HP MediaSmart Server LX195 Review

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In order to test the functionality of the HP MediaSmart Server LX195, we placed it on our Gigabit-Ethernet network and accessed it from a variety of Windows and Mac desktops and laptops. We connected to it via both wired and wireless connections, as well as remotely over the Internet.

To test the device's performance, we conducted a number of data-transfer tests to and from the device over our network using an
HP Pavilion Elite m9550f desktop (2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300, 8GB PC2-6400 DDR2 SDRAM, 1TB NTFS 7200RPM SATA hard drive, ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB, Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit) via a Gigabit-Ethernet connection. We conducted large-file write and read tests where we copied a 1.7GB ISO file between the LX195 and the m9550f. We also conducted small-files write and read tests where we copied a 267MB folder made up of 70 JPGs ranging in size from 2.27MB to 4.38MB between the LX195 and the m9550f. We conducted these tests by dragging-and-dropping the folders and files in Windows. We disabled all backups, media-collection, and remote access, so that there wouldn't be any background data transfers occurring during testing.

We compared the performance of the LX195 against that of a number of NAS devices we've looked at recently, including the
WD My Work World Edition, Maxtor Central Axis Business Edition, Linksys by Cisco Media Hub, and the Addonics NAS Adapter. We also repeated all of our tests on an older 500GB Maxtor Shared Storage NAS device--copying files between the Maxtor Shared Storage device and the m9550f. Additionally, we ran our tests on an external hard drive connected directly to a USB 2.0 port on the m9550f; the drive we used was a 320GB Western Digital Caviar Blue drive (7200RPM SATA-II, 16MB cache) placed into an external enclosure and formatted using the NTFS file system.

Of all the consumer-level NAS devices we've looked at recently, the LX195 is (so far) the undisputed performance leader. This is in no small part attributable to the device's Atom processor and 1GB of RAM--essentially, the LX195 is a small, headless PC--it has the same approximate horsepower as a netbook or nettop PC. The LX195 took only 57.8 seconds to write and 42.0 seconds to read a 1.70GB ISO file. We were even surprised to see the LX195 write our large file at a quicker rate than that of the directly-connected USB hard drive. The large-file transfer rates on our tests equate to about 30.1MB/Sec (252.6Mb/Sec) for writing and 41.5MB/Sec (348.1Mb/Sec) for reading.

The LX195 took only 18.5 seconds to write and 10.6 seconds to read a 267MB folder of small files. The server's write performance was only a bit slower than the directly-connected USB hard drive's write time of 14.2 seconds. (We couldn't generate useful numbers for the USB drive's small-files read performance as Windows cached the files in memory and essentially performed instantaneous transfers whenever we repeated the file copy--all of our tests were run multiple times to ensure repeatability). On our tests, the LX195 writes small files at about 14.4MB/Sec (121.1Mb/Sec) and reads small files at around 25.2MB/Sec (211.3Mb/Sec).

As to more anecdotal performance observations, we found the LX195 to be very quick to respond to file queries and copies. We did notice, however, that sometimes the Windows Home Server Console admin interface was slow to respond when we were configuring the server.

The folks at HP told us that the LX195 should be able to support up to three or four simultaneous HD streams (and when doing so, the server would "ratchet down" other resources, such as performing backups). We put this claim to the test by simultaneously streaming a 1080p WMV9 video to a Windows Vista system, a second 1080p WMV9 video to a Windows XP system, and two different 1080p H.264 video clips to two different Macs (all of the clips were looped, so we could run from one system to another to monitor the smoothness of playback). As HP predicted, all four systems played back the HD streams flawlessly; we didn't witness any jerkiness or dropped frames. It should be noted that as far as the LX195 was concerned, it was just streaming the four files--it was not performing any video transcoding--all of the video-processing heavy-lifting took place on the client systems.

We also connected the LX195 to a power meter to get a sense of how much power it consumes. When the device is sitting idle, it uses between 27 and 30-watts of power. Even when under load, its power consumption appears to top out at around 30-watts. When in standby mode, the device sips only about 3 to 4 watts of power.

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