GCN LAB REVIEW: Supermicro SYS-5035B-TB

Pros: Redundant Array of Independent Disks controller, best performance
Cons: Hard to access internal components, takes up a lot of space
Performance: A+
Upgradability: B+
Ease of access: B-
Features: A-
Value: B+
Price: $1,647

Given Super Micro Computer’s great showing in our server review last year, we were curious about the performance of its desktop PC. The Supermicro SYS-5035B-TB has many of the good features a server might bring to a desktop computer — and some of the not so good. One thing is certain: Its case is large enough to house a server.

We were impressed with Supermicro’s Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 video card, easily the best in this review. The company added two Digital Visual Interface ports and one S-Video port to the parallel printer port, extra serial port and 5.1 surround sound ports, which are beyond standard issue. The two 150G hard drives come in a four-disk Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) configuration, which is unique in this roundup.

One thing that helped us to draw the conclusion that the SYS-5035B-TB was built like a server was the difficulty in accessing some of the components inside. The Supermicro was the only computer in the review for which we needed a screwdriver just to open the case, and also the only one whose peripheral cards were screwed down. These sorts of things are desirable in a server where physical security is more of an issue. Everything else was pretty easy to get to due to the good cable management inside, and the fact that the RAID drives come out the front

Like many servers, the SYS-5035B-TB has a good capacity for upgrades. Two PCI-X slots, a PCI slot, a PCIe 2.0 slot and a PCIe x1 slot are available on the motherboard. There is an unused PCI slot, but the double-width graphics card covers it. There are one 3.5-inch and two 5.25-inch external drive bays and two open bays in the RAID configuration. Unfortunately, the 8G of RAM take up all four memory slots, but users shouldn’t need to upgrade for a while.

In our performance benchmark tests, the Supermicro SYS-5035B-TB achieved the highest rating in the roundup: 1,218.5. That was due mostly to the graphics card, memory and hard drives. We wondered what it would have done with a faster processor than its 3 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400.

Supermicro lists the SYS-5035B-TB for $1,647, which is a decent price for a powerful system with a RAID controller. Its difficult component access might limit its user base. But if physical security is paramount because you don’t want just anyone popping open the case, desktop space is abundant, and you have extra input devices you need to use, this might be the system for you.

Supermicro, 408-503-8000, www.supermicro.com

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