HP MediaSmart Server ex475 review: HP MediaSmart Server ex475

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CNET Editors' Rating

4.5 stars Outstanding
  • Overall: 8.7
  • Design: 9.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Small enclosure is easily stashed out-of-sight, straightforward hardware and software setup; powerful server software lets you take complete control of the systems on your network as well as the files on them; easy to add storage as needed; expanded features via coming third-party software.

The Bad $749 isn't cheap; potentially cumbersome account management with the various other systems on your network.

The Bottom Line Microsoft's Windows Home Server is the best, easiest-to-use answer to backing up and corralling all of the disparate media files in a networked home. And delivered in this petite, relatively affordable MediaSmart Server ex745 from HP, you get plenty of storage in a well-designed hardware package. We recommend this system all the way to anyone looking to take full control of their data.

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We've been tracking HP's MediaSmart Server and the Microsoft Windows Home Server software that powers it ever since they were both announced back in January. We got to play with an early version of the software this summer. Now we get to take a look at the complete product, by way of the HP MediaSmart Server ex475, a 1-terabyte home server that will cost you $749. In addition to the raw storage space, what you also get for that money is powerful software that's easier to use than anything else of its kind on the market. It lets you automate networkwide system backups, centralize all of your digital media files, stream them out to other devices in your home, and access them from any Windows-based, Web-enabled computer in the world. This HP MediaSmart Server also appears to be the best deal on a 1TB-equipped Home Server product, at least compared to its handful of competitors. We're sure to see other Home Server systems hit the market over the next few months, but for now, if you want to take better control of your data, this is the best solution we've seen.

Just a little thing
The actual hardware of the HP MediaSmart Server is very straightforward. It looks like a very small PC (9.75 inches high, 5.5 inches wide, and 10 inches high, to be exact), and in addition to the hard drives, it also has a processor and memory. But there's nowhere to connect a monitor, and it comes with no mouse or keyboard. Instead, the back-panel simply has a power cable input, a networking jack, and a handful of other ports for expanding your storage capacity with external drives. Once you've plugged in the power and network cables and the system has been recognized by your network, you don't really need to touch it. The vast majority of your interaction with the server will take place via the Windows Home Server software that you need to install on another Windows Vista or Windows XP-based computer on the same network. This hands-off approach gives you the freedom to put the MediaSmart Server completely out of sight in a closet or some other out-of-the-way location, eliminating visual clutter in your house.


You'll only need to worry about a few basic ports on the back of your MediaSmart Server.

With the physical setup out of the way, you then go to any other computer on your network and install the Windows Home Server Console software. The time from the start of the software install to the end of the initial configuration took us roughly 15 minutes. Installation is really no more complicated than a typical software install, with a license agreement and a few "Next" buttons to click. The only additional step is creating a password for the Home Server Console. Once you're in the console software, a setup help utility walks you through a six-step process of configuring your various settings.

This walkthrough is one of the tweaks that HP has made to Windows Home Server to distinguish it from the competition. Anyone familiar with the ins and outs of setting user permissions and establishing a domain name won't rely on the walkthrough too much, but for the rest of us, this kind of tweaking helps this system better embrace its target customer, the mainstream computer user.

Despite the tweaks to ease of use, the basic features of Windows Home Server remain the same since we previewed it earlier this summer. From the Home Server Console, you get a window with a series of tabs, each dealing with different capabilities.

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Where to Buy

HP MediaSmart Server ex475

Part Number: GG796AA#ABA Released: Nov 5, 2007

MSRP: $649.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Nov 5, 2007
  • Capacity 2 x 500 GB
  • OS Provided Microsoft Windows Home Server
  • Installed Size 512 MB
  • Monitor Type None.