Review: A day with HP’s MediaSmart LX195

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In Brief: HP’s MediaSmart LX195 is a file-storing box that works great if you have Windows PCs and like the ease of Windows Home Server. It even syncs with web-based services like Flickr. But its focus is on the media-sharing basics: it doesn’t have a second drive for redundant backups, it doesn’t connect to your TV set, and it can’t be properly administered from a Mac.

HP’s LX195 has a 1.6 GHz processor, gigabit ethernet, 1GB of RAM, a 640GB hard drive and 4 USB ports. Running Microsoft Windows Home Server, it’s competitively priced against consumer network storage options, but offers extras like iTunes media serving, network media collection and antivirus.

At $300 after rebates, it’s the perfect thing if you’re on Windows, have a family-full of computers bursting with photos and music, and want an easy, no-tinkering-required setup. Step out of this scenario, however, and some shortcomings emerge.

Pros and cons follow, in no particular order.


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• It looks much nicer than the original EX-series MediaSmart servers, but seems a little on the large side given that it contains just a single 3.5″ hard drive and requires an external power supply.

• WHS has a simple administration console that lets you set up shared folders, remote access policies, and special features (such as the iTunes server and network media-collection scans). Backups can also be scheduled and WHS plugins installed–included with the HP is McAfee antivirus.

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• Another add-on publishes photos and other media over the web: the clever bit is that it does it not by trying to be an exposed server in its own right, but by logging into sites like flickr and automagically synchronizing with them. One caveat: it runs via web browser through https, generating security warnings. A minor irritation, for sure, but still–who on earth is going to buy an SSL certificate to access a local web service whose selling point is that it doesn’t need to be globally exposed?

• Skip this MediaSmart if you have a Mac or Linux PC. Most admin tasks require special software that only runs on Windows. The OSX admin program is just a bunch of links to the SMB shares on the box and a backup/Time Capsule panel that produces inaccurate error messages (“Backup disk creation failed: Make more space available on server…”) unless you have already configured the box to work with it using the Windows-only software.

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• There’s no video out at all, so it can’t be used as a home theater PC. On the other hand, the price is right.

Product Page [HP]

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10 Responses to Review: A day with HP’s MediaSmart LX195

  1. echolocate chocolate says:

    That thing looks like it’ll gather dust like nobody’s business!

  2. technogeek says:

    Unless a network storage box speaks enough standard protocols to be useful from multiple platforms (I’m less interested in Mac, but I’m using both WinXP and Linux), it’s pretty close to useless to me… unless it’s priced low enough that I can treat it as a dedicated peripheral or as parts.

  3. Greg Baker says:

    I get the same error when trying to create a mac drive. How were you able to resolve this? I see nothing in the server console that would mac it work with Macs.

    I think there’s a different issue.

    Through trial and error, I found that I could create a TimeMachine capable drive up to 79 GB using just the internal drive. When I connected a USB drive, it would then let me make a larger drive. I have no idea why or how to make it use the hundreds of GB of free space on the internal drive.

    I’m guessing that it will only allow the Mac drive to grow to a certain percentage of the available space, but see nowhere that this can be administrated.

    Thanks,

    Greg

  4. Rob Beschizza says:

    Killdeer, there’s just better options for the money if you’re on linux: like a NAS with raid 1 and web-based administration you can actually administer!

  5. killdeer says:

    @#6 Which was why I asked about using WINE in Linux.

    I don’t understand how Rob can say “avoid if you’re Linux” but it can still be used in Linux with a lil emulation?

    Oh well, doesn’t matter to me I cant afford any of these fancy boxes.

  6. Greg Baker says:

    Just a follow up. I spoke to HP tech support about the Mac drive creation issue. I actually was immediately connected to a really knowledgeable tech. I was shocked.

    As it turns out this is a well know issue. Apparently, Samba on the Mac can only buffer a certain amount and this is the source of the disk creation errors. HP has a fix coming (mid – October the tech told me) that will resolve this. It will also come from the 2.5 updates that the EX servers got back in April.

    Best,

    Greg

  7. killdeer says:

    Seems like an interesting unit. Wish I could play with one personally.

    Any chance that the software works in WINE for Linux?

  8. Rob Beschizza says:

    I should think so. It seems to be some kind of simple remote client or remote desktop dealie, with the box doing the real work.

  9. grimc says:

    Any possibility you’re going to get your hands on a La Cinema Black unit to test? Slightly off-topic, considering the LC is more than just NAS, but I’ve been holding off jumping into the network storage pond because the LC looks like it can can do a lot more, a lot better.

  10. Rob Beschizza says:

    We should, for sure. I basically think that NAS and HTPC is one box, for most of us, and want to find something that I can recommend as such.

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