Instead of waiting for the information to inevitably leak, HP has jumped the gun on CES and announced two new additions to its MediaSmart Server line of network attached storage (NAS) devices. The ex485 and ex487 will both be available in February, and one of their major enhancements is Mac support, including working as an iTunes server as well as a Time Machine backup device.
Despite the obvious play for Apple market share, the new MediaSmart Servers are still based on Windows Home Server platform, and you'll apparently need a Windows PC on your network in addition to your Mac in order to set up the server. They come with four drive bays, four USB ports, an eSATA port, and either 750GB of storage (the $599 ex485) or 1.5TB (the $749 ex487). Online backup comes courtesy of Amazon's S3 "cloud" storage, though the service is not included in the price of the server. While the new units' connectivity is similar to their ex470/ex475 predecessors, the guts have been upgraded from a 1.8GHz AMD Sempron processor to a 2GHz Intel Celeron CPU and from 512MB of internal memory to 2GB. When in sleep mode, the ex485 and ex497 soak up just a single watt of power.
Instead of providing RAID compatibility with multiple drives installed in the MediaSmart Servers, HP offers automatic backup to folders duplicated on another drive. In addition to iTunes server duties, the ex485 and ex487 can stream media to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game consoles. The new Media Collector feature can schedule the copying of media files to the device, though this appears to be a Windows-only feature. The ex470 and ex475 will get an update in the near future that will add Mac backup support, but not the media streaming and Media Collector features.
Reviews of the first generation of MediaSmart Servers have praised its easy setup, but raised concerns about the high price. It doesn't look like HP's pricing strategy has changed, as you can find (or build) a NAS device offering the same capacities for much less. Are the MediaSmart Servers new features and helpful interface worth the extra cost?