Your Opinion: Will you buy an Encore?

by Alex Kuretz on December 3, 2008 · 13 comments

in News

We’ve seen more and more clues that Encore may be an upcoming reality, so if and when HP releases a new version of the MediaSmart Server, are you planning to buy it? Sound off in the forums and let us know what you think.

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I'm Alex Kuretz, and I'm the founder of I was the Lead Test and Integration Engineer at HP for the MediaSmart Server until April 2008 when I moved on to other opportunities outside HP. I've kept active in the Windows Home Server community, creating several add-ins and helping users make the most of their Home Servers.


Kevin December 3, 2008 at 1:58 pm

I highly doubt it.

I would like to see what the specs are, but more importantly, is there anything special about the packaged software (any special add-ins, a photo webshare that is actually functional, some work-around to stream directly to media center in media extenders, etc.). But I doubt it, it’s just gonna be the same WHS OS that I’ve already got… And I doubt they could package any third party apps that we haven’t already had access to already.

Otherwise, I’ve spent a ton of time setting up my EX475 and have made significant upgrades (2GB or RAM, another 2TB of HDD, and an external DVD reader/writer) – so I doubt that there would be anything on the ‘hardware’ side that would tempt me to go through the pain of changing everything over.

I’ll likely wait until the next version of WHS (based on Windows 7) arrives.

Scott December 3, 2008 at 5:32 pm

I agree with Kevin, i won’t even consider unless there s something “ground breaking” in the new device. Not quite sure what I’d consider as “ground breaking” it it would have to be good.

Sass December 4, 2008 at 8:33 am

I have been looking at buying my first Mediasmart Server, and was struggling to find one anywhere in London last weekend. When I finally found out that Harrods seemed to be the last shop to stock any… but, they wouldn’t sell me their last 2 ‘Demo’ versions.
Then the guy said that he was expecting the new model this week, he said definitely by the weekend… but he didn’t have any details…
So, yes, I’m waiting now for the new version… I hope it comes out very soon…
Although, he could have been just saying that to get rid of me!

Ron December 4, 2008 at 7:56 pm

I have a frankinbuilt, but I will be the first one in line to by the new HP HMS. I expect the hardware to be much upgraded and sell for about $600. I hope they are avialable before the holidays.

JohnBick December 4, 2008 at 8:19 pm

At this time I see no reason to upgrade from a box that fills all my current needs.

Tierrie December 5, 2008 at 5:29 pm

I don’t own a NAS of any sort yet so I am looking for one – I was contemplating rolling my own until I found out about the $399 deal.

Whether or not I get the new Mediasmart or the old one will depend on the features – I’d like to record my TV to the server via MediaCenter. Then have the server serve up the music and TV without going through the PC again.

If it can do that – then I will definitely be getting the new one.

Greg December 10, 2008 at 7:25 am

Give me 8 drive bays instead of four and I am ALL over it!!

DL December 10, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Definately not! For the same price as the EX470 I can build a Debian (it’s free!) Linux box with a hardware RAID card (3ware 9650SE-4LPML). It will hands down outperform the EX470, and I won’t have to call HP for support :-)

Alex Kuretz December 14, 2008 at 2:19 pm

DL, I’m curious in what benchmarks you are referring to that a homebuilt Debian RAID box will outperform the MSS? Are you talking network performance? Is there an integrated backup solution with easy full-OS restore for all your client computers? Do you have UPnP router config for easy remote access? Built-in media streaming? All accessible in a relatively simple to use GUI?

And when that RAID card dies or the powersupply takes out the motherboard, good luck getting any data off the drives. The user in the link above was able to rescue all his data in exactly that scenario.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a user and market for what you describe, however WHS and the MSS is designed for a user that may not have the experience you obviously have setting up Linux, creating and managing RAID arrays.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

DL December 17, 2008 at 12:22 pm

The primary function of the MSS is network storage (essentially a NAS which runs Windows). And yes, for the same price I am sure that I can build a Linux box which will outperform the MSS on both network and disc performance, which to me are the most important factors. We have two Vista Ultimate PCs, which have backup software included. For remote access we already use Windows Live Sync, which is free and also works on the Mac (unlike the MSS). Media streaming is not so critical (we stream all of our music CDs as native WAVE audio using SqueezeCenter running on Linux).

As far as the hardware for a Linux box, it will uses all non-proprietary “off-the-shelf” hardware: an Antec ATX case ($38.78), an FSP ATX power supply ($49.99), an ASRock ATX AMD motherboard ($79.99), a Sony NEC SATA DVD-ROM ($ 17.99), etc.

This configuration is expandable to eight internal hard drives, has ample space for further case fans if necessary (no overheating issues), and is capable of running any AM2+/AM2 CPU and up to 16GB of DDR2 1066 memory. None of these are attributes which apply to the MSS, which apart from the hard disc, memory, and CPU, is all 100% HP proprietary hardware.

If the motherboard or PSU fail in the Linux box, they can easily be replaced with “off-the-shelf” parts by me. Additionally, this design is modular so I could easily upgrade parts such as the motherboard (and sell the old parts too). You can’t do this with an MSS.

