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HP MediaSmart Home Server  (Source: HP)
HP MediaSmart Servers offer a central location for digital media on a home network

Digital media consumption is growing rapidly thanks to the low cost and easy to use digital cameras and camcorders available today. Many people are now making home movies in digital formats that can easily be shared online and stored on the computer.

The biggest drawback of the move to digital content is that the media has to be backed up and places higher demands on storage systems. Sharing the digital media around a home network can also be difficult for the less tech savvy.

To meet the backup needs for consumers who feast on a glut of digital content, HP has introduced a pair of new home media servers called the HP MediaSmart ex485 and ex487. The two devices share many of the same features and both use an Intel Celeron 2GHz CPU and 2GB of DDR2 RAM.

Other features include HP specific applications that make managing and sharing digital content easier. Bundles software includes HP Media collector to copy and centralize digital files from across the network, media streaming to stream photos and music to network computers, iTunes server to share music libraries, and HP photo view and Photo Publisher services among others.

The home servers also act as a central backup device for networked computers and are compatible with Apple Time Machine and Windows Home Server Backup. Both systems can be upgraded with up to 9TB of storage.

HP's Jason Zajac said in a statement, "A growing number of digital-savvy households have both Windows and Mac computers, with hundreds and sometimes thousands of media files and documents scattered across these devices. The HP MediaSmart Server protects, stores and organizes this content from anywhere on a network so consumers can access and share it any place they are connected."

Both the ex485 and the ex487 are slated for retail availability in February and pre-orders will begin on January 5, 2009. Pricing will be $599 for the 750GB ex485 with the 1.5TB ex487 retailing for $749.

HP also recently introduced its first iPhone App for wireless photo printing.

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Cost vs benefits
By dflynchimp on 12/29/2008 11:31:17 AM , Rating: 2
Me being a cheap money grubbing wh0re, I feel compelled to much of an improvement is getting one of these systems going to be versus me just going out and spenting $600 for 6 Terrabytes of 3.5in HDDs. I can set up a home file sharing network just as easily using harddrives plugged into my main system, so where's the silver lining?

RE: Cost vs benefits
By Joz on 12/29/2008 11:39:04 AM , Rating: 4
the HP system comes in a sleek black and shiny box?

RE: Cost vs benefits
By Target Practice on 12/29/2008 11:42:51 AM , Rating: 2
so where's the silver lining?

It's the fact that it's more or less plug-and-play. Sure, most of the people reading this website...and even more so, this article...can create and configure a computer to share all their media across the network. However, the average "Joe" just wants something that he can purchase, plug in, spend an hour at most configuring it, and have it work. Granted I haven't used one of these personally, but that's what the "silver lining" seems to be to me.

RE: Cost vs benefits
By Yames on 12/29/2008 12:48:19 PM , Rating: 2
But this is not for the average Joe. This is for "tech savvy" users, that perhaps are not all that tech savvy after all.

RE: Cost vs benefits
By headbox on 12/29/2008 1:01:33 PM , Rating: 2
A lot of people like to think they're tech savvy. They're reinstalled Windows a couple times, upgraded their RAM in under 2 hours, etc.

RE: Cost vs benefits
By Smilin on 12/29/2008 1:25:04 PM , Rating: 2
So it is for the Tech Savvy (me) for sure.

Average Joe could use it too. The basic functions are all really "click next" and wizards.

I might be using RDP to connect and do my thing but I would still trust my grandma to be able to setup the basics. It will UPnP config your firewall and wizard your DDNS for example.

RE: Cost vs benefits
By Hellfire27 on 12/29/2008 3:04:11 PM , Rating: 4
Anyone who uses the words "tech savvy" are indeed not.

RE: Cost vs benefits
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 12/30/2008 7:31:03 AM , Rating: 2
Boo-yah! Way to predicate someone into a corner. BTW, anyone who uses the phrase "boo-yah" doesn't know anything about sports, as well.

RE: Cost vs benefits
By Smilin on 12/30/2008 9:39:03 AM , Rating: 1
Yeah, so I'm using the phrase in response to using the phrase. It's called context. What are you some kind of freakish offshoot of the grammar Nazi party?

