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HP enhances its MediaSmart Server (but it's still pricey)

The HP MediaSmart Server was, hands-down, the best home networking product I saw last year. Powered by Microsoft’s potent Windows Home Server operating system, this device is network-attached storage on steroids.
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Written by Rik Fairlie on

The HP MediaSmart Server was, hands-down, the best home networking produc

t I saw last year. Powered by Microsoft’s potent Windows Home Server operating system, this device is network-attached storage on steroids. And it’s a snap to use but, at a starting price of $599, prohibitively expensive for the average guy.

So I’m a little disappointed that HP won’t launch new, more affordable models at CES this year (although it will offer an alternative in its less-capable Media Vault line; more on that later). The company will only announce three software updates that will ship with new MediaSmart Servers and be available as a free update to current users, according to Allen Buckner, senior product manager for the MediaSmart.

First, HP will provide an option to use a more robust media streamer from PacketVideo, which delivers additional features such as advanced graphics (thumbnails of photos, in-menu browsing, and album art), and support for a wider range of digital media receivers. HP will also include a free seven-month trial of an anti-virus solution from McAfee. The app is installed on the MediaSmart and automatically checks files for viruses as the files are stored. And in late February HP will add support for Vista 64-bit operating systems, which Buckner says has been a popular request among would-be buyers. This addition is contingent upon the upcoming UR1 update to the Windows Home Server OS, expected from Microsoft in late February.

The MediaSmart Server started shipping in late November, after a two-month delay due to OS updates from Microsoft. Buckner says that despite the cost, the device is selling very well and is moving from e-tail to retail stores now. “Specific issues around the price don’t seem to have impacted sales,” he says. “People are willing to pay the price because they recognize it’s a very robust product that provides room for expansion and protection for digital images and videos.” I asked him if HP anticipates a price drop this year, but he was unable to comment on future pricing.

For those who can’t fork over $599 for the 500GB MediaSmart Server EX4870, HP will launch a new version of its Media Vault network-attached storage (NAS) device. The $299 Media Vault mv2100 will offer 500GB of storage and ship in March. The mv5100 series, designed for small businesses with 1TB and 1.5TB of storage, will ship later; pricing is not yet available. The Linux-based NAS devices offer advanced capabilities like remote access, photo sharing across the Web, and an iTunes server. HP has updated the design, resulting in an attractive stubby-looking version of the MediaSmart Server.

Both versions of the Media Vault will ship with back-up and RAID software, yielding a product that’s similar to, but not as great as, the MediaSmart Server.

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