HP Media Vault Pro mv5020 review

Price when reviewed

From the name, you’d expect the Media Vault Pro mv5020 to be a successor to the mv2020 NAS device – but there’s far more to it than that. Effectively, it’s a half-height version of the EX475 MediaSmart home server.

This size reduction comes at the expense of expansion options. Where the MediaSmart had four internal drive bays, the Vault offers just two, one of which comes with a 500GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 drive. This seems slightly mean for a home server, but it’s easy enough to add more: the second drive bay is accessible via a slide-out cage. After that, if you want to add extra storage, you’re left with two USB sockets – one at the rear and one at the front.

The Media Vault Pro may share a design with the MediaSmart, but it doesn’t share the Windows Home Server operating system. Instead, HP has developed a bespoke Linux-based home server OS. In use, though, it’s very similar to Microsoft’s offering: you still need a wired connection to your router, and each client PC still gets an icon in its system tray, from which you can launch a console to manage backups and access shared storage.

It’s not identical, though. While Windows Home Server lets you manage everything from the client console, the Media Vault Pro uses an HTTP interface for configuring system-wide features such as shared folders and remote access. It’s a little clunky – think wireless router configuration – but once you’re up and running you won’t spend much time in here.

Storage options are more perfunctory too. Where the Microsoft client lets you mark individual files for mirroring across multiple spindles, the Media Vault Pro insists on either full RAID 1 mirroring or no mirroring at all.

The Media Vault Pro does have a few distinctive merits. Like the MediaSmart, it has a built-in iTunes server, which automatically consolidates the music libraries of all connected clients. And for extra peace of mind you can back up data to remote storage provided by SpareBackup. It’s overkill for most home users, though, with plans starting at $149 (around £75) per year for a 40GB account.

The mv5020 also has a very low power draw, never exceeding 30W in our Labs even when grinding two internal disks at once. It’s quite audible, though, thanks to a rear-facing fan and the use of a clicky consumer-grade drive, and there’s very little in the way of power management. Your only option is to automatically spin your hard disks down after a given idle period: it has nothing like the hibernation schedule of the Fujitsu Siemens Scaleo 1900.

it_photo_5708Don’t expect to fix that with a plug-in, either. While Windows Home Server supports an open add-in architecture, the only avenue for adding new features to the Media Vault Pro is firmware updates direct from HP.

From a technical standpoint, the Media Vault Pro is a poor imitation of a real Windows Home Server appliance. Its closed architecture and limited scope for hardware upgrades make it an unattractive starting point for would-be sysadmins and hobbyists, and it runs far from silently. But the trade off is a smaller case, and a far lower price than any Windows-based appliance we’ve seen. If you just want a simple box to handle backups and shared storage, the mv5020 is great value.

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