In an effort to eradicate the number of socket-snatching NAS devices, print servers and Wi-Fi access points in your home, the Excito B3 box is all about consolidating your network services into one small but powerful unit.
Kitted out with 802.11n-capable Wi-Fi (and yes, the two antennae on the back do improve your connection speeds) it combines a router with a pre-installed hard drive that takes care of your storage for NAS-type functions. An eSATA port at the rear allows for external storage, too, with two USB ports on hand to share printers or other devices across the network.
Oddly, as it considers itself a router among other things, there are only two Gigabit Ethernet posts on the device, and one of these is intended for the WAN connection to your broadband box, so if you do have more than one wired device, you’re still going to need an external switch to connect them together.
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No two networks are the same, but the Excito defaults make sensible assumptions about how you want to use it. The unit ships with the Wi-Fi turned off, so you’ll need to have some physically wired device in order to set it up – a laptop and a crossover cable would do.
Most of the services, such as Wi-Fi, file sharing, user accounts, photo albums and media streaming are more or less a one-click operation, though there are some surprising omissions (no web filtering app?) and from a paranoid administrator point of view, greater depth in the capabilities of the web interface might have been nice.
A nice touch is the dynamic DNS service run from the Excito servers – register a unique name and you can use it to access your B3 across the internet wherever you are, although the usual provisos and warnings about this sort of activity apply.
There are a few downsides to the B3. Although possible to install your own software on the device, unlike some embedded devices, it isn’t as straightforward. The processor zips along at 1.2GHz but don’t expect to download torrents, hammer the NAS over Wi-Fi and serve up complicated web pages all at the same time – at least, not without hiccups. But for average domestic use it should be fine, saving you space and more than a few quid in running costs – we tested it drawing a mere 7W when idle.