Reviews In-depth Review of the HP MediaSmart Server EX495 Windows...

In-depth Review of the HP MediaSmart Server EX495 Windows Home Server

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HP have released a number of Windows Home Servers over the last 2 years since Windows Home Server was launched. Now comes two new Windows Home Servers – the HP MediaSmart Server EX490 and the EX495. This review concentrates on the EX495 and what it has to offer.

SPECIFICATIONS

The EX495 Specification is as follows:

Processor : Intel Pentium Dual Core 2.5Ghz

Memory : 2GB DDR2

Capacity included : 1.5TB

Open Bays : 3

Ports : 4 USB and 1 eSATA

Dimensions (inches) : 5.5 x 9.8 x 9.2

And those of you out there that want to use the eSATA port as a port multiplier will be happy to hear that HP have re-enabled it after the EX48x series only allowed connection of a single eSATA drive to the port! Good job HP, again, good listening to your customers feedback.

THE OBLIGITORY BOX SHOTS

For those of you out there that love the shots of the box – yes, you know who you are, here they are. As usual they have the black look with the coloured graphics on.

IMG_1764 IMG_1765 IMG_1766 IMG_1767 IMG_1768

WHATS IN THE BOX?

The contents of the box are now very well packaged, and it is no longer the case that you have to grab the plastic and pull, and hope for the best! Now you can simply lift out the EX495 without any fuss. The box itself contains the EX495, an Ethernet cable, a power cable, 3 software DVDs and the usual HP Setup Poster to get you going.

IMG_1769 IMG_1770 IMG_1771 IMG_1772

Andrew Edneyhttp://moviesgamesandtech.com
I am the owner and editor of this site. I have been interested in gadgets and tech since I was a little kid. I have also written a number of books on various tech subjects. I also blog for The Huffington Post and for FHM. And I am honoured to be a Microsoft MVP since January 2008 - again this year as an Xbox MVP.

48 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for a detailed and good review, I just have to get hold of one of the new HP WHS!

    Unfortunately for me it looks like the EX495 won't be available here in Europe (Norway), so I guess I'll just have to settle for the EX490. The EX490 should be available early November.

    Do you forsee any big difference between them?

    I know the CPU is different. Which one do you expect to produce the most heat (and to leave the fans to work the hardest?)

    Any other differences you might think of?

    Keep up the good work, and thanks for good advise πŸ™‚

    Best regards

    Erling

    • Hi Eling

      Yeah, I know what you mean, I am in the UK and we can only get the EX490 as well – I am waiting for a response from HP as to why the EX495 isnt coming here.

      Heat and noise wise, I would guess they would both probably be able the same – again, it depends on what hard drives you have in them, what you are doing with the WHS, etc.

      Other than that they are the same!

      Andrew

  2. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the detailed review it has helped me to understand more about the Windows Home Server and its implementation on the HP EX490/5.

    I am swayed to the Windows Home Server system because of its obvious file sharing and media integration however my other option is the Drobo with DroboShare for file security and data redundancy.

    Can the HDD's be as easily "Hot Swapped" on the HP EX490/5 as with the Drobo and how safely backed up is the data on multiple drives in the HP EX490/5?

    If the worst case scenario was to happen and the HP EX490/5 failed can the data be read back off the drives directly via SATA/USB or could the drives be placed back into a working HP EX490/5 replacement system?

    Best Regards,

    Graham Cannell

    • Hi Graham

      Glad I could help πŸ™‚

      To answer your questions:

      Can the HDDs be hot swappped – not really designed for that, you can remove them from the pool and then add them again, but when you add a disk to the pool it is formatted.

      How safe – if you have folder duplication enabled then the data is stored on multiple drives.

      And yes you can then plug a drive into another computer and read the data off without needing to plug into another WHS.

      Andrew

      • Hi Anderw

        Thanks again for your excellent advice and quick response to my query regarding WHS and the EX490/5.

        I think you have persuaded me to buy a WHS over the Drobo however I have one query which comes from a review I watched on YouTube.

        One of the limitations raised from the older EX485/7 was that the size of files you copied to the WHS were limited by the free space on the primary hard drive. Although the EX490/5 both come with large primary drives I could see this being an issue in the future if I decide to start copying my media collection on to the WHS.

