Back in August, I reviewed the HP MediaSmart Server LX195. I, the resident Linux Geek here at Gear Diary, was pleasantly surprised by how useful the little server was. Even so, I still thought there was a little something missing from that great device. HP has addressed a lot of this with the HP MediaSmart Server EX495.
The EX Series has been around for a little while with the EX480 series of Home Servers. The EX495 is the latest of this series. The hardware you get includes 1.5 TB of storage, a 2.5 GHz 64 bit Dual Core Intel Processor, 2 Gig of Ram, 4 Drive Bays (one occupied by the 1.5 TB Drive), 4 USB ports and a eSATA port. It runs Windows Home Server on it. The server can be expanded to a maximum of 17 TB of drive space between the 4 internal drive bays, the USB ports and the eSATA port. The RAM can not be upgraded any further.
The server itself is stylish and only a little bit bigger than the LX195. The drive bays has a door that keeps the drive bays covered up. The door itself has 4 translucent pieces of plastic that lets the light from the LED drive lights shine through. These lights can be turned down or off in the management software.
The software is mostly the same as on the LX195 with the addition of Video Streaming and conversion and a slightly different home page for the server. The previous EX485 also had some video conversion software as well, but HP has done some tweaking in the software. The software converted a 30 minute recording in about 20 minutes which I thought was pretty darn good. The recording was made with a Neuros OSD in mp4 format directly over the Windows file share. Once the OSD closed the file, it automatically started the video conversion. As soon as the video was converted, you could view the video through the web browser or also on your iPhone with a free app in the iTunes Music Store.
The web site that ships on the EX495 includes a streaming application that streams music as well as video from the EX495. You just click on the link on the server’s home page to open the application and enter your credentials. Streaming video locally worked pretty well. I tried streaming to my PC at work and it stopped more frequently than I would like. This is likely not because of the server, but because of my Internet Connection.
Just like the LX195, the EX495 also has a Media Collector that will automatically copy all pictures, music and video files from PCs on your network and then organize them. This backs up these pictures plus centralizes all media on your network. You can then setup a sign on to the server for relatives and they can then stream music, video and pictures from your home server. Very handy to have and a very nice way to share pictures with your extended family.
To test the backup piece of the EX495, I used my wife’s laptop as a guinea pig. The EX495 backed up the laptop every night without fail. If for some reason my wife’s laptop got some malware or needed a new hard disk, I could restore back to the previous night. This includes all partitions on the drive, including the service partition where the image of Windows Vista was stored. To restore, you just boot the included restore CD, the PC will search out the server on your network, you specify the PC you are restoring and the backup to restore and the restoration process starts. Since I did not want to wipe out my wife’s laptop, I did not test restoring part of this, so I will have to take HP’s word for it!
HP has a winner here. This server is so easy to use that I didn’t even have to think about the video conversion, backup or media collection services. They just happened! I do not know of any Linux based solution that is this easy to setup for backup of client pcs. With that said, unless you run Windows or Mac Operating Systems, the backup and media collection features will not work. You can still use the file sharing services and copy music to it. The web interfaces work fine on the latest Ubuntu. Also, in my research for the review, I have come across many people that have experimented with running Ubuntu on this machine. They took a SATA drive andon it and were able to get the machine to boot and appear on the network. Since this machine is based on standard PC hardware, that is hardly a surprise. What I would like to see is a Linux based distro that you could use on this. There have been customized distributions for the Eee PC, why not for this? Even though it isn’t running Linux, I would use this server on a daily basis.
Thewas loaned to me for the review period and I have to send it back no matter how much I want to keep it.
It is available on Amazon for $649.99.
What I liked: Once setup, backups and media collection is automatic. Easy file sharing and media streaming as well. Works with iTunes and other clients that can see iTunes music shares. Powerful hardware.
What needs improvement: The web site that comes with the server needs some work. You can get to all features from the front page, but once you drill down to a feature, you can’t get back to the main page easily. You should be able to go from within a feature back to the very frontpage of the server with a couple mouse clicks but you can’t.