RE: Cost vs benefits
By VitalyTheUnknown on 12/29/2008 12:23:20 PM , Rating: 2
Looking just at the second picture of HP chassis with the open front panel, you can see what it has to offer, 4 (5.25)removable hard disk racks for 3.5 disks and that is in a smaller than m-atx form factor that alone makes it a server and worth our attention.

RE: Cost vs benefits
By Smilin on 12/29/2008 1:55:41 PM , Rating: 4
The pic with the coffee cup puts it in perspective. It's a very tight form factor.

Some stuff you can't see from the pic:
-Drives are hot swap, very easy to install.
-The back of it has: power cord, ethernet, couple (3?) usb2, one esata, one power button.
-It's essentially silent.
-Lights dim with a slider in the software. All blue=good. Yellow/red indicating any type of failure (dhcp failed or whatnot).
-The "machining" is very solid. The cover is perforated metal for instance instead of plastic. It's well engineered.

The size is about the same as two shoeboxes stacked. It isn't big enough that you have to "find a place" for it. Stick it behind your monitor if you want. It only needs power and ethernet.

RE: Cost vs benefits
By Doormat on 12/29/2008 12:27:33 PM , Rating: 2
Its more than a smart NAS.

-Backups: automated backups of all Windows PCs in the home (and apparently on this new server, Mac-compatible time machine storage as well)
-Remote Access: access your files remotely over the internet,
-Plug-ins: All sorts of plug-ins, like Firefly media server that indexes your WHS box and has an iTunes compatible library sharing service. I have one that allows me to stream music from my WHS box inside the web browser.
-Sharing to non-PC devices: supports Xbox 360 and PS3 sharing of pictures, videos, music.

RE: Cost vs benefits
By celticbrewer on 12/30/2008 8:50:49 AM , Rating: 2
Sounds exactly like my NAS. Except my NAS cost a lot less than this HP server, uses less power, and I can screw with the linux it runs on to install other apps if I don't like the ones that the NAS came with.

RE: Cost vs benefits
By Smilin on 12/30/08, Rating: 0
RE: Cost vs benefits
By Screwballl on 12/31/2008 3:16:40 PM , Rating: 3
NAS = Network Attached Storage

Almost all of them have some sort of OS with some basic apps to manage backups and whatever else. Most modern NAS = a basic server. It may have a 200Mhz CPU and 128MB of RAM but it is still classified as an NAS, or maybe "NAS server". they are essentially the same thing.

So you are saying my router is not a router because it is running the dd-wrt linux based firmware and software with limited memory/storage? It even has a 200Mhz processor that can be overclocked. So is it not a router?

As more devices become "crossovers", the line turns into a grey area, between what you may say is a server and an NAS.

To me, the modern Blackberrys and iPhones are not cell phones, but closer to a PDA... but even my LG Chocolate seems more of a multipurpose device rather than a cell phone, with GPS, music storage and playback, internet and so on. So I guess that means the very nature of these devices allows them to take on a much broader term, the iPhone called a cell phone, the server over a network called an NAS and so on.

Welcome to the 21st century.

RE: Cost vs benefits
By Morphine06 on 12/29/2008 12:34:50 PM , Rating: 4
I picked up the OS for around $120. Recycled my old AMD 3200 w/ 1GB RAM. Added all my extra HDDs including my dismantled RAID. I picked up a case with better HDD cooling, but I have a WHS for about $220.

I'm no network or IT guru, but I consider myself a power user. I have no interest in spending the time to learn how to setup a server2003 machine to stream, backup, restore, rdc, web serve my shares, etc etc. My time learning that is worth more than said $220. Especially since the knowledge does nothing for my career and never will.

I just plug it in and it runs, updates, reboots, duplicates, backs-up as needed. It's my favorite MS product to date. Having said that, I doubt I would buy it as a pre-built machine.

RE: Cost vs benefits
By Terry Walsh on 12/29/2008 3:47:45 PM , Rating: 2
You can definitely build a home server cheaper than the HP unit - what you don't get is a very neat form factor, and more importantly with this new model, a suite of applications for streaming, sharing and managing your files. If this stuff isn't important to you, go with a self-build...

