One sure sign that Windows Home Server has gone mainstream: You can buy Lenovo’s IdeaCentre D400 at Walmart. The D400 is remarkably similar in looks and features to Acer’s Aspire easyStore, which you’ll also find on the big-box retailer’s website (yes, HP’s MediaSmart Server LX195 is there, too).
Intel’s Atom 230 processor appears to be the CPU of choice among mainstream home-server builders, since Acer, HP, and Lenovo have all tapped the 1.6GHz chip. Lenovo pairs it with 1GB of 800MHz DDR2 memory (the motherboard is capable of addressing 2GB of memory, but there’s only one slot). The D400 ships with either one or two 1TB drives; the machine we reviewed was outfitted with two (thereby enabling Microsoft’s Drive Extender Technology to automatically duplicate shared folders across multiple drives). That leaves two internal, hot-swappable, 3.5-inch bays for future expansion.
A low-power, single-core CPU and a paucity of memory will hold back Lenovo's home server when it comes to multitasking.
Fill those bays and you can add even more storage using the eSATA port and the four external USB 2.0 ports in back (there’s a Gigabit Ethernet port there, too). Plug a drive into the fifth USB port (in front) and push a button and the server will inhale its contents and automatically sort the files for storage in the appropriate locations (JPEGs in the shared Photos folder, MPEGs in the shared Videos folder, and so on). Acer’s easyStore servers boast a very similar feature.
Performance-wise, Lenovo’s box proved to be just a little faster than our home-brew machine in our real-world tests, where we use a stopwatch to time both read and write operations. The home-brew rig is a Lab cast-off consisting of an Asus A8R32 motherboard, a 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 CPU, and 2GB of DDR-400 memory. We connected both machines to a Gigabit Ethernet home network utilizing a Netgear WNDR3700 router and a 24-port SMC Networks SMCGS24 gigabit switch.
The WHS add-in universe has grown tremendously since the OS was first shipped, but that doesn’t lessen our disappointment in Lenovo’s slim collection of bundled apps. Of the apps it offers, we like the nifty utility that augments the Windows Home Server console, reporting stats such as CPU utilization, memory and storage consumption, CPU and motherboard temps, voltages, and fan speed. You’ll also find the ubiquitous iTunes server and the freeware power-management add-in LightsOut (which will put the server into hibernation when it’s not in use) pre-installed. We appreciate Lenovo’s EasyAccess client utility, too, because it simplifies the mapping of server shares. But unlike the offerings from Acer and HP, Lenovo doesn’t provide a DLNA-certified media server; and unlike HP’s MediaSmart home servers, you can’t schedule Mac backups—at least not right out of the box.
Lenovo IdeaCentre D400 Home Server
Hot-swappable drive bays; one-touch USB backup; handy mapping software for client PCs.
Single-core Atom; only 1GB RAM; lacks a DLNA-certified media server.
Lenovo IdeaCentre D400 Home Server
Home-brew Windows Home Server
Small Files Upload (min:sec)
Large File Upload (min:sec)
Small Files Download (min:sec)
Large File Download (min:sec)
Best scores are bolded. Home-brew server based on an Asus A8R-32 motherboard, 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 CPU, and 2GB of DDR-400 memory. We used the contents of Maximum PC’s November 2007 CD for the small-file testing and a single 2.79GB file for the large-file testing. All scores are averages of three transfer trials.