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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!

MSSCPURemarks
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).