Networked hard drives get media friendly

A number of the 11 network-attached storage (NAS) drives that we tested for this month's chart retain business-friendly features such as multiple RAID options and easy-access bays for swapping out drives. Several new models, however, target home users, with built-in media servers and software dedicated to organizing music, photos, and movies.

Our top performer and Best Buy, Infrant Technologies' ReadyNAS NV, combines fast read and write speeds and a feature set including a print server and compatibility with UPnP media-streaming devices. This model supports RAID 0 (for striping your data across drives quickly), RAID 1 (for mirroring your data on two drives so you don't lose it), RAID 5 (for striping your data across multiple drives while reserving some space for fault tolerance), and proprietary X-RAID technology (for expanding the RAID's capacity on the fly when you buy and install individual hard drives). Data redundancy does cut down on the hardware's usable storage, though: X-RAID lets you use only 660GB of the ReadyNAS NV's 1-terabyte capacity.

Maxtor's Shared Storage II ranked second both overall and in performance. It has a one-touch backup button and a slick software interface for creating and managing user accounts and folders. By default, the device sets up nine folders designated for backup, music, documents, photos, and movies, among others.

HP's first NAS for consumers, the Media Vault mv2020, took third place. It offers an empty drive bay, has consumer-friendly print and media-server capabilities, and can automatically set up file, backup, and media folders.

Maxtor's speedy consumer NAS offering, Fusion, placed fourth. Its media-oriented software guides you in importing and sharing multimedia.

In fifth, the low-cost Ximeta NetDisk NDU10-500 was reasonably fast, but it and Plextor's PX-EH40L were the only drives we tested that lacked gigabit ethernet networking.

Among chart missers, Buffalo Technology's TeraStation Pro and TeraStation Home Server shipped with RAID 5 default settings, sacrificing speed to protect data. Likely for the same reason, Iomega's StorCenter Wireless Network Storage 1TB was slow, too; but it came with a print server, a media server, and Wi-Fi access, and let us automatically download pictures directly from a USB-equipped camera.

(Last Rated: October 06, 2006)
RankName
1Infrant Technologies ReadyNAS NV
Cost per Gigabyte:US$1.15
Drive size (GB):1000
Interface:Gigabit ethernet
Speed (RPM):7200
Buffer Size (MB):8
Price When Reviewed:US$1149
Bottom Line:Superfast multidrive 1TB NAS has lots of features, but its RAID configuration limits usable capacity to 660GB.
Rating84, Very good
(Last Rated: October 06, 2006)
2Maxtor Shared Storage II
Cost per Gigabyte:US$0.8
Drive size (GB):1000
Interface:Gigabit ethernet
Speed (RPM):7200
Buffer Size (MB):16
Price When Reviewed:US$800
Bottom Line:Superb performer has backup button, print server, and media server, and it helps you organize media files.
Rating:83, Very good
3HP Media Vault mv2020
Cost per Gigabyte:US$0.55
Drive size (GB):1000
Interface:Gigabit ethernet
Speed (RPM):7200
Buffer Size (MB):16
Price When Reviewed:US$549
Bottom Line:HP bundles a media server, printer server, and backup software in an inexpensive, expandable package.
Rating:82, Very good
(Last Rated: October 06, 2006)
4Maxtor Fusion
Cost per Gigabyte:US$1.6
Drive size (GB):500
Interface:Gigabit ethernet
Speed (RPM):7200
Buffer Size (MB):16
Price When Reviewed:US$800
Bottom Line:Good beginner's option comes with slick-looking (but not always intuitive) software for organizing media.
Rating:74, Good
(Last Rated: October 06, 2006)
5Ximeta NetDisk NDU10-500
Cost per Gigabyte:US$1
Drive size (GB):500
Interface:USB 2.0, 10/100 ethernet
Speed (RPM):7200
Buffer Size (MB):8
Price When Reviewed:US$500
Bottom Line:Basic, inexpensive unit doubles as a USB drive and requires an applet installed on each PC.
Rating71, Good
(Last Rated: October 06, 2006)

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