Quick Look: HP's MediaSmart EX495 Home Server

Additions To The EX48* And EX49*

Given the performance improvements between the EX48* and EX49* models, along with the software enhancements, we hope this adds credence to our earlier recommendation that would-be buyers jump into the latest generation.

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EX48*HP Video ConverterConverts video from MSS into formats suitable for mobile or home playback (supports all formats mentioned on preceding page)
Remote video streamingAdds Internet access to streaming media on the MSS server, including music and video
Photo and Music GUIAdds graphical thumbnails for albums, sort by artist, plus folder and playlist browsing capabilities. Prior issues with music playback failing after a few minutes now fixed.
Photo ViewerSimpler password protection and access controls on a per-album basis.
HP Photo PublisherPublish photos from server to sites including Picasa, Snapfish, flickr, and Facebook.
Single Sign-onRemote users need only log in once to the HP MSS, and the credentials remain available for the entire remote session.
Macintosh supportMajor addition to MSS software enables backup, streaming media, iTunes, and shared storage (including photo, video, and music shares via SMB).
EX49*Console RedesignEasier to use, individual features get their own left-hand tabs. Configuration pop-up dialogs now integrated with console elements rather than forcing transition to the Server Console Settings tab.
System Status tabQuick easy access to all health and status information in a single view.
Media sharing mgmtQuicker, easier access to and control over shares, for both remote and local users
HP Media CollectorRuns on clients to scan individual computers for media files (music, images, and video) to copy them to the server, with modest controls over operation and behavior.
HP Video Converter upgradeAdds support for profile-driven video conversion by selecting target device and or using manual settings. Output targets include iPod/Zune, PSP, iPhone, and HD720.
TwonkySignificant improvements to this media streaming app (3rd party, bundled by HP) include better remote access, browsing, and iStream support.
Macintosh supportBetter integration  of MSS features in MacOS via menubar item and quick access to feature shortcuts. Support for complete Mac hard disk recovery, including drive image restores and UFD boot drive creation. Media Collector now also supports MacOS.
MSS ConsoleSoftware feature in MSS console links to HP.com that lists available third-party add-ins to download.
  • Why title the last page "SFF DIY WHS Is Too Expensive" when you CLEARLY state that the price is basically the same with an extra drive? And for toppers, there are other choices that can be made in your HW list that would certainly save money (why spend $100 on the drive bays, when you can get the same thing for almost half that cost). We all know that running Mythbuntu would save $95 off the top AND come with more addons to boot!
  • I bought a re-certified 470 from newegg for $250 and added a 30 dollar 2GB stick of ram. A WHS server for under 300 (well under half the price of the newest model) was definitely a better buy as far as I'm concerned. Unless you absolutely need the faster processor (batch video editing or something) I don't really see the need for core duo in a whats basically a NAS.
  • gilahacker
    Some of us would use that dual-core processor for video transcoding (i.e. TVersity), which the lesser processors would struggle with. This allows streaming of practically any format of video to practically any web or DLNA capable device, rather than being restricted to only the video formats that Microsoft has allowed.
  • I have the ex495 and really like it. Is it a tad expensive? Probably but I didnt have to do anything but plug it in and install a bit of software. Custom builds always seem to be better, but that assumes you have the time and expertise to take that route (I know Tom's readers are savvy enough to do it). For me I have a busy job, family, etc and never have 1/2 a day free to be building a WHS.

    The HP iphone software is kinda nice too. A little slow but it works and is handy at work if there is some down time. The server also did a good job of converting all my movies to iphone streaming format.

    Worth the extra to get a (practically) turn key solution.
    Now I just need more upstream bandwidth.
  • JonathanDeane
    Hmm it looks interesting, probably a fair bit easier then my solution of using an older PC installed with FreeNAS (it will stream media too, but I have yet to master that part....)

    I would like to try one of these things out some day. (Premade VS something I cobbled together)
  • esotericjester
    "Build 2 includes two drives and a SATA drive cage, much like the one that HP uses in its MSS boxes. That price comes out $105 higher than the EX495 (albeit with twice as much storage), so it’s on par with the $475 that Amazon charges for the base unit, plus another $100 for the second drive. But again, it lacks the added software capability that HP bundles."

    The EX495 is listed at $629.99 on Amazon and Newegg right now making the DIY build cheaper. Where did you come up with $475?
  • Luscious
    You guys forget to mention that WHS works equally well on P3 and P4 machines. Got an old box lying around? You can grab a free download of WHS that's good for 120 days and experiment with it, BEFORE plunking down cash on a HP or build-it-yourself system. That's exactly what I did for several months last year before making my purchase.

    HP's systems are priced so well that it makes build-it-yourself and fix-it-yourself jobs just not worth it. Add the fact that you get full support and warranty from HP for software/hardware, a ton of useful WHS utilities, fast turnkey operation and the occasional e-coupon for $50 off - you would be a fool not to seriously consider one of them.

    I roam around town daily with a netbook and I can tell you, WHS has changed forever the way I work and play. Streaming media from any location and logging in to work remotely on my beefier work PC are just two of the things that make WHS a joy to use. With a HTPC installed I could also stream TV shows to my netbook as well. I've been blown away every time when using WHS on the road - it has turned my simple netbook into a feature-packed device with near-unlimited capability.
  • huron
    Interesting article - I've been wanting to install a home server and wondered about the OS - WHS seems like it might be a decent choice.

    I do like the additional items included, but I have to agree - building usually provides me with better parts and a better unit. I think the functionality provided by HP can be replaced by alternatives.
  • jasperjones
    as What_did_HP_give_you said: why would you spend $95 on WHS? So many superior linux-based options are out there. and top-notch front-ends are available as well: boxee, mythtv, xbmc, etc.
  • ossie
    While the usage as backup "server" is promoted, any commentary about the (lack of) redundancy offered by WH"S"?
    "It is highly recommended that you not use hardware RAID technologies for your home server." Are you really serious m$?
    Oh well, just another castrated m$ "o$" release...
    As for HP's "legendary" support, I wouldn't be too enthusiastic.
    In your calculations, don't add the 95 bucks for m$'s junk to the cost of a BIY. Firstly, HP pays far less, and, secondly, there are a lot of much better free offerings.

    ps: Don't call this toys "servers"... some wintarded micro$uxx lu$ers might even believe it.