So the HP MediaSmart Server EX485 and EX487 Windows Home Server has been available now since January 2009, and is the “follow up” to the hugely successful EX470 and EX475 models. I have been using the EX487 as my main production WHS for a few months now and figured it was about time to post the review.
For this review I have used the EX487, but the only difference between the EX485 and the EX487 is the amount of storage the server initially comes with.
The specification of the EX48x series is a little different to that of the previous EX47x series.
You will notice that the server is now completely black – it no longer has the silver top. Size wise they are both the same. Below is a picture of the HP MediaSmart Server EX range – from left to right, the EX475 and then the EX487.
The actual specification of the EX48x series is as follows:
Intel Celeron 2.0 GHZ 64-bit processor
2GB of DDR2 DRAM
Built in 10/100/1000 RJ45 Ethernet
4 USB 2.0 ports (1 on the front, 3 on the back)
1 eSATA port (on the back)
INTERNAL HARD DRIVES
1 SATA 7200 RPM 750 GB drive (the EX485 model)
2 SATA 7200 RPM 750 GG drives (the EX487 models)
14 cm (W) x 25 cm (H) x 23 cm (D)
It is very good to see that HP have used a 64-processor in the EX48x series. Currently Windows Home Server is NOT 64-bit enabled, however way back when Microsoft first announced and then released Windows Home Server they stated that future versions of WHS may only be 64-bit, in which case this hardware would enable you to be able to upgrade to a future 64-bit version.
It is also good to see that HP have opted for 2GB of memory this time around, instead of the small, and frankly under resourced amounts the previous models had. After all, how many EX47x series owners upgraded the memory themselves? I remember when HP wouldn’t support you if you upgraded the memory, thankfully, they do now.
As mentioned earlier, the only difference between the EX485 and EX487 is the initial amount of storage it comes with. The EX485 only comes with a single drive, so those of you reading this who know Windows Home Server will immediately realise that with just a single drive you cannot have Folder Duplication enabled. So, the first thing you will want to do if you buy the EX485 is get yourself another hard drive if you want your shared files protected.
In fact, given that the price difference between the EX485 and EX487 is around $150 (based on the recommended retail price), you would be better off buying the EX485 and putting that $150 towards additional storage, especially given today’s storage prices!
Adding additional storage is a breeze thanks to the way HP have designed the MediaSmart servers. You just open the front door, press the red button the drive tray, slide it out, pop the new drive in, and slide it back. Simple.
As mentioned, the rear of the server contains 3 USB ports and an eSATA port. Unlike the EX47x series, this eSATA port cannot be used with a port multiplier, so you can only use a single drive unfortunately. I’m not sure why HP chose this approach as it limits the expansion possibilities.
UNPACKING AND CONNECTING
The box itself is quite small with everything coming very well packaged inside.
The contents of the box include the EX487 itself, the power cable, an Ethernet cable, some software CDs, a warranty book and the setup poster.
Plugging it in all shouldn’t take more than a few moments, now it’s time to switch it on and get it working.
INSTALLING AND CONFIGURING
There is not manual as such with the EX48x series, but when you run the installation CD you are given some online instructions, and you also have the now familiar HP MediaSmart Server Setup Poster to help guide you through what needs to be done.
The first thing that needs to be done after you have connected up the EX487 to both the power and your home network, and switched it on, is to install the Client software on one of your computers. This performs two functions, the first of which is install the Windows Home Server Connector software on your computer but also to enable you to configure your new Windows Home Server, with details such as the server name and admin password (but more on that in a moment).
After you pop the Software Installation CD in the drive, you then follow the usual steps to install the Windows Home Server Connector software. I won’t walk through all those steps again in this article, but I have included the screenshots for those of you who might be interested. Note the EX48x image on the installer.
So once you have go to this stage, then its time to configure the Windows Home Server itself. You have to do it via this method because there is no facilities available on the EX48x series for you to plug in a mouse, monitor and keyboard.
Again, I won’t bother with going through each and every step, although again I have included the screenshots for those of you who might be interested 🙂
Once you have completed these steps then you can log in to the Windows Home Server Console as normal.
Before you can access the Console though, you are prompted to perform a check to see if there are any HP MediaSmart software updates available.
At the time of writing, the version of the software that comes preinstalled requires updating to the 2.5 Update for the EX485 and EX487 in order to get some new features. I won’t bother to go into those new features in this article as the are covered in depth in the linked article above.
USING THE EX487 (or EX485 for that matter)
Having a look around the EX48x series version of the Windows Home Server Console, you will see the MediaSmart Server tab, with specific additions provided by HP, including an update Welcome screen.
By clicking on the Server Summary button you can see at a glance the status of your server.
Those of you familiar with the HP MediaSmart Servers will know that they come with additional software, and the EX48x series is no exception.
HP Photo Publisher which enables you to publish your photos to various online photo sharing sites.
HP Media Collector which automatically copies and organises media files from any of your computers.
Features for Mac, which basically includes support to use Apple’s Time Machine to backup files on your Apple Mac to your Windows Home Server and also to access shared folders from your Windows Home Server on your Mac. For more information on backing up your Apple Mac with your EX485 or EX487, click here.
Server for iTunes which enables you to store and publish your iTunes library and playlists on your network.
HP MediaSmart Server Online Backup which enables you to use an Amazon S3 account to backup your data outside of your home or office. But for this you do need an Amazon S3 account, so it is not free.
TwonkyMedia is used to stream your digital media on your home network to devices such as an Xbox 360 and also to provide remote streaming.
All of these additional features can be enabled or disabled depending on your own needs.
Having a look at the Shared Folders tab and the Server Storage tab shows you how much storage you have. Remember, if you have the EX485 then you only have one hard drive out of the box, which means no Folder Duplication, so maybe now is a good time to plug in that extra drive you have available? You will also notice a folder called Mac – that is for your Apple Mac Time Machine backups.
There are also the usual settings tabs for various HP specific options. I have included some screenshots here for people to have a look at.
The EX487 also comes preinstalled with two add-ins – the TwonkyMedia add-in as mentioned earlier, and also the HP MediaSmart Online Backup add-in, again, as mentioned earlier.
There is also an add-in available to install that is not installed by default – the McAfee Total Protection Service. So if you want to be protected by Antivirus you can easily install this add-in or use one of your own choosing.
As the EX487 comes preinstalled with Windows Home Server Power Pack 1, you will need to update to Power Pack 2 before doing much else.
Just go to the Settings tab, and click on Update Now to retrieve that, and any other updates that are available.
Depending on how many updates might be needed, this could take a little while.
It is probably fair to say that the original HP MediaSmart Servers were some of the best selling Windows Home Server’s on the market. They were well made, looked great, and had a host of additional software with them. The same can now be said of the new EX48x series, and when you take into account the higher specification in both the memory and the processor, that the processor is 64-bit and that there is even more additional software in the form of the 2.5 update, then it has to be said that this is a fantastic piece of kit.
As I mentioned at the start of the article, I have been using the EX487 for a few months now and in fact it is now my production Windows Home Server.
If you are looking to buy your first Windows Home Server, or want to upgrade from something else, then you can’t go wrong with the EX48x series. Although, to get the best value for money you should consider buying the EX485 and then some additional storage, especially that given the $150 saving you can easily buy a 1.5TB drive and still have change left over.
The HP MediaSmart Server EX48x series Windows Home Servers are available now in the US for $599 (for the EX485) and $749 (for the EX487). A lot of places are doing some very good discounts on them.
HP have now announced that the EX48x series will finally be coming to Europe later this year.