HP MediaSmart Server EX490 / EX495 Hands On Review (Page 2 of 5)
Categories: HP MediaSmart Server
Each EX-Series product launch has (thus far) has always consisted of two models, a base model and a deluxe model (EX470/475, EX485/487), the difference being the deluxe model included two hard drives instead of one. Don't get me wrong, there certainly is value in having double the drive space, but the problem was that it was almost always less expensive to buy the base model and a separate hard drive than it was to buy the deluxe server.
This launch sticks to the tried and true "2 model approach," but for the first time ever, there is actually a significant hardware difference between the base and deluxe models.
There are two significant differences between the EX490 and EX495, speed and storage space.
The first is speed. I didn't receive an EX490 for testing, but was told it's equipped with a slightly faster single-core Intel Celeron processor than what was used in the EX485/7. I wasn't told which exact chip it would be, but it's probably the Celeron 450 2.2Ghz, which is pretty much the only faster single core Celeron left.
The EX495, however, takes a full step in architecture by shipping with a dual core Pentium E5200 at 2.5Ghz, making the EX495 the fastest MediaSmart Server to date. As of this writing, some desktop PCs sold at retail ship with similar specs. Now, I wouldn't argue the E5200 would be a bit pokey running Windows Vista/7 for anything but casual use, but it's a whole lot of power for Windows Home Server and HP's media-centric enhancements.
To round out the internals, the EX490 and EX495 are stocked with updated motherboards. Most importantly, those looking to outfit their servers with massive amounts of storage will be excitied to hear this new motherboard brings back support for eSATA Port Multipliers, a feature that disappeared in the move from generation one to generation two. This time around, it appears you can connect up to five drives instead of four.
Keeping cool and quiet is important in a home server, particularly when they start packing in more powerful processors. So, HP has outfitted the new line with a brand new cooling system. Their new control system can more accurately control the speed of the fans, and the new custom fans do seem to be a bit quieter than the previous generation.
As expected, HP continues to offer the base model and deluxe models at different storage sizes. However, HP has ditched the two hard drive approach in the deluxe mode and instead opted for a single, larger drive.
The EX490 ships with a single 1TB hard drive, which is a good step up from the 750GB drive in the EX485.
The EX495 remains unchanged at 1.5TB of total space, but with a single 1.5TB drive instead of two 750GB models. The upside here is that you're starting off with the same amount of space and 3 open bays for expansion, as opposed to two. The downside is that, like on the base model, you can't use the folder duplication feature with only one drive, which may or may not be a big deal to you depending on how you use your server.
In either case, if you do plan on using your home server to house data that doesn't also exist on your PC, you may want to think about picking up your first expansion drive with your purchase or soon after.
Even though the hardware changes aren't really anything dramatic, it's the latest software build in this new server that's has me excited. HP has gotten down and dirty with this release, spending a lot of time significantly improving the products existing features. In fact, they really haven't added anything new here from a "feature" perspective... and I couldn't be happier.
Rather than try to make the MediaSmart Server do more 'things' this time around, they've instead made its existing features far more useful. Features like HP Video Converter and Media Collector have been taken to new heights by making them more powerful and flexible than before, while still keeping things simple to use and understand.
Let's take a look at what's changed... continued on page 3.