Since the introduction of the Maxtor's OneTouch Backup external drives, Maxtor has consistently vied for top spot in the consumer external storage market. The Shared Storage Plus, a network-attached storage drive, has all the qualities that have kept the company in contention: handsome packaging, good performance, easy setup, loads of features, and useful software. It's also pricey and lacks the Gigabit Ethernet that would future-proof it, but that's the case with most consumer hard drives. The Shared Storage Plus drive family includes four members, ranging from 200GB to 500GB. All have 7,200rpm hard drives. We reviewed the 300GB model.
Like other single-drive configuration Maxtor external boxes, the Shared Storage Plus has a thin silver body and comes with a gray plastic stand so that you can orient the drive vertically. However, Maxtor's latest models dissipate heat better than their predecessors. A thin metal grating on the front provides increased airflow, allowing the unit to run cool to the touch, as well as adding a bit of class to the unit's appearance. A single button on the front of the unit serves as a power switch and a status light, while the rear of the unit is home to the AC power jack, two USB ports, and the Ethernet jack.
Setting up the Shared Storage Plus drive is a breeze. Plug in the power, attach it to your router, browse to the MSHome workgroup under Network Places where it appears, and you're ready to go. Right-click the drive name and assign it a drive letter using the Map Network drive if you want to use it from Windows Explorer.
Most users will want to tweak the default settings, such as what workgroup the drive appears under. You can do this using the supplied Maxtor Manager utility, or you can check your router's DHCP table for the drive and surf directly to the onboard HTML setup program using the drive's URL (for example, 192.168.0.8). The HTML setup app is one of the more attractive and intuitive applications we've seen, as is the bundled Retrospect Express HD backup software. HD offers a vast improvement in usability over previous Retrospect Express versions, albeit minus some bells and whistles.
If you have plans for a home multimedia network, the Shared Storage Plus can be used as a media server. It's UPnP (Universal Plug 'n' Play) and DLNA compliant (Digital Living Network Alliance) and can stream audio, video, or photos to any PC or UPnP- or DLNA-compatible device, such as D-Link's GSM-520 or MediaLounge DSM-320, which will display them on your TV or play them over your audio system.
The Shared Storage Plus lets you expand its capacity or share additional drives via its two USB ports. Simply attach any USB flash or external hard drive (or even a printer) that you want to share across the network. If the drive supported Gigabit Ethernet, we'd say it was almost feature-perfect. But streaming high-bandwidth HD stresses the capabilities of 10/100 Ethernet, and since Maxtor has taken the one step with serving multimedia, we're wondering why the company didn't take the second.
Considering it's chipped only for 10/100BaseTX Ethernet, the Shared Storage Plus's performance was excellent. The drive bested the Iomega StorCenter 250 by a wide margin to finish in a virtual dead heat with Western Digital's NetCenter, a nice but less feature-laden drive. The 300GB (16MB cache) Shared Storage Plus drive that we tested wrote 5GB of mixed file types in 23 minutes, 34 seconds and read the same files in 21 minutes, 19 seconds.
|5GB read test||5GB write test|
Maxtor provides adequate service and support for the Shared Storage Plus, with a standard one-year warranty. The docs and the setup sheet are easy to read and informative, and there's a ton of help available online at the company's Web site in the form of FAQs, a knowledge base, and software downloads. Toll-free telephone support is available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT.