Manufacturer: HP Model: HP EX495 MediaSmart Server
Price: $699 (UK TBC) Web: HP

HP’s third generation MediaSmart Server transforms Windows Home Server support for Mac, and improves user experience with faster hardware and a redesigned console.


There have been some great double acts over the years. Whilst HP and Microsoft may not produce the same comedic value as Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello or Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (at least not intentionally), the continued partnership between the Windows Home Server platform and HP’s MediaSmart Server hardware is becoming as familiar (and dare we say it, comfortable) to the home server community.

Whilst Microsoft has had to work hard to secure widespread major OEM support for the platform, HP have been cracking through their hardware releases. The EX49x series is their third generation of MediaSmart Server, and this year alone has been joined by a lower cost, single drive model in form of the LX195, and a recently announced push into the small business market with the HP StorageWorks X510.

Since November 2007, we’ve seen HP release an annual refresh of the MediaSmart Server, with each release bringing improvements to hardware, and last year’s models (the EX48x series) stepping up with a great set of media-related software add-ins. It’s fair to say that 2009’s hardware is more of an incremental update, especially for PC owners, with the usual up-specced hardware and a redesigned user interface providing the major benefits. It’s a different story for Mac owners, who now benefit from full bare metal restore and access to the Windows Home Server Console for the first time.

With Microsoft working on the next-generation of the Windows Home Server platform, this may well be the last hurrah for the HP MediaSmart Server’s EX series on the current OS, so let’s take a look at what’s new.