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HP MV2020 Media Vault

Despite its consumer-friendly name, the HP Media Vault is essentially a network-attached storage (NAS) drive with media-streaming capabilities. The drive is available in two capacities: the 300GB Media Vault MV2010 costs AU$599, and the 500GB MV2020 costs AU$799. We tested the MV2020 model. Both drives ship with a single hard drive and an empty bay to add a second drive for more capacity or a RAID 1 array. The Media Vault can stream audio and video to any UPnP-compliant digital media adaptor and comes with backup and restore software, a pre-installed full-length movie, and two free movie downloads from CinemaNow. Though both Media Vault models represent a reasonable per-gigabyte price, the Buffalo TeraStation is slightly less expensive per GB, with a 1TB drive retailing for about AU$1999, and there are larger sizes available. Still, since the HP Media Vault lets you choose what drive to put in the second bay, you could easily create a 1TB drive for less than AU$2000 by finding a good deal on a hard drive. And even better, the HP Media Vault is quick with data transfers, making it an excellent option for the networked home user with tons of digital data and the desire to share it.

The silver-and-black Media Vault looks a lot like HP's own Slimline desktops. Its design is spare: on the front is a series of lights for power, network connection, disk activity and a single USB 2.0 port. A black-plastic door conceals the empty drive bay, and a lone power button graces the bottom of the device's face. On the back are two additional USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a power port. The built-in print server lets you network any compliant printer using the USB ports -- as many as three printers. Alternatively, you can use the USB ports to attach additional external hard drives.

You can add a second SATA drive to the empty drive bay -- IDE drives are not supported -- to increase your capacity or to set up a RAID 1 array. RAID 1 simply copies what's saved to the first drive to the second, so you have redundancy but not increased write-speed. Should one drive fail, you have everything copied onto the second drive. Keep in mind, though, file errors and bugs are also copied, so while RAID 1 is better than nothing, it's not the most secure solution either. (RAID 1 also reduces your overall capacity.) The Buffalo TeraStation Home Server offers RAID 5 capability, which is better for data security, though transfer times take a hit. The maximum capacity for the Media Vault, including secondary SATA drives and external USB hard drives, is 1.2TB.

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