HP MediaSmart Server EX490 review

Price when reviewed

Amid the buzz around Windows 7, Windows Home Server has largely dropped off the radar – not that it was ever more than a faint blip for most people. But we’ve always had a soft spot for HP’s MediaSmart range, awarding the original EX475 a five-star review back in 2007. And now the formula has been updated with the HP MediaSmart EX490.

From the outside, nothing’s visibly changed. The compact micro-tower case remains discreet enough to hide away yet tasteful enough to leave on display, with gently coloured LED panels showing power and error states. At the front a door swings open to reveal the familiar four drawer-style screwless SATA drive bays, the bottom one populated with a 1TB Seagate 7200.12 hard disk. And, as with previous MediaSmart servers, there are also four USB 2.0 connectors and an eSATA port, yielding support for up to nine drives.

HP MediaSmart Server EX490

But in several ways the EX490 is a more powerful beast than its forebears. System RAM has been bumped up to 2GB of DDR2, and the old Sempron CPU is replaced by a 2.2GHz Intel Celeron 450. That’s still a very a lightweight processor, but it’s more than ample for everyday server duties and it contributes to a low power draw of just 35W while idle, rising to 50W under load.

And when it comes to software there’s plenty here that’s new. Naturally, you get all the standard features of Windows Home Server with Power Pack 2, including support for shared folders and automated backup. You can install drives of any size and type and they’ll all be merged into a big storage pool, with specific files optionally mirrored across multiple drives for insurance against drive failure. Home Server’s remote access gateway lets you access your files from afar.

Beyond this the MediaSmart EX490 has a predictable focus on managing and sharing media files. HP has retained the iTunes and TwonkyMedia server plugins from the original EX475, and added numerous new custom features that occupy a whole sub-menu within the Home Server Connector.

The key is the HP media collector, which can automatically copy any songs, photos and movies found on client PCs to the server, effortlessly creating and maintaining a central library for all your media. The streaming server can then pipe these audio and video files to devices both on your network and, via web access, beyond.

To help with the streaming, HP also provides an automatic video converter that monitors new videos and DVD dumps arriving on the server and quietly generates H.264 MPEG4 versions that will play on most video receivers. You can control the frame size, frame rate and bitrate, but be warned that the EX490’s Celeron processor can make high-quality conversions a slow process. We found it took around half an hour to convert a two-minute 1080p WMV9 file into a full-resolution MP4.


Warranty1 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity1,000
RAM capacity2.00GB
Screen sizeN/A


CPU familyIntel Celeron
CPU nominal frequency2.20GHz
CPU overclocked frequencyN/A
Processor socketLGA 775
HSF (heatsink-fan)Intel stock cooler


Conventional PCI slots free0
Conventional PCI slots total0
PCI-E x16 slots free0
PCI-E x16 slots total0
PCI-E x8 slots free0
PCI-E x8 slots total0
PCI-E x4 slots free0
PCI-E x4 slots total0
PCI-E x1 slots free0
PCI-E x1 slots total0
Internal SATA connectors4
Internal SAS connectors0
Internal PATA connectors0
Internal floppy connectors0
Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec


Memory typeDDR2
Memory sockets free0
Memory sockets total1

Graphics card

Graphics cardN/A
3D performance settingN/A
Graphics chipsetN/A
Graphics card RAMN/A
DVI-I outputs0
HDMI outputs0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0
Number of graphics cardsN/A

Hard disk

Hard diskSeagate Barracuda 7200.12
Hard disk usable capacity931GB
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Spindle speed7,200RPM
Cache size32MB
Hard disk 2 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacityN/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speedN/A
Hard disk 2 cache sizeN/A
Hard disk 3 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 4 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacityN/A


Optical driveN/A
Optical disc technologyN/A
Optical disk 2 make and modelN/A
Optical disk 3 make and modelN/A


Monitor make and modelN/A
Resolution screen horizontalN/A
Resolution screen verticalN/A
ResolutionN/A x N/A
Pixel response timeN/A
Contrast ratioN/A
Screen brightnessN/A
DVI inputsN/A
HDMI inputsN/A
VGA inputsN/A
DisplayPort inputsN/A

Additional Peripherals

Speaker typeN/A
Sound cardN/A


Case formatN/A
Dimensions139 x 253 x 240mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays0

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream)3
eSATA ports1
PS/2 mouse portno
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
3.5mm audio jacks0

Front ports

Front panel memory card readerno

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboardN/A

Operating system and software

OS familyWindows Home Server
Recovery methodN/A
Software suppliedHP MediaSmartServer

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark scoreN/A
Office application benchmark scoreN/A
2D graphics application benchmark scoreN/A
Encoding application benchmark scoreN/A
Multitasking application benchmark scoreN/A
3D performance (crysis) low settingsN/A
3D performance settingN/A

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