To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

HP MediaSmart EX490 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £462
inc VAT

HP's MediaSmart EX490 isn't cheap, but it's packed full of useful features.


4 disk bays, 1TB storage supplied, 1x 10/100/1000Mbit/s Ethernet ports

A Windows Home Server (WHS) is an alternative to a network-attached storage (NAS) device for sharing files among all your networked computers.

It’s basically a modified PC running a customised version of Windows. HP’s latest WHS model, the MediaSmart EX490, has several intriguing features that make it more attractive than previous Home Servers.

The EX490 can automatically copy music, video and photos from all your networked computers so they’re accessible from any connected PC via Windows Explorer or through a web interface. In our tests, it also worked flawlessly as an iTunes music server and as a UPnP media server.

It’s possible to view videos stored on the EX490 from a remote internet-connected PC via a web interface. First they’ll need to be re-encoded into a specific, low-resolution MPEG4 file format. This is done automatically in the background. With its 2.2GHz single-core Celeron processor, this isn’t a quick process, though.

More useful everyday features include the ability to share a USB printer with your networked PCs. It can also back up chosen files from each of your computers on a schedule. Individual backup schedules can’t be set, though, so all your computers will be backed up at the same time. It can keep older versions of your files in case you need to revert to them, but older backups will always be purged to make room for newer ones.

Files stored on the EX490 can be accessed from any internet-connected computer, as well as the computers on your local network. For this to work, Windows Home Server will attempt to configure your router automatically if it supports UPnP port forwarding; otherwise, you’ll have to do this yourself. Photos stored on the EX490 can be automatically uploaded to a photo-sharing service such as Flickr or Picasa, although we had trouble getting it to recognise our Picasa account.

The EX490 comes fitted with a single 1TB hard disk. It has three additional disk trays, which are easily accessible, for adding extra disks. It was fast at copying both large and small files over our Gigabit Ethernet network. Indeed, it was faster than many NAS devices we’ve seen. The WHS operating system doesn’t support traditional RAID arrays, but you can enable folder replication. This is similar to RAID1, and automatically duplicates your chosen folders to another disk.

Configuring the EX490 is straightforward thanks to its logically organised configuration utility. Additional features such as a BitTorrent downloader or FTP server can be added if required.

HP’s MediaSmart EX490 is the best WHS we’ve seen. It’s fast, simple to set up and quiet. It has some unique features, but some, such as its video re-encoding and streaming, have only limited appeal, so it’s not for everyone. It’s best suited for demanding users whose needs aren’t met by a high-end NAS such as Synology’s Disk Station. For more basic storage needs, a simpler NAS such as Western Digital’s My Book World is much cheaper.

Basic Specifications

Price £462
Rating *****
Award Best Buy


Capacity 1TB
Formatted capacity 938GB
Default file system NTFS
Price per gigabyte £0.46
Interface SATA 300
3.5in drive bays 4
Free 3.5in drive bays 3
RAID modes N/A


Ethernet ports 1
USB direct access ports (front/rear) 0/0
Other USB ports (front/rear) 1/3
eSATA ports (front/rear) 0/1
Other ports none


Ethernet connection speed 10/100/1000Mbit/s
Universal Plug and Play support yes
UPnP media server yes
iTunes yes
Print server yes
USB disk server yes
Web server no
FTP server no
Protocols supported TCP/IP, SMB/CIFS, AFP, HTTP, NFS


Size 247x140x254
Weight 5.0kg
Vertical positioning yes
Ethernet cable included yes
Additional features remote access, video conversion, photo uploading, media aggregator and browser
Power consumption active 47W

Buying Information

Price £462
Warranty one year RTB

Read more