Editors' note, July 13, 2010: We increased this review's features subrating and its overall rating based on our testing of the server's remote access and media streaming features, which didn't work during our initial testing.
The Verbatim 1TB MediaShare Home Network Storage Server has the same shape as Apple's stylish Time Capsule: squarish with smooth and rounded corners. However, the Verbatim brings the style up a notch with a chassis made of brushed aluminum. As a NAS server, the device offers good throughput performance of has plenty of ports to support more storage.
Like the Time Capsule, however, it's far from perfect. The Verbatim is hard to set up and use; its Web interface is not robust or intuitive enough; and its media share feature requires an annual subscription. Last but not least, the server's hard drive can't be serviced by users and is limited to just 1TB.
For about $200, if you don't mind spending some time to familiarize yourself with the way it works, the Verbatim 1TB MediaShare could makes a good addition to your network as a storage device, and an even better addition to your home as a piece of tech deco. If you want something that offers more functionality and is easier to use, however, check out the LG N1T1.
Design and setup
The Verbatim 1TB MediaShare Home Network Storage Server is the first single-volume NAS server we've seen with so much emphasis on design. The shiny device looks like it's made of stainless steel and feels as if it could survive being run over by a truck; it's heavy and sturdy, and managed to still be one of the most aesthetically pleasing NAS servers we've seen.
The thick layer of shiny aluminum also helps dissipate the heat, making the server one of the coolest and quietest NAS servers we've reviewed, even during heavy loads.
On the front, the Verbatim has a USB port and a Backup button. This is a standard feature that allows for backing up a USB storage device onto the server's internal storage. There are also LED lights that show the status of the server, the internal hard drive, and the network activities.
On the back, the device has anther two USB ports, an eSATA port and a Gigabit Ethernet port. The Verbatim has the most peripheral ports among single volume NAS devices. The LG N1T1, for example, has just one USB port. These ports can be used to host extra storage, which is important because the server's internal storage is limited to only 1TB and you can't change the internal hard drive by yourself.
Unlike its pleasant attire, setting the server proved to be rather involved and could be frustrating for home users. The device comes with a CD that contains software to facilitate the setup process; there are three steps to the software: "Setup," "Install Desktop Application," and "Backup Configuration." The first two steps are mandatory and the last one is optional.
Unfortunately the work didn't turn out to be as easy as 1,2,3. The setup software is slow during transitions from one section to another and each above-mentioned step includes multiple smaller steps.
"Setup," for example, forces you to register the NAS server with Verbatim, which involves entering a long and closely printed serial number from the CD sleeve. You then have to provide an e-mail and pick a strong password. Note that you must have a connection to the Internet for this to work, which could be a big problem if you intend to use the server with an isolated network.
All in all, the Verbatim's setup process, though not exactly difficult, took us the longest time among recent single volume NAS servers to finish.
The second step of the setup process in to install Verbatim's MediaShare Agent desktop application. This application automatically runs each time the computer starts and helps to map the server's shared folders to the local computer for faster access. You can also play them back directly from the Web browser and stream them to DLNA-compliant devices. You can turn the streaming feature on or off for each share folder, but you can't change how often the server looks for newly-added content. To make the added content available to media streamer right away, you'll need to restart the NAS server.
Technically, however, you can do all of these without using the software. For example, can you get to the server's Web interface by pointing a browser to its IP address, and you can browse for the server's shared folders using Windows Explorer, and map the share folders manually. On a Mac computer, the server automatically appears in Finder.
The server's Web interface is rather sluggish and seems over-simplified to the point that it's sometimes counterintuitive. For example, in "Network Sharing" under "System Preferences", there's an option to "Enable network sharing for private files," which invites you to pick "yes" or "no." However, there's no explanation as to what yes or no would mean or what constitutes "private files." Other settings also have similarly ambiguous wording.
