The Vox BlackBox offers 1TB of storage and can be found online from about $310 to $340. Aside from its low cost per gigabyte, there's unfortunately little to recommend about this dual-drive Network Attached Storage device. From the desktop application to the Web-based interface, the device is consistently confusing. All of its functions--and there are just a few of them--are poorly designed, making setup and configuration a series of trial and errors. It's performance, however, is decent, and once we did get it up and running, it proved to be a reliable network device. If you have some experience with network devices and are looking for the largest capacity out of the box for the lowest price, the Vox BlackBox might be the NAS drive you're looking for. If you're willing to pay a little more for more features and intuitiveness, we recommend the D-Link DNS-323 or the HP MediaVault 2120.
Despite its name, the BlackBox comes outfitted in a silver aluminum casing. Nonetheless, it is very sturdy, well-built, and compact, especially considering that the unit is the first two-bay NAS device we've reviewed that has a built-in power supply. This design, however, makes the device very noisy because its two fans on the back have to work harder to dissipate the heat.
On the front the BlackBox you'll find the two hard-drive bays that are locked. You need to use the keys, which are included in the package, to open them. Look at the key for a minute; you'll immediately realize that a paper clip would do the job just fine, which we consider to be a design flaw. If you decide to have a lock, make it a real lock; this kind of pseudo protection adds only nuisance not security.
On the back, the BlackBox comes with a USB port that can be used to add more storage to the device via an external hard drive or thumbdrive. The same feature can be seen in the HP Media Vault 2120; the external hard drive has to be formatted in either FAT32, EXT2, or EXT3 file systems to have both read and write access to it.
Setting up the Vox BlackBox could be a very simple job, but it's likely that most novice users will get tripped up because of its confusing setup software and incoherent Web interface. For example, after launching the setup desktop software, we were greeted with the message "Step1. Network Storage Link(s) Have Been Found!" whether anything has actually been found. You see the same message even if the drive isn't connected or powered on. And there's no indication of what the next step should be. We've worked with a lot of networking devices, and it took us quite a bit to figure the BlackBox out. The truth is there are no more steps with this application. It turns out that all you need to do is plug the device in the network then click on the tiny "Search again" button (and no, we didn't know why it says "again" when no search had been carried out in the first place), wait a bit for the BlackBox to show up on the list, and then double click on its name to launch its Web-based interface. You can then use this interface to make further tweaks, such as changing RAID settings or setting up user accounts and access privileges. The rest of the setup process, via the Web interface, unfortunately, is also a similar series of "lets click here and see what happens."
The Vox BlackBox doesn't have a lot of features, which is a good thing considering the confusing setup routine. The device features an iTunes server that worked very well in our test. The rest on the feature list, including FTP and BitTorrent, didn't work at all (or we didn't know how to make them work, to be precise). Other than that, it has regular user accounts and privilege like most other NAS device where you can set read and write access to various folders on the drive.
The BlackBox comes prearranged in RAID 0 configuration, where the two drives are combined into a big 1TB volume. You can easily change this setup into 500GB RAID 1 volume for redundancy data protection. Either RAID 0 or RAID 1 took about 10 minutes to be configured and worked well in the sense that you can create share folders, then assign access privilege to each of them; you can also create a private share folder and disk quota for each of the user.