        In addittion the YouTube review mentions that when using the folder duplication functionality in the WHS the overall performance slows dramaticaly due to the overhead of copying a large file to more than one drive on the WHS.

        I realise that the review in on YouTube details the older older EX485/7 however could you let me know if the above issues have been resolved in the new WHS/HP modifcations on the EX490/5?

        Best Regards & Thanks,

        Graham Cannell

        • Hi Graham

          Thanks πŸ™‚ and I think yuo are making the right choice!

          That is a really old video – one of the Power Packs for WHS (think Service pack) fixed the requirement for all files to hit the "landing zone" on the primary drive before being moved to the storage pool. So now you can copy whatever size files you want and they go directly to the pool – not only resolving the issue of free space needed on the primary but also making it a lot faster.

          Folder duplication in my experience hasnt really caused me any performance hits – although my advice would be if you were creating a new folder and copying a lot of large files over to it that you only enable folder duplication after you have finished.

          I would highly recommend going for one of the new HP EX49x series – click on the links on the right hand side of the site to see the latest deals on Amazon for where you are.

          And shout if you have any more questions.

          Andrew

          • Andrew,

            From the advice you have given me I am convinced that the Hp WHS is my best option for my needs. I was slightly disappointed to find out that the EX495 is not avalable in the UK.

            Do you know if the EX495 will be released in the UK and could you tell me if there is any big difference between the EX490 and EX495 in terms of performance.

            With thanks,

            Graham Cannell

            • Hi Graham

              Basically the difference is just the processor. My advice would be to try and get hold of the X510, which is just the "business" version of the EX495, which we can get here in the UK.

              Failing that, the EX490 is still a good machine, I have one here to review!

              Andrew

            • Sorry Graham, forgot to add that HP currently dont have any plans to release the EX495 here in the UK or Europe πŸ™

              Andrew

  3. Nice review Andrew. Like Graham, I'm also weighing up whether to go for one of these or a Drobo with Droboshare.

    Do you mind if I pester you with three quick questions?

    1) Can you add a couple of hard drives, then another couple at a future date, or do you have to add all 4 at the same time?

    2) Could I plug a media player (like a popcorn hour or a Western Digital TV Live) into the HP Media Smart Server using USB and would the media player just see the equivalent of a big hard drive and be able to access all the files directly?

    Thanks for your help!

    PS, Graham I found this link to be quite handy regarding questions on the media smart server…

    http://h20219.www2.hp.com/hho/cache/565653-0-0-22

    • Hi Bert

      there are only 2 questions πŸ™‚

      So to answer them:

      1 – yep, you can add drives whenever you want, in fact, I just added a new drive to my WHS just before replying to you.

      2 – you wouldnt plug them into the WHS at all, you would use the media streaming functionality of WHS to stream the files to the WD TV or popcorn hour.

      Shout if you have any more questions.

      Andrew

      • Thanks for the reply Andrew! I had a third question, but think I found the answer somewhere else πŸ™‚

        The more I read, the more I turn away from the Drobo, so thanks a lot for your review and advice.

        Regarding your answer to point 2, should I need to use the USB functionality of the WDTV (because it accesses USB faster than network shares for example), if I plugged the WDTV into the EX490/5 using the USB port, would it just see a big hard drive of all my media?

        • Hi Bert

          If you plugged the WDTV into the WHS the WDTC woudlnt see the media from the USB, only streamed over the network (I believe).

          I dont have one to test unforunately.

          Andrew

          • Thanks Andrew, I've taken the plunge! I found a 10% code for the HP store and can also use a cashback site to get 8% cashback…so it brings the cost of the EX490 to approximately the same as a drobo and a drobo share…and the HP looks a better machine and also includes 1tb. Thanks again for your help.

            • nice one Bert.

              Let me know what you think of it and if you have any more questions please just shout πŸ™‚

              Andrew

  4. Hi andrew, great review.

    I hope you can help me with these few questions:

    1. how much power does the EX495 consume (hibernation/suspended and working/transfering)?

