HP EX490 1TB Mediasmart Home Server (Black) Reviews

HP EX490 1TB Mediasmart Home Server (Black)

  • 1.0 TB SATA 7200 RPM hard drive; No tools required to add 3 additional hard drives with the 3 open expansion bays
  • Intel Celeron Processor 2.2 GHZ 64-bit; 2GB of DDR2 DRAM
  • Connects easily to the home network through a built-in Ethernet port. 10/100/1000 (Gigabit) RJ45 Ethernet
  • Powered by Microsoft Windows Home Server software
  • 4 USB 2.0 ports (1 front, 3 back); 1 eSATA port (back)
  • Supports both wired and wireless PCs via a wireless router

The HP EX490 Media Smart Server is the all-in-one solution to manage your media: a home server that can automatically backup and protect your digital memories, centralize your media and content for sharing with family and friends, and enable you to enjoy your digital media while at home or away. Network-based backup of PCs using Windows Home Server as well as Macs using Apple’s Time Machine. Media streaming of photos, music and videos to PCs, the entertainment center and remote devices inclu

Rating: (out of 69 reviews)

List Price: $ 543.99

Price: $ 439.95


    Review by Whaledad for HP EX490 1TB Mediasmart Home Server (Black)
    Working in the computer industry for over 25 years, I’m not easily impressed. Two quad-core processor, 8 GB of RAM and 2.5 TB of storage in a home pc… nice, but just “more of the same”.

    Most of the computer innovation of the last couple of years has been “more, faster and bigger”, but nothing revolutionary.

    However, the new MediaSmart EX495 is truly amazing: the speed, the capacity, but more importantly: the ease-of-install, and ease-of-use that DON’T “handycap” the “power user”, are fabulous.

    I had the server up and running in a few minutes. It’s now supporting 6 users, 1 MediaSmart Connect x280n (why did they stop making that!?), and 1 Roku M500. I added a second 1.5-TB hard drive and have already filled almost half of the total capacity (25,000 songs, 28,000 pictures, 600 videos, and loads of other stuff). This includes doubling almost every directory (I like this feature over Raid 1 as it provides much more flexibility), and backups of all PCs. The most impressive was how it enables external (secure) access by directly interacting with the router to open/forward the right ports. And it was immediately successful.

    Still to do: connect a USB cable to my UPS and try to set up graceful shut down.

    Review by CaliDuckPhan for HP EX490 1TB Mediasmart Home Server (Black)
    This little guy got delivered by Amazon a few days before it’s original release. I am not much of a directions guy, but was extremely pleased with how easy this was to set up and how intuitive it was when it came to setting it up. I’ve got 1 workstation, 2 netbooks, and 2 laptops that backup wirelessly to this guy. If they are already on the same wireless network, it’s simply a matter of clicking the ‘add computer’ button. There’s no need to fuss with any of the backup settings unless you are particular, as it will do the work automatically for you. You can then either access your files via the console or remotely at your convenience.

    I can’t stress enough how nice and convenient it is to be able to centrally access all my files without having to shuffle files back and forth between the local hard drives and having piece of mind knowing it’s being backed up automatically. I previously did this with Time Capsule which while it worked at times, was tempermental and slow. I’m not sure how well this will work on Mac, but I am running various flavors of XP and Vista in 32bit and 64bit configs.

    I even decided to add another storage drive (Seagate Barracude 1.5tb 7200rpm)for redundancy. Adding storage was a simple as pulling out an open drive bay, popping in the new drive, then going into the management console to click through the add storage wizard which took less than a minute. Now I’ve got 2.6tb’s of storage, more than I’ll probably ever need and 2 open bays to expand down the road.

    Review by Stanltaaf for HP EX490 1TB Mediasmart Home Server (Black)
    I’m technically inclined, but not an engineer. I have some experience with this topic… I first built my own server with spare parts and run it at my home. I am reviewing this because I bought it for my parents and installed it.

    Preface – as of 2010, I’ve seen a lot of heartache about Mac Compatibility. Please, do some research before purchasing this product for a Mac to see if this will fit your needs. There is a TON of outside forum support about this. Otherwise my original review still stands:

    Part 1: The software, and what HP brings to the party:

    Windows Home Server is actually a program (based on Windows Server 2003 with enhancements, optimized and pre-configured), and is easy to use in a home. And it is good, all by itself. HP’s contributions by adding on its own ‘add-ins’ make the software better.

    As a sample of what this means for you, an example: If you are recording tv shows on in Windows 7 media center you can offload your shows here, and still stream them giving you instant access anytime over your home network from a windows 7 PC. The new update to the software also makes it so you can set windows 7 up to offload your recordings from your Windows 7 pc to the server automatically so you don’t tie up your computer’s storage space. If you want to take a look at what that kind of pc setup might look like, just search listmania for “Win 7 HTPC build”; I’m the first search hit.

    So what does HP bring to this? If you have media files that you want to convert for viewing on a mobile device, HP bundled an add-in transcoding software on this so you can offload that work to server’s CPU and not tie up your computer while you’d rather be surfing or playing games or whatever else you do to make things better (Note: HP’s transcoding will NOT remove DRM). There are a lot more add-ins they bundle with this, but it’s exhaustive and there isn’t the space.

