Network-attached storage (NAS) can be intimidating, but HP's Media Vault mv2120 puts users at ease with its carefully designed, integrated software.
Although the HP Media Vault has a two-bay design, it comes loaded with a single 500GB drive; the other bay can accommodate a second drive to provide additional storage or to handle mirroring.
The HP Media Vault's menu system's approachable push-button design walks you through everything from media folder shortcuts (leading straight to premade video, photo, and music directories) to automating file backups and setting up a simple photo-sharing website.
The HP Media Vault's Photo Webshare function broadcasts as an HP-labelled website, so you can grant external access to the NAS without revealing your own IP address to the world.
The HP Media Vault's network interface emphasizes convenience and functionality. For example, you can use a slider to adjust how often the mv2120 pings iTunes to back up your music - freeing you from having to remember such pesky details as storage.
Ditto for backups of other data on your system (the HP Media Vault's software can handle only file-level backups, not full system backups, however).
The HP Media Vault mv2120's software may be great, but its performance versus other NAS devices on our tests was undistinguished. The unit took a hit on its write performance, but balanced that out with above-average read performance.
Unfortunately, the HP Media Vault's hardware cut a few corners in its physical design, too. The Media Vault's largely plastic housing makes it feel a bit lightweight.
Another gripe: the HP Media Vault's swappable drive bay uses a flimsy plastic tray. The hard drive snaps into the tray to provide its structure, but we cringed as it snapped into place because it felt slightly fragile.
Also, juggling the drives is a bit of a pain. The primary drive, which comes built in to the unit contains the NAS's operating system. You can crack the case and replace the drive with another one, but then you have to download a utility from HP's site to format the new drive and to install its OS.
The HP Media Vault offers an easy way to add storage to your network. It's a good choice if you have moderate storage needs and want to share content; but if you plan to move lots of data to the device, its slower-than-average write speeds may reduce its appeal.