We've got a full review of what you do get for your money over at We Got Served:


RE: Cost vs benefits
By ceomrman on 12/29/2008 8:51:24 PM , Rating: 2
This pre-built, pre-engineered product with easy to use software is not at aimed at do-it-yourself computer hobbyists on tight budgets.

So the beauty is..
By Smilin on 12/29/2008 12:09:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I'm a guy who could build a spare box cheap but I went with an HP homeserver. I'm using the one that came out a while back, not one of these.

Why go this route instead of building? It's easy and cheap. If you have the spare parts I suppose it could be cheaper to do your own but for new parts this thing is about as cheap as it gets. It's also hassle free. Plug it in, install client software. Done.

Want more storage? Slap in a new drive, no screw driver, don't even have to shut it off.

The real beauty is in the software though. It's all just 100% fire and forget automated backups for all machines on your network. You get remote desktop capability to all home PCs, remote photo share websites, remote data shares, all that hoo-ha.

I fvck with computers all day at work, then mess with them all the time at home. My days of "tinkering" are rapidly getting old. I just want to plug something in that works. Ta-da! Homeserver. Done. I'll spend my limited tinkering time with something more advanced.

RE: So the beauty is..
By Morphine06 on 12/29/2008 12:38:20 PM , Rating: 2
Actually you can build a machine MUCH cheaper. Last time I priced it out you could build a WHS for around $400 with more storage than the HP.

RE: So the beauty is..
By Smilin on 12/29/2008 1:19:00 PM , Rating: 2
I got mine about a year ago for $499 - $100 rebate = $399.

It came with a single 500 gig drive. I've since slapped in who knows what spare drives into it. I know I've got a 1TB and a couple other of something else. It doesn't do traditional raid so matching drive sizes (or having waste) isn't a concern.

Also, don't count out cost of labor. YOUR labor. A couple hours of ordering parts, putting something together, loading software etc would cost me more than the box is worth.

If someone is scraping by at a McJob then doing it yourself and recycling leftover PC parts would definately be the way to go. If you're past that life phase then this thing is very nice.

To summarize: Yeah you could probably do it cheaper on your own but the difference is going to be so small it's not worth it. You'll also miss out on a lot of features.

Having something sleek, small (two shoeboxes stacked) and whisper quiet on your desk sure beats that spare tower I've got in the closet somewhere that lacks the hotswap bays and is ugly as sh1t. :)

RE: So the beauty is..
By MadMan007 on 12/29/2008 2:56:31 PM , Rating: 3
Arguing over the price is silly when for DIY the OS is probably a fifth of the cost and the storage is twice that if you go with a simple redundant 1TB setup. In the end the difference might be a hundred dollars or so unless you really squeeze every penny on the parts. Reusing old stuff is the real cheap way.

Personally I didn't go with the prebuilt route because I still like tinkering and having a true backup PC made from standard parts is nice. The major advantage of the HP box, the form factor, is not an issue for me and I felt it would be nice to have a mid tower that has more expansion options. But I can see the appeal of the HP box and when you look at prebuilt simple NAS products it doesn't really cost much more.

RE: So the beauty is..
By arazok on 12/29/2008 4:11:21 PM , Rating: 2
How to build a green WHS for under $400:

RE: So the beauty is..
By MadMan007 on 12/30/2008 6:10:48 AM , Rating: 2
That's interesting, the USB Flash drive install is the best part of that article, but the case is underwhelming. EVeryone has their priorities but a major selling point of a home server is expandability and that case has virtually none.

RE: So the beauty is..
By arazok on 12/30/2008 9:02:57 AM , Rating: 2
I have to agree on the case. I’m looking at building a similar system on the cheap, but all the cases in the low price range only hold two drives. I want four – but that entails a significant price jump.

However, two drive bay's is going to be plenty for a number of users. For them, this is a great build.

