HP Offers Atom-Based Budget Media Sever: LX195

In what was very likely an "oops" moment, online retailer eCOST.com listed a brand-new version of Hewlett-Packard's MediaSmart Server line, the budget-minded LX195, before HP ever publicly acknowledged the product's existence. Rumors and unsubstantiated photos of the LX195 have been appearing online these last few weeks, but yesterday’s premature product announcement from eCOST.com was the first real-world indication of the product's imminent appearance.

Needless to say, the HP MediaSmart LX195 product listing on eCOST.com came down not too long after word started to spread of its existence. Doubtlessly, HP was incensed at eCOST.com's itchy trigger finger and demanded the listing be removed. But the cat was already out of the bag, and a number of key details and specification about the product were now known. Whether today was all-along HP's intended announce date or perhaps HP just recognized when to throw in the towel, is unclear to us; but either way, MediaSmartServer.net is reporting that HP has "lifted the embargo on the LX195."

HP's MediaSmart Server line of home media servers use Microsoft's Windows Home Server OS and are designed to serve media, such as photos, music, and videos, to home-networked Windows and Mac PCs, as well as provide remote access over the Internet. HP recently revamped its line of MediaSmart offerings late last year, improving the feature set and functionality of the servers. Just last month, HP also rolled out a free iPhone app, called iStream, which lets iPhone/iPod touch owners stream photos, music, and videos directly from their MediaSmart Server.

What separates the LX195 from its EX485 and EX487 siblings are a scaled-down form-factor, more modest specs, and a cheaper price tag. The LX195 is powered by a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, has 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM, comes with a 640GB hard drive, and includes one Gigabit Ethernet and four USB 2.0 ports. The unit measures 3.9x8.2x 8.0-inches and has an MSRP of $399.99.

Functionally it has the same features as the EX485 and EX487 models, including Twonky Media Server, iTunes Server, online backup via Amazon S3, and Mac Time Machine support. As a point of comparison, the EX485 is powered by a 2.0GHz Intel Celeron processor, has 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM, comes with one 750GB hard drive (the EX487 comes with two 750GB drives), and measures 5.5x9.8x9.2-inches. The EX485 has an MSRP of $599.99, while the EX487 sells for $749.99. Both the EX485 and EX487 have a total of four drive bays, so that their internal storage capacity can be expanded. We have a query into HP to confirm if the LX195 has any additional drive bays for internal storage expansion; but other sites are reporting that it does not. We will update this post once we hear back from HP.

By scaling down the MediaServer's specs, HP is able to offer a more affordable media server. The selection of an Atom processor should be more than sufficient for streaming most media types, but the Atom CPU is not especially known for its HD video playback capabilities. How well the LX195 can stream HD video will in a large part depend on whether the system is also configured with Intel's recent GN40 chipset, which includes integrated 720p playback capabilities. We are also looking to HP for confirmation of the LX195's chipset.

UPDATE: HP confirms that the LX195 has only one internal drive bay--although additional external storage is possible via the device's USB connections; the LX195's chipset is the Intel 945GC.