It doesn’t get any cheaper than this.
Starting at just $399 – or even less online – it’s hard to believe that HP can deliver a server at this price, and the low price tag goes some way to explain this server’s huge popularity amongst PC enthusiasts.
It’s interesting to note the difference in price between the cheapest version and our review sample; increasing the drive capacity to 1TB and doubling the system memory doesn’t seem to justify the huge leap up to the $929 price point of our review unit. However, closer examination reveals the more expensive model also includes a three-year onsite warranty, versus the cheaper model’s one-year offsite warranty, which explains a large portion of the price jump. While that might be easy to justify in a business environment, we’d happily stick with the cheaper version for a home network, and whack in a few extra 2TB drives for just $150-200 each.
Even at the high end, we have to wonder how HP has delivered such an affordable server. From the outside looking in, they haven’t scrimped on the form factor. It’s only slightly larger than the tiny Acer AC100, and will easily fit on or under your desk. It’s one of the few servers with room for an optical drive; if you do choose to install one you’ll even have a capable ripping box.
Seven USB ports allow room for plenty of additional devices, and unlocking the front door reveals four removable hard drive bays. However, they’re not hot swappable, so you’ll need to endure a reboot if you’re adding or removing storage. RAID 0 and 1 is supported; unfortunately there’s no sign of hardware RAID 5 -- although you can do this in software with most Windows Server operating systems. Our review sample arrived with twin Enterprise 500GB Seagate Constellation ES drives, each spinning at 7,200rpm. There’s also a single eSATA port for a speedy external drive, along with two spare PCI-E slots for internal device expansion.
The 150W power supply suggests some relatively tame hardware, and examining the CPU type reveals an AMD Turion II Neo N40L CPU running on an AMD RS785SE/SB80M chipset, paired with a healthy 4GB of DDR3 800MHz ECC memory. This dual-core CPU tops out at just 1.5GHz and, as our CPU benchmarks show, it’s a long way behind the other servers in the roundup. Despite the OS being 64-bit ready, we couldn’t get this box to successfully run our x264 HD Benchmark in 64-bit mode, yet it worked fine in 32-bit mode. As a result we’d take that benchmark result with a large grain of salt. Given the CPU’s ho-hum performance, it’s unlikely this box will handle a large number of simultaneous media streams; one or two should be fine though.
Through all of our tests the machine remained whisper quiet, perfect if you’re going to be sitting next to it all day.
Despite the mixed test results, there’s no question that this server offers exponentially more powerful performance and features than a similarly priced NAS device. We doubt you could even build a similarly spec’d server in such a small package, and as a result have to give this exceptionally affordable home server two thumbs up.
Pros : Very competitive price, excellent read performance, whisper quiet.
Cons : Low end CPU, no hardware RAID 5.
Verdict : 9 out of 10. Editor's choice!
Available from HP, retailing for $400 and above.