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The HP Media Vault MV2120 is a two-bay network-attached-storage device with 500GB of storage and room to expand. It keeps things simple and serves up basic NAS features, including an iTunes server, remote Web access, and scheduled backups. While the device is a snap to set up, we found the bundled software to be intrusive. We were disappointed by the lack of a print server despite the existence of not one but two USB ports. The Media Vault MV2120 trails behind the Synology Disk Station DS107+ in terms of features and speed. Also, Hewlett-Packard's Media Vault ships with 500GB of storage for roughly the same price as the empty Synology enclosure while offering a second drive bay for data expansion. Priced at $300 for 500GB of storage, the Media Vault MV2120 delivers good value per gigabyte ($0.60 per GB). By focusing on a few essential features, the drive is easy to set up and use. Its affordability coupled with simplicity makes the HP Media Vault MV2120 an attractive choice for novice home users. However, keep shopping if you need a NAS device with the capability to share a printer across your network.
The MV2120 is solid and relatively compact for a dual-bay NAS device; however, it's nowhere near as small as Buffalo's LinkStation Mini. Blue LED lights glow on the front of the device to indicate power, networking, and hard-drive status. Each bay also has a blue light that shines when there's a hard drive installed.
The device has two USB ports, one on the front and the other on the back, that can be used to add external hard drives to increase the storage space or to back up the content on the device. We tried a few external hard drives, and they worked very well. The USB ports were also able to power the bus-powered external hard drives.
The MV2120 only supports write and read on external drives formatted in the FAT32 file system; drives formatted in NTFS can only be read. If you want to back up the contents of the MV2120 to an external hard drive, the USB drive needs to be formatted in the EXT3 file system (Linux). Note that once you format an external drive in EXT3, Windows PCs or Macs will no longer recognize it.
The Media Vault MV2120 ships with a single 3.5-inch 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive. This hard drive is screwed in, but it is still user-changeable. Unfortunately, the operating system of the MV2120 is hosted on this hard drive, which means you will need to download a utility from HP to rebuild the whole system should you replace the drive. It would be much less of an hassle if HP had installed the device's operating system on a ROM chip, as is done in the Synology DS107+ or many other NAS devices we've reviewed.
The second hard-drive bay on the other hand is very flexible. It can take a 3.5-inch SATA hard drive of any capacity and it is even hot-swappable, meaning you can replace it without having to turn off the device. However, it comes with a plastic tray that feels flimsy and cheap. Nonetheless, it does its job well as long as you are gentle with it. Once the second hard drive is installed, you have the option of combining it with the fixed one in a RAID 1 (there's no option for RAID 0) configuration or having it work as a second volume. In either case, the drive will need to be formatted in EXT3. However, make sure you know which configuration you want, because once you have decided to go with the RAID 1, the MV2120 doesn't offer any easy way to change it.
It's very easy to set up the Media Vault MV2120. The bundled CD contains the Media Vault Monitor application that helps your computer detect NAS drives on the network and the Media Vault Control Center application for accessing the MV2120's main features. Among other things, the software allows for quick access to the MV2120's default shared folders, such as Documents, Music, Photos, and its main functions such as backup (the MV2120 comes with NTI Shadow backup software to support its backup function), Photo Webshare, and iTunes server.
We do have one complaint about the installation process: HP automatically sets Media Vault Monitor and HP Update to launch each time you start the computer. There's no option to disable this within the software and we didn't find any reason for it to automatically start up. The MV2120 ran just fine without the software running. During our test, more than once the HP Update popped up suggesting that we run an update, when we did, there was no update to be found.
The HP Media Vault MV2120's backup feature is flexible. You can choose to back up your computer's important files (My Documents, My Music, My Picture, and so on) or back up any selected folders from a computer to the MV2120. You can also back up the NAS itself onto a USB external hard drive. Like most other backup solutions, you can do the backups immediately or schedule it. MV2120 even lets you choose to back up files when they change and keep multiple versions of the files. Overall, we found the backup function very through and convenient.
The Photo Webshare features also worked well. HP has gone one step further than Synology in helping you make your photo album available over the Web. A Remote Access Wizard helps you set up your personal Web address and configures your network router to accommodate the connection. This is a rather significant improvement for novice users as understanding what port needs to open and forwarding it to the right IP address could be a very intimidating task. For this to work, your network's router must support Universal Plug and Play, which, fortunately, most new routers do. If yours doesn't, the wizard will guide you through the manual setup. HP also includes one year of personal domain registration from TZO, after that, it will cost you $9.95 per year. Once setup, you can access your MV2120--both photos in album format and your data files--over the Internet via the personal Web address.
Though not new, the iTunes server feature worked well. The HP MediaVault MV2120 offers a little convenience with this feature by adding a slider to adjust how often it checks for new music on your computer. This means you don't have to worry about backing up your music each time you have added more songs. The MediaVault also works with DLNA-compliant devices such as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
Despite the existence of two USB ports, the MV2120 does not include a printer server, a potential deal breaker if you are buying a NAS drive in part to share your printer over your network. It also doesn't have features such as music playing, USB speakers, remote control, surveillance system, and so on, as found in the Synology DS107+. However, the Synology is probably one of a kind, at least for now, when it comes to offering useful features that nobody even thought about in a NAS device.
Lastly, the HP MediaVault MV2120 includes the standard NAS features of setting up user accounts to manage read and write access to certain features and shared folders.
The HP MV2120 turned in average scores on CNET Labs throughput tests. On our write test, the NAS device was about the average among those we've reviewed, scoring 39.2Mbps. On our read test, it did better with 46.1Mbps, moving up to the third place on our charts. The MV2120 was also very quiet during our tests and worked very smoothly.
We did notice, however, that its Web interface's response was very inconsistent. Most of the time, we had no problems. However, sometimes it would be very sluggish and even froze for a few seconds or crash the browser.
Service and support
HP backs MediaVault MV2120 with a one-year warranty. Also, 24-7 toll-free phone support is available. Alternatively, you can contact tech support via e-mail or Web-based chat. At HP's support site, you can download the user manual and the software that comes bundled with the MV2120 as well as firmware updates.