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HP Media Vault mv2020
Like many companies, Hewlett-Packard is building bridges between your PC and your living room--the most comfortable location for viewing digital media. The company's latest spans are its 37-inch SLC3760N MediaSmart television ($2199) and its mv2020 Media Vault network-attached storage drive ($549). The MediaSmart TV was first announced earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas; the Media Vault is being announced today. Both products are now shipping.
TV With Network Smarts
The MediaSmart TV's native resolution is 1366 by 768p--not high enough for displaying Blu-ray or HD DVD discs at full, native 1080p resolution, but more than adequate for HDTV broadcasts and standard-definition DVD playback.
The TV's hook is that it will display photos, albums, and video streamed over your home network without requiring you to set up a stand-alone digital media adapter (DMA) to serve as the link between your network (and its content) and your television. The MediaSmart TV has a DMA on its back; the adapter includes both a 10/100 ethernet port and 802.11a/b/g wireless for connecting to your home network's router. The MediaSmart's adapter provides three other ports as well--including an HDMI one--that connect back into the TV itself to complete the data circuit between network and display. Having to attach three cables from one part of the TV to another seems a bit counterintuitive, but the result is seamless, remote control access to the media files on your network from the comfort of your couch or chair.
The Media Smart TV supports Windows Media Connect and PlaysForSure, and it will work with any Digital Living Room Network Alliance or universal-plug-and-play-compatible (UPnP) device. Most newer network-attached storage drives--including Buffalo Technology's TeraStation Home Server, Maxtor's Shared Storage Plus, and Infrant's ReadyNAS NV--support this standard. I tested the SLC3760N in conjunction with HP's Media Vault, however, to see how the two products together handled the streaming media experience
Living Room Stream
In my hands-on tests, the MediaSmart TV connected without a fuss to the network and instantly recognized the Media Vault as a UPnP media server. I could easily access photos and videos and play various music files. File formats supported by the MediaSmart TV include AVI, DVR-MS, DivX (MPEG-4), MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-2, WMV, and WMV-HD for video; BMP, GIF, JPEG, and PNG for photos, and MP2, MP3, WMA, and WMA-Pro for audio. Unfortunately, it doesn't handle AAC files, so iPod users won't be able to stream protected AAC music from iTunes to their TV.
The MediaSmart's on-screen interface easy to learn and use, and I found the TV's functionality well-integrated with the remote control. Still, I wish that HP had included exit options on the on-screen menus; that way, I could have browsed content using the remote's "select" button instead of having to rely on the separate "back" button to backtrack.
Network-Attached Storage With a Twist
The Media Vault is a smart-looking silver-and-black minitower that closely resembles the chassis used on one of HP's compact PCs). In the PC World Test Center's evaluation, the mv2020 turned in middle-of-the-pack performance, taking 6 minutes, 6 seconds to complete our copy files test, and 4 minutes, 51 seconds to run our file search test. The mv2020 ships with a single 500GB fixed SATA drive, plus one removable expansion module that can accommodate the SATA hard drive of your choice (up to 750GB), for a total of 1.2TB of storage. HP sent us the mv2020 with a second 500GB SATA drive already installed in the expansion module.
At $550 for the 500GB model, the mv2020 is a roomy network-attached storage drive with an attractive cost per gigabyte ($0.55 per GB). HP also offers a 300GB mv2010 for $350.
The mv2020 attaches to your network via its single gigabit ethernet port (in this regard, the MV200 actually outstrips the SLC3760N's 10/100 ethernet connection). The unit may be configured for access through the Web, through FTP, and through your network. You can grant access to the device for entire workgroups or single users.
Installation required only a bit of effort: The mv2020 shows up under Network Places; and in order to access it from within Windows Explorer, you'll have to map it to a drive letter. The unit's HTML setup app (accessible through your Web browser) doesn't specifically mention RAID, but it allows you to set up one drive to mirror another for redundancy--a useful precaution against drive failure when you're backing up data.
By default, HP ships the unit with several preconfigured folders, including one for backups and another (titled MediaShare) for media that you intend to share on the network. To get you started with media sharing, HP has preloaded a copy of Universal's movie The Bourne Identity onto the unit in a folder titled CinemaNow (the company also supplies two free movie downloads at CinemaNow).
The mv2020 will functions as a print server if you attach a supported USB printer to one of its three USB 2.0 ports (two are rear-mounted and one is front-mounted). You may attach additional USB storage drives to expand the mv2020's storage capacity.
Based on what I've seen with the MediaSmart TV and the Media Vault storage device, HP understands consumer/PC convergence. Both of these devices are excellent choices for anyone who wants to set up a home multimedia network with minimal fuss.
HP SLC3760N MediaSmart TV
The MediaSmart does a good job of integrating a digital media adapter so you can stream content via a wired or wireless network.
Current prices (if available)
HP mv2020 Media Vault
HP bundles a media server, a printer server, and backup software in an inexpensive, expandable package.
Current prices (if available)
This story, "First Look: HP Introduces Media-Centric TV, Network-Attached Storage Drive" was originally published by PCWorld.
HP Media Vault mv2020