    2.When you acces the ex495 remotely how fast is the experience, i.e. how fast tranfering a file or stream music?

    3.can ex495 handles windows xp/vista/7 32 bits and 64bits? do you think 64 bit windows

    could have problems with another apps/add ins for this server?

    4.What are the main differences Hw, SW and experience between ex495 and x510?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi SIC

      To try and answer them for you:

      1 – I would point you to the HP website and have a look for the product spec sheets.

      2 – that depends on your network and/or Internet connection, but certainly I havent had any issues or noticed any sort of delay or lag.

      3 – yes, it handles it fine, I was running Vista 64bit on my main machine fine, and now Win 7 64 bit. I havent had any problems with any apps or add-ins so far.

      4 – no difference at all πŸ™‚

      Andrew

  5. Hi All,

    I would like to thank Andrew for his good advice and due to it i have now purchased a EX490 from the HP store. While reading around on the net I found a good offer code which I thought I would share with you all so that you could get the same 10% purchase discount I did.

    To get a 10% discount on your HP orders enter the following into the e-voucher code box "save10hp".

    (Valid for October so use it quickly.)

    Hope this saves some of you some money.

  6. Hi Andrew,

    After purchasing my HP EX490 i was thinking of getting some additional Hard Disks for it. Could you recommend any specific HDD model or make at 1TB?

    Also I was wondering if you could clarify how the WHS stores duplicated files over multiple hard disks.

    1… If I was to add 2 additional 1TB disks to the EX490 will this give me an overall 3TB of storage?

    2.. How does the folder duplication effect the overall space available on the WHS from multiple drives?

    3.. If you set a folder to be duplicated does this ensure that it is backed up on a different drive from the original?

    Many Thanks,

    Graham Cannell

    • Hi Graham

      My current preference on drives is from Western Digital – you can go for some of their green drives as well for even quieter, more environmentally friendly drives.

      Regarding yrou questions, take a look at the Drive Extender technical briefing paper for more detailed answers that I could attempt πŸ™‚

      http://download.microsoft.com/download/2/f/c/2fc0

      Simply though:

      1 – it wouldnt quite for 3TB, but thats the general idea, yes

      2 – it uses double the space as a single folder

      3 – yes, duplication keeps a copy on another drive

      Andrew

  7. Hi,

    Can see from the HP specs of the EX495 that it has an internal universal power supply. Does this mean that I can buy one in the us and get it shipped to Norway and just plut it in?

    Brgds,

    Olav

    • Olav

      Yes, I am based in the UK and I just plugged a UK power cable into it and it worked fine.

      Andrew

      • Wow, that's amazingly fast reply. Thanks a lot. Think I will order one immediately πŸ™‚ Or is there any other device I should consider within the same price range…?

        Brgds,

        Olav

        • Olav – I aim to please πŸ™‚

          I would personally say that the EX495 is the best WHS on the market today, so if you are considering that one you should go for it.

          If you are going to order it from somewhere like Amazon and have it shipped. click the link on the right hand side of the page here on the site to see the latest prices.

          Andrew

  8. Thank you very much. Sorry to bother you with all these questions, but I am not used to buy stuff from the US. Do you know if Amazon ships to Europe, or should I use Jet Carrier – not sure if you know what that is, but as far as I understand I get a "fake" US address which sends the package to Jetcarrier in the US, and they send it to Norway and takes care of customs clearance. Probably the most stupid question ever, and I should probably find out myself by reading on the web pages..

    • Olav, not a stupid question at all, and its no bother at all.

      Im not sure if Amazon will ship to Europe thinking about it – I know they do with books, but some electronics are not sent. I am not familiar with Jet Carrier but it if works and you are comfortable with it I would say go for it.

      Andrew

      • Hi again Andrew,

        Have been trying to buy the EX495 from various webshops in the US, but it seems impossible without an american credit card. I guess I will find a way eventually.

        One question though. I have a Qnap Nas 209 Pro II, which I am getting rid of. Partly because it is too slow to run squeezecenter, but I also think it makes a little too much noise to be kept in the livingroom. How is the noiselevel on the EX 495? Do you think it will be ok to have in the livingroom, or is it even more noisy than the Qnap?