RE: So the beauty is..
By MadMan007 on 12/30/2008 10:08:40 AM , Rating: 2
What you need to keep an eye out for is case sales then. About a year ago I got a Coolermaster Elite 330 case w/o PSU for something like $30. It's a good enough case and has 5 internal 3.5" HD bays plus 2 3.5" external slots that can really be used for HDs. Along with the 4 5.25" external slots in which I could put single drives or get a few 3-in-2 drive holders it's got way more expansion than I'll likely ever use. It's a mid tower so might be a bit large for some people for the purpose but it's just an example.

Fry's has the Antec 300 for $35 right now if the sale is still on and that's got loads of expansion plus it's good quality materials, the CM I got is kind of thin and cheap.

RE: So the beauty is..
By Smilin on 12/30/2008 11:32:39 AM , Rating: 2
$311 is a nice price indeed. The install process sounds like it sucks though.

With the HP:
It's truly headless. It doesn't even have a monitor or keyboard/mouse port or even a CD/DVD drive.

To set it up you plug the ethernet into a dhcp network and install client software on one of your home PCs. A wizard kicks off and you setup the OS from there. If you have to do a complete wipe it moves the OS over the wire to the homeserver (takes a couple hours if you do a complete wipe. Just a couple minutes if just doing initial setup).

Nice, but could be better
By mherlund on 12/29/2008 3:20:00 PM , Rating: 2
Is a "home server" really needed? I know it is a great central location to keep all of your movies/music/photos, but what is the point of having another computer doing that? Is it really that much better than having one of the home computers having all the storage (either in RAID or an external drive for backup)?

I do like the idea of only keeping one "live" copy of data where all machines access it, and multiple "backup" copies. One thing I struggle with in this is laptops, keeping the laptop synced with the home server data would be great. I would not want to access data all data from a home server, but some. When you are on the go with the laptop and don't have internet you want access to your music/photos/movies, maybe not all photos and movies, but the most recent. If this device could solve that, I would look into it.

It is a bit pricey though and something cheaper could be built.

RE: Nice, but could be better
By Smilin on 12/29/2008 4:03:52 PM , Rating: 2
The live mesh client runs on WHS if you're interested in literally having your data anywhere on the planet (from laptop, to home pc, to phone/pda)

RE: Nice, but could be better
By noirsoft on 12/29/2008 4:20:59 PM , Rating: 3
One thing I struggle with in this is laptops, keeping the laptop synced with the home server data would be great. I would not want to access data all data from a home server, but some. When you are on the go with the laptop and don't have internet you want access to your music/photos/movies, maybe not all photos and movies, but the most recent. If this device could solve that, I would look into it.

Check out SyncToy 2.0 It's free from MS and does exactly this. The master store can be on any machine (not just a WHS) but it works great with a WHS as well.

RE: Nice, but could be better
By mherlund on 12/29/2008 4:30:20 PM , Rating: 2
I do use SyncToy to keep my desktop backed up to an external drive, and it works good. What I should have mentioned it my laptop is a mac and that is what my problem is.

RE: Nice, but could be better
By Spivonious on 12/30/2008 10:26:26 AM , Rating: 2
Try out Live Mesh. I think they added Mac support in the latest beta.

RE: Nice, but could be better
By TomZ on 12/29/2008 4:29:28 PM , Rating: 2
One thing I struggle with in this is laptops, keeping the laptop synced with the home server data would be great.
Windows has "Offline Files" which already does this. I've used it for keeping server content like music files and other bulky files always available on my laptop when I travel. It works pretty well.

Another poster suggested Mesh, but that doesn't work well if the ratio of file sizes to Internet connection speed is too high.

I've also used SyncToy, but there are several advantages to Offline Files. For one, it is easier to schedule automatic synchronization so that you don't have to think about synchronization - it just happens in the background. In addition, Offline Files works better for other files like those you might be editing offline.

RE: Nice, but could be better
By Smilin on 12/30/2008 9:44:20 AM , Rating: 2
Mesh does block syncs so it actually works well with large files. You have to be realistic though and a single mesh is limited to 10gig. You can have multiple meshes but ultimatly if the overall delta is large in all of them then syncs will take a while. It's really geared towards Internet rather than intranet syncs.

