Load Me Up, Load Me Down
Despite my lengthy griping above, this is a seriously well-designed NAS. HP has done its homework and designed a box that will hit its target market right between the eyes. Unfortunately, it's not going to do more than that, so despite the fact that I've been really impressed by it, my buy recommendation is a tepid one.
For Linux users looking for a safely hackable NAS, it might be a bit much. The lack of any system restore means that this box is fragile and might not play nice if you prod it in the wrong place. It's likewise priced on the high side for what it delivers to someone who isn't using it from a Windows machine and doesn't need serious data redundancy.
For average home users who are big into Web 2.0 services, it likewise should be a very useful item, saving a lot of time and making it even easier for people to plug their lives in to the Internet or take the bother out of managing their media collections over the home network.
For the price (almost $700), the HP Media Vault 5150 is in the no-man's land between a great value and an overpriced toy. It's well-outfitted, physically robust, well-designed and has a lot of great little features that make it ideal for a small-office/home-office environment. Particularly impressive are its easy backup features and its extensibility. I personally have found it quite useful as a footage server, storing recordings and raw video for projects I'm working on in my studio and for streaming draft projects out to the screening room for previews.
A subset of the Linux market will find this box well worth the price. If it suits your needs, it should be an excellent addition to your network. But, if you're not in the position to take advantage of the Windows-only value-added features, and the data security that the RAID and scheduled backups afford you isn't worth paying the premium for, you may want to give this one a miss. Here's hoping HP continues to build great Linux-based devices, and in the future leaves them a little more open for those of us who like Linux on more than just our servers.
Dan Sawyer is the founder of ArtisticWhispers Productions (www.artisticwhispers.com), a small audio/video studio in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has been an enthusiastic advocate for free and open-source software since the late 1990s, when he founded the Blenderwars filmmaking community (www.blenderwars.com). He currently is the host of “The Polyschizmatic Reprobates Hour”, a cultural commentary podcast, and “Sculpting God”, a science-fiction anthology podcast. Author contact information is available at www.jdsawyer.net.