The server shares data in a manner reminiscent of the user profiles of a Windows operating system. By default, a user is able to access two main shared folders called "MyLibrary" and "FamilyLibrary." Inside each of these two are subfolders named after the types of data they contain, such as Music, Photo and so on. When you put digital content into their respective subfolders, it can be viewed as albums (for photos) or as media library (music and video). You can also play them back directly from the Web browser and stream them to DLNA-compliant devices. You can turn the streaming feature on or off for each share folder but you can't change how often the server looks for newly-added content. To make the added content available to media streamer right away, you'll need to restart the NAS server.
You also can't create more shared folders, but you can create more subfolder within the two main shared folders mentioned above. Though the "FamilyLibrary" is available to all users by default, each user can access only his or her own private "MyLibrary" and is unable to see other users' private folders.
And admin user can add/change/remove more users and determine whether or not a user has access to the "FamilyLibrary" shared folder. Out of the box, the server supports only three user accounts, a very limited number compared to other NAS servers. To have more users, you will need to opt for the premium MeidaShare service.
The premium service, which is the main feature of the NAS server, unfortunately costs $19.99/year. You do have a 30-day free trial, but that is not long enough for you to really lean about what you can do with the service, considering how sluggish and unintuitive the server's Web interface is.
Apart from increasing the amount of user accounts to unlimited, the premium service allows for secure FTP, accessing and sharing the data stored on the server via a mobile phone, Flickr integration, and the Cooliris 3D interface for photo display. Depending on the type of data, you can view it as a photo album or play back audio and video files. You can also use the service to integrate social Web sites, such as Facebook and Flickr, with the digital content on the NAS server.
The MediaShare comes with a vendor-assisted remote access via the MyVerbatim.com Web site. At the site, a user can sign in and access data stored on the server as well as access the server's Web interface, similar to how it is done via the local network. We tried this out and while it worked as intended, but its initial loading time was rather long--up to a minute. However, the load time depends on the Internet connection at both ends and the router to which the MediaShare is connected to. According to Verbatim, if the router supports UPnP, which most of them do, the performance is better.
Though these options seem appealing, considering many other NAS servers, such as the Synology DS107+ or the HP MediaSmart LX195 , offer similar features for free, we feel the MediaShare feature of the Verbatim is not worth the price and the fact that it allows only three user accounts out of the box is lacking.
The Verbatim MediaShare can handle external hard drives formatted in both FAT32 and NTFS. Once plugged in, the hard drive's content will be immediately shared as a subfolder of the FamilyLibrary and therefore is available to all users. You can also use any of the connected external hard drives as the destination to back up the data stored on the server's internal hard drive, in which case, data stored on the external hard drive will no longer be available to share. Once set up, the server can perform the backing up on its own.
It's a little bit of a different story when you want to use the server as the backup destination of network computers, in which case you are supposed to run the third part of the setup process. Here the software supposedly configures your computer's built-in backup solution to work with the Verbatim.
In our trials, this didn't work out for PCs, as the configuration is designed only for Windows Vista and XP and our test machines run Windows 7. For Macs, however, once the configuration was done, we were able to use Time Machine with the NAS server. The configuration process, again, involved many little steps.
All things considered, at its current stage we feel the Verbatim should be used only as a simple network storage device. We hope a firmware update will make the server easier to set up and use.
If the Verbatim's feature set let us down, its performance made up for it well. The NAS server delivered in our testing.
In our write test, the Verbatim scored 224.4Mbps, which is about average among single-volume NAS servers. In read test, however, it excelled with 435.1Mbps, which was the fastest by a significant margin. The second fastest, the LG N1T1, for example, scored only 387.5Mbps.
As mentioned above, the Verbatim MediaShare also stayed cool and quiet even during heavy loads.
Service and support
Verbatim backs the 1TB MediaShare Home Network Storage Serve with a three-year warranty, which is much longer than that of most other NAS servers, which come with only a one-year warranty. The company's technical phone support is available Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. At the company's Web site, you'll find downloads of the setup guide, the manual, and so on.