HP EX470 reviewWindows Home Server might not be well known for regular folks; but for whom they have been looking for NAS or storage server, it’s quite popular. However, If my memory is still good, HP is only one which is interesting and investing in this OS and releasing the final product. (or in everything and make them all real?) However, WHS comes in OEM package up for sale about $99 or so. This review will focus on both hardware and how WHS performs. You will see whether this little server is worth buying or not.




Hardware

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HP EX470 is basically just like regular PC, but there is no VGA port—only USB, eSATA, and Gigabit LAN port available. This might be a deal breaker for someone looking to use it as regular PC or tweak on hardware side, but as usual, there is a mod to get VGA port (including serial and PS/2 ports) work. I don’t know if that’s a good idea though while you can get white box with everything you need around the same priceNAS*, but if that’s for fun, yeah! I agree.

CPU AMD Sempron 3400+ @2GHz 256kB L2 cache [socket AM2]
Operating System Windows Home Server (based on Windows Server 2003)
Display N/A
Memory 2GB hw1 DDR2-800 RAM (1 slot)
Graphic card SiS Mirage Graphic
Chipset SIS 761GX + SiS 966
Hard Drive 1*1TB Hitachi HDS721010KLA330 hw2 (as system drive)
1*1TB Seagate ST31000340AS
CD/DVD drive N/A
Networking SiS191 10/100/1000 NIC (jumbo frame supported)
Extra 4*HDD bay [1 used by system drive]
eSATA, 4*USB (3 on the back), 1* Ethernet
Dimension (LWH) 9.5” x 5.5” x 9.75”

hw1 - I have replaced 512MB module with 2GB one since I first got the system—didn’t even turn on with 512MB. 
hw2 - 500GB Seagate ST3500630AS is the original one; I replaced by cloning with Acronis True Image; but there is one cosmetic bug bug1 after that.

HP EX470 might not be the best on the paper, but with this spec, it does the job reasonably well. I highly recommend to upgrade RAM to 1 or 2GB instantly since the performance will not be capped when transferring file larger than RAM size. For hard drive, you may keep the original one since WHS is trying to load balance by keeping data in any drive else rather than the system drive, but doesn’t mean system drive is not used at all—just try not to use.

Hard disk drive bays

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Above is hard disk drive bay—easy to replace; not so tough or firm, but good enough to use without needing too much care. Power supply is on the bottom; different chamber from all 4 hard disk bays. 2*80mm fan also makes sure that the server is cool. I can tell that these 4 swappable bays are the sole reason why I pick this EX470 over doing my own DIY NAS.

Perforated design

Front and back chassis are filled with holes; fans on the back of the case suck air from the front going through the case and going out behind the case. This way is to guarantee that your server will stay as cool as possible, but the downside is dust! only few months usage, dust covered the filter (and inside, oh) until you can see from the distance.

As a result of this amount of air intake, CPU temperature is about 36°C/96°F (ambient temp = 28°C/83°F)

WHS disk managment

106-117°F (41-47°C) is quite a good temperature range for 7200rpm which runs almost 24/7. Whoa! Hitachibug1 (disk 0) is much hotter than Seagate one.

bug1 - cosmetic issue from cloning WHS to this driver by Acronis TrueImage.

Another drawback of this design is noise! Once air can go through the case, so can noise. Some hard drive like Hitachi one cries like a baby. You will hear click-noise at all time. Believe me, soon after I could afford another drive, I would love to replace this Hitachi one! Right now I alternatively just put this server far far away from me :-P However, when idle, I can say it's pretty quiet, 2 back fans increase only a few dB more to your room.

all LEDs indicator

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On HDD bay, there are 3 color to distinguish hard drive’s status

  • blue – shows that drive is healthy
  • red – shows that drive is failed and needed to be replaced
  • purple – shows that drive is working fine, but hasn’t initialized for WHS. In other words, the drive is not included in the storage pool yet.

The last photo shows power (leftmost), Ethernet, and health (rightmost) status consecutively. When the network is unhealthy, health status will turn red and all LED including HDD’s will increase the brightness to max for attention.

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You may turn off or on or even adjust brightness (10-level) LED as you wish! Or you want to play with Easter Egg feature from HP by hold shift+ctrl+alt and click at the EX470 image next to brightness bar; you will see variety of fun that HP team had done during development.

Array of ports

HP EX470 -- port on the back
HP EX470 -- port on the back

Besides 1 USB port at fron panel, 3*USB, 1*eSATA, 1*Ethernet and 1*power port are plenty. Thinking of connecting eSATA 4 drive array is such a ideal to expand at least 4 terabytes in a flash. That's enough for future proof already.

Power Consumption

When booting up this little server, it spikes up quite a bit--up to 100W or so. It, however, goes down to around 58-60W with 2 hard disks at idle state and upto 70W depending on load. I would expect to see around 75-80W with full 4 hard disk drives at idle state. It's not that green apparently since Intel Atom/VIA C7/AMD Geode could do better than this for sure. In addition, Shuttle K45 with Celeron E1200 dual-core sucks juice at least 10W less than this on average. I guess it would be better on newer version (w/ Intel system -- Intel Celeron 440) eg. EX485 & EX487. I guess AMD would never utilize power consumption to the same level as Intel platform, esp. their chipset, and in this case SiS could be the one to blame too :'(

Reference: HP MediaSmart Server Manual If you don’t know something, this is what you need.