Under Shared Folders you can create/delete/modify your various shared folders. You can add password protection and specify FTP, web browser, or standard network (SMB) access and assign read-only or full access for each.
The print server feature is very simple to use, just plug the printer in, wait until the printer appears in the Shared Printer section, and then add the printer through the usual procedure on your operating system. There are no settings in this section, just a list of printers and their network names.
If you have a Digital Media Adapter you will be pleased to know you can enable media streaming on any of your folders. Streaming is done via the UPnP A/V streaming protocol so only unprotected files are currently supported. This isn’t to be confused with Microsoft’s Digital Media Connect which is the protocol used for connecting your Xbox 360 to Windows Media Player and indeed your 360 won’t recognise your shared folders on this machine.
In Disk settings you can partition, format, and, resize your hard discs as well as create a RAID or JBOD. If you attach external hard discs you can also configure them in the same way.
Network settings include changing the device’s name on the network, defining workgroup or user based access, and changing from DHCP IP assignment to manual settings.
If the device is running in workgroup access mode, User Settings just enables you to add or remove a password for the administrator. If you’re using user based access then you can add/remove additional users and assign individual access levels for each user as well as specify their access to the configuration utility.
Finally, we come to the System Settings. From here you can change the date/time settings, power saving settings, and perform a firmware update.
As the Media Vault is essentially a PC running a stripped down version of Linux, you can gain access to the embedded Linux distribution and extend its capabilities so you can setup a Telnet server or run a bit torrent client. However, I’m no Linux buff so I didn’t test this aspect of the appliance.
I tested the drive for raw speed by running IOMeter then by transferring a 1.07GB file and a folder of 1,943 photos, which totalled 497MB, to and from the NAS. IOMeter returned figures of 23MB/sec read and 16MB/sec write speed while the large file transfer was slower, at 14MB/sec read and 10MB/sec write. Finally the multiple small photos were even slower, with 4.8MB/sec write and 3.7MB/sec read. These figures compare well with the likes of the Maxtor Shared Storage II 1TB and the Infrant Techologies ReadyNAS NV which returned 12.3MB/sec and 14.4MB/sec write and 25MB/sec and 19.2MB/sec read speeds, respectively.
The MediaVault is a very accomplished NAS appliance which combines a class-leading feature set with great performance and flexibility. The included software is great – for windows users at least – and the ability to customise the embedded Linux distribution makes this a true one-box-does-all network storage solution.
As for price, I don’t think the extra 200GB that the 500GB version provides, is worth the £100 premium and I’d plum for the 300GB version along with a massive 750GB second drive.
However, it's worth noting that neither version appears to be available in the UK at the time of writing. Customers in the US seem to be well catered for, though, with several shops including HPs online store stocking it.
Edit: This morning I had an email informing me the 300GB version is actually available at PC World.