        Brgds,

        Oav

        • Hi Olav

          I dont know noisy the Qnap is, but the EX495 is quiet – and if you then add some green quiet drives when you expand it you should keep the noise level down.

          I have mine sitting on the desk next to me and its noticeable but not badly!

          Andrew

  9. Andrew, please could you comment on the operation of the 1W power standby mode.

    During sleep mode, will the server 'autosense; and wake' up if it receives a network request . If not I am assuming you would need to manually use the admin menu to take the server out of sleep mode which would seem rather clumsy.

    I am planning to store the server in the loft and I would like minimise overall power consumption. If the above is not a feature do you think it could be enabled ?

    BTW also waiting for news on UK availability of EX495

    Thanks

    Andy

    • Andy

      Unfortunately I dont have the EX495 anymore – HP wanted it back litterally the day after I did the review!

      So unfortunately I cant comment on the sleep mode question – but can I suggest you go into our forums and ask the question there as I am sure someone will respond with a detailed answer.

      As for UK availability – currently isnt going to happen. HP have said that only the EX490 is going to be released in the UK. You could however get the X510 Data Vault which is the same as the EX495.

      Andrew

      • Hi again,

        Can see that the X510 is sold in Norway at the same price as the EX495 would be if imported from the US. You say it is the same device, more or less. Perhaps I should just go for the X510 to save a lot of work? Is there no difference in the specs? How about the processor? noise level? and also, what is the difference between the media smart tab and the datavault tab?

        Thanks,

        Olav

        • Hi Olav

          It is the exact same machine, except the X510 is aimed at the business market. Same spec, same noise level. The tab difference is just a name on the tab – nothing more.

          You could consider importing the X510 from the UK?

          Andrew

          • Hi,

            Just thought I might post back and say that I found it quite cheap in a norwegian webshop. Actually about

  10. Hello,

    I'm a new owner of the ex490 and tried installing everything last night only to see the red flag for the media collector. I have no experience with WHS and had a couple of quick questions:

    1) Regarding your problem with the media collector how did you uninstall and re-install via the home server? Can you be specific as to detail as I'm very WHS illiterate.

    2) I cannot log onto the media collector from my host PC's (wireless laptop connection) now matter what username password I use. Have you run into the same issue?

    I am running Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit version from both my laptops and also have a PS3 which I'll try and connect soon. Anything I should watch out for with the PS3?

    Thanks in advance.

    P. S.

    • hi P.S.

      can I ask you to post your questions in our forum please so that they can get a proper answer?

      quick answer to q 1 though – i just uninstalled the WHS connector and reinstalled the one that was part of the Update 1 update from HP that had been automatically downloaded to my WHS share. Have you upgraded the connector since installation? If not, do that.

      thanks

      Andrew

  11. Andrew, Thanks for the great review! I pulled the trigger and purhased/recieved my 495 12/31 thru amazon with free prime 2 day shipping at a great price! Also added a WD green 1.5. I am pretty novice at all this but managed to get the interface installed on two laptops, formatted 2nd drive got all my computers located and talking to the server on my wireless network–set up temp IP address? Here is my situation and brief plan, if you can give me brief 1-2-3's to impliment I would be grateful.

    I have 2 Laptops (one currently running Win7 and my Primary Dell-latitude-Vista 32 ultimate (all my business/home files on it)

    I want to move all my 100gb data to the server (file storage)to a private folder location (me only access) also backup the second laptop (scheduled) and than have both data folders duplicated on a "second harddrive- as well I would like to possibly back that drive (weekly) to an external drive for offsite/firesafe storage? Am I understanding this is possible? I am confused as to your answer earlier about moving all the data first? than turning on the duplication? (I could not find a separate schedular utility for the "duplication" different from the "backup" schedular?

    Thanks,—Happy New Year!

    Chaplain-Tim R

    • Hi

      My point about moving the data before enabling folder duplication is to make it quicker the first time. It is much better to copy all your data over, then when it is all there, enable folder duplication.

      Duplication is enabled on a per folder basis – go into the Shared Folders area on the WHS console and you will see if duplication is enabled or not, and you can enable or disable it by double-clicking on the folder shown.

