300).