    Bottom line, there are plenty of ‘WHS’ solutions. But my take is that HP has put a lot behind making this a great software bundle, and I have to say I’m impressed with the bonus they bring. Emphasis on the word Bonus, because they are ‘nice to have-s’ not designed for the people who consider them ‘must-have-s’. The core functionality of streaming video, storing shares and back-up is what this is designed for.

    Part deux: What’s so great about the hardware.

    The pictures make it look big. But it is small – about the size of a small bread box turned on end. I was surprised when I unboxed it. It’s also easy to add hard drives. It comes with one, but you’ll get hooked and want to add one. Just take out a tray, pop in a recent generation “SATA II” drive and replace the tray in the server and it self configures. I recommend buying one straight away anyway because then you can turn on ‘file duplication’. That means the server at your specific direction will keep duplicate copies of folders you select on two separate hard drives in the server as insurance against mechanical failure.

    You can also back up the system drive, which I’m learning how to do, and you need an external USB drive to do that.

    Energy-wise It pulls about 4 to 6 watts under normal operation. Yet another reason to buy this if you are power conscious. Don’t let that figure fool you. There’s plenty of hardware oomph for most people’s needs.

    Part Three – Documentation.

    There is a lot of documentation! Just not in the box that comes with the server. WHS started out of a user community/company initiative that blossomed into a server software product that now you are seeing hardware being made for. So, if you aren’t sure if this is for you – please take a look online about what other uses this is for and what alternatives are out there.


    Good build, solid software, continuous integration to Windows backed by a very committed enthusiast community that makes it so you don’t have to think ‘what if my hard drive crashes/computer shorts out/child vandalizes my computer?

    It’s automated and low/no maintenance. For a commited user: a ‘no-brainer’. For someone who needs to purchase tech support from a computer vendor, I suggest that a home server is not likely a good fit for you. You are probably better off with an online backup service for your needs.

    I like this one because it has extra drive bays. There are configurations that just use one hard drive, but I would pass on that.

    If you are buying an add on drive, a Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB Bulk/OEM Hard Drive 3.5 Inch, 32 MB Cache, 7200 RPM SATA II WD1001FALS should work just fine.

    Update – 7/9/10 WHS (the program, not the HP MediaSmart server) does random things when stuff starts failing, meaning if you ever get random restarts, can’t find drives or things like that, it’s not the software it’s just not that robust to tell you when something is broken. On my HOMEMADE server, I had a stick of ram go bad and it gave me random errors until I figured it out. (But that’s no different than any standard computer, just thought it was good to update about how its going)

    Also, MSFT is working on a new version of WHS software called “Vail” that is in beta right now. It should handle errors like dying hard drives a bit more cleanly than what some folks are experiencing now…


    Review by Pyanfar Chanur for HP EX490 1TB Mediasmart Home Server (Black)
    I’ve had my MediaSmart Home Server for three months now, and it’s been a bumpy road. However, the issues I ran into (which I will describe for you here) have been resolved and the end result is a very useful one-piece solution for my home server needs.

    I work in IT and have a high level of knowledge across a lot of areas. I manage several servers as part of my job. Much as I love building machines, what I wanted was a simple “set it and forget it” machine that didn’t need me to babysit it–I do enough of that at work. I’m pleased with how well the Ex495 has accommodated my needs in this regard. The hardware is more than up to the job. The software, while very weird to someone from a server-admin background, is nonetheless exactly as rich as it needs to be. And features such as storage balancing, automatic updating and backups really do cause the unit to perform well and to take good care of itself.

    When I first got the HP MediaSmart Ex495, it was just prior to the release of Windows Home Server Power Pack 3. I think that was really at the heart of the problems I had, but there has also been a month of steady fixes released in the wake of the Power Pack that have resolved issues that arose from its release. This is why I can only now say that this is an excellent machine. It also means I very STRONGLY recommend that when you purchase this unit, the first thing you should do when you stand up the server is give the MediaSmart a chance to a)update the HP software on the machine, and b)pull down Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 and its subsequent updates. Only then should you start to load content on the server or perform backups: the changes in the recent spate of updates are substantial, and issues (particularly with TwonkyMedia) were show-stoppers. Add to this the fact that once these updates are complete, any machines on your network would have to have all the software uninstalled and re-installed anyway, and you’ve got more than enough reasons to set things up before you start really using the MediaSmart to its fullest potiential.

