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]

About Rob Beschizza

Follow Rob @beschizza on Twitter.
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