BIOS upgrades, no problem. HP don’t seem to be releasing BIOS upgrades for the MSS.

Alex Kuretz December 17, 2008 at 1:05 pm

I’ll have to disagree with your assertion that “The primary function of the MSS is network storage (essentially a NAS which runs Windows)”. As I mentioned previously, the backup, sharing, and easy configuration features are huge for your average home user.

If you want to state that it’s a NAS, you should compare it’s network performance to other NAS devices, which did and found the MSS performance to be quite high, and this was before the performance improvements in WHS PP1. Network performance complaints are quite uncommon around the forums here, and usually they are discovered to be client firewall, network config, or network hardware related.

You’re most likely not comparing apples with your included Vista backup software, does it do full incremental image based backups that can restore a PC to its exact running state in an hour or so simply by booting the PC off of a CD?

Unless I’m mistaken, Live Sync won’t provide proxied Remote Desktop access to those Vista PCs. WHS does this.

When that RAID card dies in your server, unless you can find that exact model replacement, your data is completely lost and unrecoverable from the drives. If WHS fails, I can pull those drives out, connect them to my PC which will easily read the NTFS formatted disks, and recover all my data.

Proprietary hardware can have drawbacks for sure, and some users are more comfortable building their own system with more readily available parts. Many have built their own WHS based system similar to what you spec out, and I’m sure many others do a FreeNAS or generic Linux solution.

As I said before, the MSS is not for everyone, and there are some advantages (as well as drawbacks) to building your own Linux server. I do think it’s invalid to dismiss the MSS strictly on terms of performance when it sounds like you’ve not done objective comparisons, and to not directly compare the features of each platform.

Thanks again for sharing your input.

atr December 25, 2008 at 2:59 am

Will consider it. definitely.

I have been sitting on the fence on a NAS-type device that can stream multimedia and backup…and with WHS included, MSS really is not a bad deal pricewise.

I don’t have time to look around for any Linux distros, nor do I want to learn to. I’m not lazy, it’s just my preference.

If Encore does not anything any substantial hardware upgrades, I will probably go with the EX470 and upgrade RAM/CPU.

What I am hoping for in Encore is reduced power consumption and fewer fans (preferably a single quieter, 80mm or 92mm larger fan)

BTW. Great site Alex!

Graham January 7, 2009 at 8:32 am


Also of note is that the MSS chassis rocks! Point me out a chassis that is as cool that you could add to your DIY project that wouldn’t make it a lot harder to compete pricewise with MSS. I think one of the more wonderful things about WHS other than the ability to recover even if the hardware MSS fails without pain (try that with RAID) is the fact that MS did some pretty wise things when laying out the hardware requirements/reccomendations for WHS pre-built boxes. As a result (and as a result of HPs rather awesome engineering) the mss:

-Is REALLY compact (you don’t even realize till you see one in person).
-Is WAY less power-hungry than if you built a NAS out of spare parts. (Which should be factored into your price analysis if you plan on a less efficient ps and cpu, and the new models even support WOL)
-Has really neat swappable drive trays.
-Has neat indicators telling you about the health of the device and its drives.
-Has a dead simple configuration interface
-Is entirely headless (who the hell whats more monitors keyboards or KVMs hanging around??)
-Can act as a printer server.
-DE kicks RAIDs ass in terms of management and disaster recovery IMO, even if it may pay a perfomance cost versus some RAID configs.
-The backup software in WHS features Single Instance Storage, so files that are identical accross multiple of your machines only get backed up once (BIG Space Save). This basically allows you to back up your entire drives with impunity. I would normally exclude system files etc as it would be a big space waster backing up all the program files and system files from each machine on my network, but with SIS each file is only backed up once. And with WHS if you back up your entire drive its as simple as booting off a restore cd to restore a client off a backup over the network. Its THAT SIMPLE.
-The bundled HP software comes for FREE and seriously increases the value of the already extremely valuable (IMO) WHS.
-As was mentioned, the Remote Access proxying features are very useful.

All that being said I do have a few complaints:

-The photo webshare on the 470/475 is flawed in that it requires duplicating photos that are already shared on your server. It SEEMS the new version may be better in this regard, but they may have hamstrung the security features of the photo portion (which would make me very sad).

-The remote access stuff in WHS makes me feel a bit insecure. Overall the security design is good (requiring strong passwords, IIS, etc.) but I REALLY want a multifactor authentication model, as I’d like to say log on to my WHS site from a net cafe without worrying overmuch about keyloggers.

-I would really like an Add-In marketplace where microsoft sanctioned Add-Ins are certified and sold. The data stored on a WHS is too valuable oftentimes to just go installing new software willy-nilly. I’d like if these things had to pass some sort of security audit first. MS, you listening?

Anyway, that’s my .02 so far. I spent a LONG time researching NAS solutions, before I ultimately decided RAID was too much of a pain and WHS has some VERY nice features. I believe if you look hard enough you may come to the same conclusion.

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