Quick Look: HP's MediaSmart EX495 Home Server

Processor Upgrades

In our previous story, Hacking The HP EX470/475 MediaSmart Server, we provided step-by-step instructions on how to upgrade the server and its BIOS to install a dual-core AMD processor to replace the stock Sempron 3400+ included with that model. We’re happy to report that any number of upgrades is also possible for both EX48* and EX49* models. The best place to read up on this is in the “HP EX485 Upgrade Successful” thread at MediaSmartHome.com (where you will find all the BIOS details you’ll ever need to do your own upgrades).

There’s some good news here, as well as some not-as-good news. First, the good stuff: minor BIOS setting changes are all that’s required to upgrade either the EX48* or EX49* models (no BIOS hacking is needed for either family, as was the case with the EX47* models). The bad news is that, while you can upgrade the EX48* models to E5*00 processors or the low-power dual-core Xeon L3110 server processor, those units won’t shut down or handle sleep mode properly. The easiest workaround for this is to configure the power settings to “never sleep,” but that does come at a higher energy cost when the unit is idle). On the EX48* models, you must reset the BIOS to enable PECI before you replace the stock model with a multi-core replacement, or the machine won’t boot (ditto for the EX490, which also has a single-core CPU). On the EX495 you can swap out compatible processors as you see fit, as it’s already equipped with and configured for a dual-core E5200. The following table lists some processors that we or others have successfully installed in EX48* and EX49* models.

One more remark: the MSS enclosure is small, and ventilation somewhat limited. We’ve observed that lower-power processor upgrades do better inside all MSS models irrespective of product family. Processors with a TDP of 45W or lower make the best candidates for upgrades, though you can achieve some success with CPUs rated up to 60-65W. This observation is indisputable: the lower the TDP, the better your chances of a successful MSS upgrade!

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8+, 9Pentium E5200Dual-core, no-brainer now that we know it works on EX495. Available for about $60-70. 2.5 GHz, 2MB L2 cache
8+, 9Pentium E5300Dual-core, 2.6 GHz, 2MB L2 cache. Costs under $60.
8+Core 2 Duo E64202.13 GHz, 4MB L2 Cache. Runs hot (45-60°C). Costs $117.
8Celeron 450Another no-brainer, used for EX490. 2.2 GHz, 512KB L2 cache. Costs $39.
8+, 9Xeon L31103.0 GHz, 6MB L2 cache dual-core server processor. Expensive: costs $247, but works well.
8Celeron E1400Dual-core 2.0 GHz, 512KB L2 cache. Costs $43, but runs hot (45-60° C).
8Celeron E3300Dual-core, 2.5 GHz, 1MB L2 Cache. Costs $60.
8Pentium E6300Dual-core, 2.8 GHz, 2MB L2 Cache. Costs $75.
8+, 9Core 2 Quad Q8200S2.33 GHz, 4MB L2 Cache. Costs $138, makes quad-core worth considering.
Notes+Indicates configuration that experiences BIOS-based shutdown/sleep issues. Lack of support for CPUID 067A may be causing this problem.

Of these options, the E5200 and E5300 are the most popular. The Core 2 Quad Q8200S and the Xeon L3110 are both very interesting, and might be of most use to those inclined to use their MSSs for lots of transcoding and HD video delivery. Otherwise, that much power probably isn’t needed (or worth the added expense).

  • 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.