      You can backup your shared folders to an external drive easily using the built in tools of WHS – see this article I wrote:

      http://usingwindowshomeserver.com/2009/05/17/back

      As for backing up the computer backups, that is not something that WHS can do with the built in software – you can do it, but it involves manual steps. Go to the Microsoft WHS website and look for the Backup Technial Brief for information on how to do this.

      Hope this helps?

      Andrew

  12. Andrew,
    Thank you for publishing such excellent information, PLEASE keep at it!
    I just bought a 495 and am awaiting delivery. I admit to being a Noob. It will probably become clear to me once I review the guides that come with the unit, but a couple of things are confusing me:
    SETUP: Desktop, laptop, htpc, 2 xbox360. Mix of OS (vista, xp pro, 7). Hp ex495 with (3) additional WD green 1.5TB drives

    Questions
    1) When do I turn duplication on? Once I get the server up and running and it sees all the client computers do I just let server backup everything for 24 hours and then turn duplication on?
    2) Should a drive fail on the server, is my data really safe? I know that the whs spreads the data over all of the drives but (again I'm a noob) that worries me. It would seem to me that you would want to always have the duplicate copies of data on different drives, so that if a drive fails it can be replaced and rebuilt automatically from the server. So my question/s I guess are how is the data spread on the hard drives?; how does duplication add redundancy?; and is an external overall backup that one would keep around 'just in case' a very good idea?
    Thank you very much,
    Cam
    1.

    • Hi Cam

      1) Duplication is for the shared folders, not the computer backups. You can switch the duplication on at any time, although my advice would be to only switch it on for a folder after you have copied a load of data across as its quicker.

      2) if duplication is enabled, then the shared folder data is stored on multiple drives, so yes, its safe.

      If you want to learn more about how Drive Extender works, there is a really good Technical Brief on the Microsoft WHS website – http://www.microsoft.com/windowshomeserver and look for the Drive Extender Technical Brief and the Backup Technical Brief.

      You can use the inbuilt functions of WHS to backup your shared folders to an external drive to store offsite as well – there is a post I wrote here as well – do a search for backup and external drive.

      Feel free to ask any more questions – can I suggest though that you post them in our Forums as more people will be able to answer them? You will find the link at the top of the page.

      Andrew

  13. Hi,

    I would like to know how WHS recovers from a failure of the primary drive. How does this affect the data on the rest of the external drives? How does it affect the data that is on the primary drive – I am assuming that a portion of the primary drive can/is used as pooled storage? A lot of people say that Drive Extender is better than true RAID, others say that software RAID and DE are poor cousins of true RAID… can you elucidate?

    Virgil

    • Virgil

      You just replace the system drive and run a Server Reinstallation which then uses the data on the other drives to rebuild everything. All you need to do is reinstall any add-ins and create your users – all your data will then be available to you.

      Go to the Microsoft WHS site – http://www.microsoft.com/windowshomeserver and take a look at the Drive Extender Technical Brief as this will explain all you want to know (and maybe the backup one as well).

      If you have any more questions dont hesitate to come back – just post them in our Forums rather than here at the end of an old post so that more people can see the question.

      Andrew

    • Jack

      If you mean hard drives, then no, there isnt a list because so far there hasnt been any drives that dont work.

      However some of the new forthcoming drives that have different sector sizes may be problematic because Windows doesnt yet support them properly.

      Andrew

  14. The most important thing for me is can this machine stream HD video perfectly. Here's my hypothetical setup:

    1) I shoot HD video from by camcorder, storing the files (in AVCHD format) in the home server.

    2) I access the HD files from another PC, both attached to the same gigabit LAN. This PC has a HDMI output connected to a large screen TV.

    3) I run a video player application such as WMP from the PC, playing the AVCHD file stored in the home server. Thus streaming live HD to the TV via the home network.

    How well does this work? For both the EX490 and 495.

    • Hi Felix

      Given what you have described and assuming you not have any network issues, it should work fine.

      As you are just streaming, there shouldnt really be any difference between using the EX490 or the EX495. If you wanted to do transcoding on the server, thats when I would say go with the EX495.

      Andrew

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