    Configuring the MediaSmart server has a simple series of steps: you connect the server directly to a computer, run the included software CD on that computer, and then attach the server to the network to finish the job. Due to the aforementioned updates, you have to let the server update itself (I suggest you then instruct it to reboot), then uninstall the software you put on your computer and reinstall it directly off the server. This is one of many nice features about the MediaSmart Home Server: it keeps track of which updates it needs from Microsoft and which don’t apply, it makes installing software (called “Add-ins”) very easy to do, and then makes sure its own software installers for your computers are kept up to date. You have to accept that all of your tasks need to be accomplished through the Windows Home Server Console (and the HP-specific elements that are integrated into the interface), but once you accept this and follow the manual, you’ll find the MediaSmart needs very little babysitting. Do NOT, under any circumstances, try to Remote Desktop into the box: Microsoft has good reasons why they tell you they won’t support you for doing this. Once the MediaSmart is up and running, every machine in your home will easily be able to browse to the server, copy files to/from its folders, view it as a device on the network, or tap it for applications like Windows Media Center. The included software even has the ability to wake your computer in the middle of the night, make backups, and shut it down again. Backups can be automatic or manual, they are complete at the start and then updated regularly, and any machine needing recovery can be handled by putting the included Restoration CD in the drive and following the instructions.

    There’s more to the package: I really like the design of the case. It’s compact, it’s rather quiet, and it doesn’t even get very warm. Disk drives are hidden behind a simple mesh door. Adding and removing volumes was extremely simple (I have 3 Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB drives) and the server manages the load on all volumes. When you load files onto the MediaSmart, you can specify which files you care about enough to have multiple copies of (so if one hard drive fails you don’t lose anything) and which don’t need to be duplicated. If a drive were to fail, you will be notified, and can easily hot-swap the broken volume for another, which the MediaSmart will immediately add to the group. The EX495 offers streaming of music, photos, and videos that is visible from a computer or a game console such as the XBox 360 or the Sony Playstation 3. The server can also provide Windows Media serving, integrating with Windows Media Player or Windows Media Center. I’ve found both to be very easy to configure. Last, there is a video conversion utility that will let you convert videos (including DVDs) to files that can be streamed off the server. You can even set this to your specs and the interface offers suggestions on what degree of bandwidth you would need for each type. It will even make two versions: one for mobile devices such as a PSP and another larger file for watching on a TV or computer. There is an interface for integrating with your iTunes account, but I have not used this, nor have I yet tried my hand at pushing pictures directly to Photobucket or Flickr. There is also a powerful web-based remote management system that lets you create user profiles with varying degrees of access to the server from the Internet, from streaming to copying files on/off the server, to using the MediaSmart to remotely connect to PCs in your home.

    I had to work closely with HP tech support in order to figure out the initial issues that plagued me in December and January, and I am pleased to say that the MediaSmart technical support team are excellent. They are friendly, professional, and they work very hard at what they do. It took us some time to resolve the biggest issue I was experiencing, but during that period I not only spent very little time on hold, I had techs calling me back and working around my schedule. The one day I spent time waiting on them I received an apology from my contact, with the excuse that the whole team were in the testing lab working on a duplicate of my server because they’d managed to replicate my issue. Working directly with the software team for TwonkyMedia, they even provided me an advance version of the fix and stayed with me to make sure it worked. I’ve had some bad problems with other HP products recently and this very much improved my opinion of HP as a company.

    If you want a hassle-free home server that’s out-of-the-box simple, the HP MediaSmart EX495 is an excellent choice. It’s got good hardware, good scalability (storage-wise), and is in a well-built box. Now that Microsoft and Twonky have got the major software issues out of the way, this product is more than ready for bringing the power of a home server into your home.

    Review by Daniel Holme for HP EX490 1TB Mediasmart Home Server (Black)
    First, about me: I’m a very technical customer. I’ve got a complex home network, a great set of media computers throughout the house, and an all-digital media collection (all of my photos, music, and videos–well over 100,000 assets). I’ve tried several approaches to meet the storage and functionality needs I have. Most successfully, I used the ReadyNAS NV+ for several years, slowly upgrading it to 3TB of useable storage.

    The *primary* driver for moving to Windows Home Server and this device was that Windows 7 is not able to index files on servers unless those servers are running Windows Search technologies, so all of a sudden I couldn’t index my TB of media (without taking them “offline” which is not realistic). So I purchased the HP MediaSmart EX495 in order to serve media and files to all of the comptuers on my network, but more importantly to index them.

    I was VERY pleasantly and overwhelmingly surprised by how much more I got from this server. Its streaming capability (I just “open” iTunes and everything is there), media collection (it “scoops up” media from other computers to centralize it), and remote access features are particularly useful for me. Because it runs Windows, I can also do other things with it that a NAS device could never do. And the backup functionality worked so well that we were surprised to suddenly see 1TB “disappear” because it backed up all of the systems in my home (I’ll need to tweak that).

    The only thing I’m not so thrilled with is the trial version of McAfee that comes with it. I’ll be switching to something else. But unlike a lot of other products from HP, this WHS device is not overly burdened by bloatware.

    I am THRILLED with the device. I will be in the front of the line to buy the next revision that is based on Windows Server 2008. Until then, my next step will be to buy a SanDisk MobilStor external RAID device so that I can add another 6TB+ of storage to the server, which itself will be at around 4TB. Hopefully that will last me for a year 😉 But I’ll be taking advantage of the EX495’s expandability, for sure.

    Whether you are a technical user or a non-technical customer, you’ll find this device to be a great addition to your home (or small business) network.

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