Review and Giveaway: HP MediaSmart 1TB Server

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Short version: A pre-built Windows Home Server box that offers a bit more than standard NAS’s.

Specs:

  • 1TB 
  • Gigabyte Ethernet
  • AMD 1.8GHz 64-Bit Sempron CPU
  • One eSATA and four USB 2.0 ports
  • Four SATA HDD bays
  • Micro-tower case

HP has a winner on its hands with the MediaSmart, which combines the Windows Home Server OS with additional HP proprietary software in a great looking and functional package. The whole system works well and the HP software compliments Microsoft’s offering nicely. The price isn’t too bad and if you don’t want to assemble a WHS yourself, this could be a welcome addition to any home network. 

Microsoft’s Windows Home Server powers this HP MediaSmart, but throw out all the preconceived Microsoft-hate’n notions — WHS is great. Seriously. I have been running a Windows Home Server machine in my house for just under a year and I can tell you that the software is rock-solid. It might not be a UNIX box, but by golly, it works very well on my predominantly Mac network.

Windows Home Server provides all sorts of true server-centric functions through a simple control panel. The server software is designed to run on a monitor-free box — the HP MediaSmart doesn’t have any video outputs — rather opting for control through custom connection software or Windows Remote Connect. HP adds some user-friendly walkthroughs that step first time users through the backup, remote connect, and media server setup; not necessarily important for geeks like you or me, but your dad might appreciate the help.

The HP software adds some extra functions to the rather stark Windows Home Server software suite. The iTunes server consolidates users’ music collections in one spot and checks for new music automatically. The Photo Share App easily and quickly creates a photo sharing site hosted by the server. These types of apps are what makes this HP-made box worth buying. The OEM Windows home server doesn’t offer these types of functions.

It seems that HP spent a good amount of time on the server case, as it simply rocks. It isn’t overwhelming, offers tool-less hard drive removal, and sports some killer LED action. I just wish the power button wasn’t on the back. Even though the server was designed to stay on all the time, it would be nice to have the button on the front rather than fumbling around on the back panel trying to find it. Also, the fans are a little on the loud side. You can definitely tell when this thing is on and I would rather see a fan-less case if reliability wasn’t compromised.

Let’s say you wanna add a hard drive, or two – or even three – to the existing storage. The WHS server and the tool-less case makes the task do-able in less than a few minutes. Word to the wise though, WHS’s storage scheme involves a mandatory format in order to add the drive to the RAID cluster. The software also allows for external HDD additions through USB, but the same formatting rule still applies. 

Overall, this is one killer piece of hardware backed by a great software suite. Truth be told though, you can build a WHS server and it doesn’t require new hardware to run well. Mine consists of a 7-year old AMD Athlon XP 1900 and five PATA hard drives that I run uTorrent on along with media server software 24/7.

That doesn’t mean the HP MediaSmart isn’t great, though. It provides a more user-friendly environment and extra software that isn’t available on a home-built WHS computer. If you’re looking for a server that provides more than just backup functions, this is a great solution that almost anyone can use. 

Oh, and HP is allowing us to give away this server. Yup, you have a chance to win this 1 TB Windows Home Server. How, you ask? Just comment below with a statement on why you need a 1TB server. A random commenter will be picked in 72 hours, but give us a little more insight than a one word answer that starts with a ‘P’ and ends with ‘orn.’ M’kay?

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