RE: Nice, but could be better
By Smilin on 12/30/2008 11:35:38 AM , Rating: 2
I use Sync built into Vista to sync with my homeserver.

RE: Nice, but could be better
By MadMan007 on 12/30/2008 6:16:53 AM , Rating: 2
It's nice to have a low power PC for the WHS and a high power one for desktop and gaming. The advantages of a home server type box are greater for multiple PC households. I personally use mine as a server for my media collection and some of the frontends for that are not full-blown PCs so I don't have to turn on my 'main' PC if I just want to listen to some music.

I/O Speed?
By L1011 on 12/29/2008 2:22:16 PM , Rating: 2
I bought an earlier model of this device and I'm extremely dissatisfied with the I/O performance. Mine has two 500gb drives (RAID 0) and a simple copying of a file to this device is brutally slow on a 100mb LAN. I can copy files back and forth between my computers MUCH faster on the same LAN so the bottleneck is in the I/O on this device. I'd like to know much of an improvement HP made in the I/O performance on these devices because I'm not getting burned again. IMHO, HP deliberately made the "server" I bought slow on purpose.

RE: I/O Speed?
By masher2 on 12/29/2008 3:00:03 PM , Rating: 4
FYI, Raid 0 is an incredibly poor choice for a home server. You can't use the extra bandwidth in most cases, and you're dramatically increasing your chance of data loss, when the primary function of the box is protect data.

RE: I/O Speed?
By Smilin on 12/29/2008 3:19:32 PM , Rating: 2
Your two 500gig drives are not in a raid 0.

WHS doesn't use traditional raid at all (let alone raid 0 on a backup server!)

The bottleneck you are having isn't the homeserver, it's your 100mbit LAN. I've got the same server and I don't really have any problems. I've not benchmarked it against fail copies between my other PCs but that's just becuase it's never seemed slow and made me want to double check.

Be sure you're all patched up on all machines on your network (ie if running Vista sp0 there were some SMB1.0->2.0 bottlenecks that have been fixed).

That server has the capability to run just fine. If yours is not then do some troubleshooting (stop backups, stop data duplication, update software then see if problem persists etc..)

RE: I/O Speed?
By Etsp on 12/29/2008 4:19:08 PM , Rating: 2
You're complaining about speeds, and spent the money on a home server, and you still don't have a Gigabit LAN? $45, $35 after MIR... and voila! As many as 7 PC's on your Lan have access to each other via Gigabit.

RE: I/O Speed?
By Leomania on 12/30/2008 1:44:27 PM , Rating: 2
One thing to be aware of with Gigabit LAN is that you won't get decent speeds unless all components in the path can (and are configured to) handle jumbo frames. The switch has to be able to handle them, and you usually need to enable them on your NIC.

A nice little write-up on this can be found here:

Something to be aware of is that the computational overhead of the TCP/IP protocol is very high with Gigabit NICs; this is the reason that TOEs (TCP offload engines) were designed for higher-performance NICs and switches. Using jumbo frames actually reduces that overhead. Cheap NICs use a lot of CPU either way, so putting a GB NIC in your old 900MHz Athlon system will probably result in slower speeds than would the same NIC in a modern dual- or quad-core system.

A friend of mine just bought a D-Link NAS box with a Gigabit interface and he went through all of this. He moved from a 100Mbit network to a Gigabit network, but his first switch didn't support jumbo frames so he got no benefit from the new switch. A second switch (this time a D-Link) did, and after enabling jumbo frames on his PC's NIC he got about 2.5x speedup. This is pretty normal; do not expect a 10x speed improvement, it ain't gonna happen with commodity hardware.

I saw the announcement last night...
By Doormat on 12/29/2008 11:30:09 AM , Rating: 2
Still cant figure out how they're having the WHS box be a backup storage location for Time Machine, since TM doesn't support SMB shares (only AFP).

RE: I saw the announcement last night...
By Smilin on 12/29/2008 1:22:02 PM , Rating: 2
Just Guessing here: WHS backups are done via an applet installed on the client. This client would need to be compatible with TM rather than TM being compatible with SMB.

If it doesn't meet your needs you can always get an Apple Home Server for $500 right?

