HP MediaSmart Server LX195 Review
Summary & Conclusion
We were very impressed with the LX195's performance and feature set. Despite having only a single, internal 640GB hard drive, we found it quite easy to add additional storage capacity via USB hard drives. The Media Collector feature worked great (once we resolved the username issue), as did the iTunes server--the LX195 functions quite well as a centralized and consolidated place for serving media over a home network or remotely. We were also very pleased with the LX195's Mac support--especially the ability to backup via Time Machine over a network connection.
We would have loved to see a Mac version of the Media Collector as well; any Mac systems that house lots of media files will need to be copied up to the server's media folders manually. We also would have liked the ability to manage the server from a Mac, and not just from Windows systems. Perhaps our only non-Mac-specific criticisms of the LX195 are the seemingly endless loop of updates we had to go though when initially setting up the device (par for the course, we suppose, for a Windows OS), the time-consuming configuration steps, and the lack of additional features that the April update brought to the EX series (LX195 owners will have to wait a few months to see those features added--and the update process will be onerous).
While the HP MediaSmart Server LX195 can do an awful lot, there are a few things it cannot do that its higher-end EX series siblings can (beyond the obvious that stem from the differences in their hardware configurations, such as the ability to add additional internal hard drives to the EX series devices). At the end of April 2009, HP rolled out an update to the software installed on the EX series devices. This update adds some new features, such as remote video streaming, streaming to iPhones running the HP MediaSmart Server iStream iPhone app, and auto-conversion of videos to formats playable on portable devices (such as the iPhone).
The LX195 does not come with the April 2009 updates, so the LX195 has the functionality of an EX series device prior to the update. HP claims that it will make this update available to the LX195 in the fall of 2009. The update will be offered free to existing users, but it will come with a caveat: You will not be able to apply it simply as a patch or an update; it will require completely re-imaging the server's disks--essentially wiping out all media, files, and settings that have not been backed up elsewhere.
Overall, the HP MediaSmart Server LX195 should more than meet the needs of most home users who are looking for a relatively inexpensive media server option. With street prices that presently fall in the $360 to $400 range, however, the LX195 is far from the least expensive network storage option. Typically at this price point, you can find NAS devices with at least 1TB or more of storage, and which are usually also easier to set up. That said, these other inexpensive NAS devices simply don't have the throughput performance or breadth of configuration options that the LX195 offers.