Last year, HP impressed us with its MediaSmart EX487 (February 2009), a Windows Home Server that shipped with proprietary software we actually found useful. The EX495, this year’s follow-up, is focused on improving accessibility and addressing user requests. This third-generation Windows Home Server isn’t so much an overhaul of last year’s machine as it is a calculated iteration; the same unassuming case packs significant hardware and software upgrades that are the most compelling reasons yet to adopt the Home Server platform.
First, the hardware in this box looks more like a desktop PC than a bare-bones backup device. Instead of an Atom or Celeron processor, the EX495 is powered by a Pentium Dual Core CPU running at 2.5GHz—an upgrade that speeds up video processing and opens the door to real-time transcoding. Even with the increased horsepower, the machine maintained low power consumption during backups and idle states, and pulled far less than 100W during heavy load.
There’s a lot to be excited about when you consider the features Windows Home Server offers out of the box—primarily, automated backup of all your desktop and mobile machines and media streaming to every room in your house. HP builds on this goodness with a second-generation WHS product that boasts both improved hardware and a supercharged features list.
When we reviewed HP’s first foray into the world of Windows Home Server last year, we were optimistic about the future of the platform but a bit underwhelmed by the performance of the little box. Since then, the Home Server software has gone through some teething pains, including a horrific bug that corrupted users’ files (since corrected with the first Service Pack for the Home Server software).