RE: I saw the announcement last night...
By pdqdt on 12/29/2008 2:15:02 PM , Rating: 2
"If it doesn't meet your needs you can always get an Apple Home Server for $500 right?"

Well, you've been able to get a 1 TB Time Capsule for under $500 for a year or so. Yes, it's just one drive, and it could use a refresh (or drop in price) but it's also a nice wireless router + print server, and I'm told the 1 TB drive, at least, is "server quality".

I got a new 500 GB one for $220 off eBay a while back; 1TB ones were going for under $350. Does automated backups, automounts itself on the network; you can drag and drop anything there. It's where I point my EyeTV software to save recorded television. I don't know, but I imagine you could probably put all of your music there to access from iTunes. Not sure what else I would need to run a home server for.

By Smilin on 12/29/2008 2:57:09 PM , Rating: 2
I was joking. Apple doesn't have a homeserver.

The Time Capsule is pretty much just an external drive with a wireless card. If your goal is to just do backups then this would meet your needs more than a Homeserver (actually an external USB/Firewire drive and a separate WAP would cost you like half). In the Windows world a simple network NAS device would be the same as a Time Capsule but just wouldn't have the clever marketting name.

Home server is really geared towards more 'server' type functions: A web server, backup server, file server, media server, multiple client machines.

Point of annoyance: don't be fooled by the 'server quality' marketing mumbo jumbo. The MTBF of all SATA drives is far longer than their expected obsolesence. All of the drives in the HP box in this article are 'server quality' as well..Apple just loves to market that stuff :P. Drives are a commodity that neither Apple nor HP manufacture.

Who's the chick with the HP Tattoos
By orc on 12/29/2008 1:29:28 PM , Rating: 1
Forget the article! Who's the hot chick with the HP Tattoos? Anyone know her name?

RE: Who's the chick with the HP Tattoos
By Smilin on 12/29/2008 1:57:48 PM , Rating: 4
Settle down man, it's just a girl. They are all over.

Her name is Anita Getoutmoreoften.

By Spivonious on 12/30/2008 10:32:08 AM , Rating: 2

If you really want to find out more, look at the last HP article. There was a big string of comments about her.

By Iridium130m on 12/29/2008 12:31:01 PM , Rating: 2
no thanks, my FreeNAS box works just fine on my wifes old Athlon XP system, thank you, at a fraction of the price.
I backup with rsync, mediashare to my 360, and file serv to both my PCs and Macs in my house.

By Darkk on 12/29/2008 10:18:46 PM , Rating: 2
I've used FreeNAS before and it's a nice free product. Problem is like most people they don't want to deal with rebuilding an old PC just for it. They just want to take it home, open the box up, plug it in and volia. Done. Then they just insert the client CD in each PC they want to protect. Done. Need another hard drive? They just slap it in and go to the Web GUI and tell it to add the drive to the array. Done.

It's pretty much an install and forget type product. Just make sure it's on UPS of some sort.

FreeNAS does have it's place for some of us who have the extra hardware laying around and have the time to tinker with it. It's more rewarding for those do and have the time for it.

HP did a great job on their hardware as I have seen it at Fry's and very impressed with it's small size. Makes me kinda wish they offer it without the OS so I can install FreeNAS on it. That would be match made in heaven for me.

I know probably still can do it but why waste an excess of $100 for the OS license?

By Clauzii on 12/29/2008 11:28:52 AM , Rating: 2
I found this link to load a bit faster than the one in the article:

Congrats to those...
By jpeyton on 12/30/2008 4:48:03 AM , Rating: 2
...who got a deal on the AMD version that HP was clearing out this past month.

I picked up an EX470 for $260 from OfficeMax. Added a $10 2GB stick of RAM, $90 1TB WD GreenPower HDD, and connected it to my network on my $20 D-Link gigabit switch.

The AMD version has a 25W 1.8GHz Sempron and came with 512MB RAM standard (which took about 5 minutes to upgrade). This "new" version comes with a 2GHz Celeron and 2GB RAM standard, but seeing as how RAM is cheap and CPU power isn't really critical for a WHS, the older version is a much better deal.

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