GCN Lab Reviews | Entry-level servers have the power and flexibility for most office tasks
- By Greg Crowe
- Sep 08, 2007
Fujitsu's front grill gives components a cool hiding place.
GCN Photo by Rick Steele
Hewlett-Packard's ILO2 server management software is the best in the business.
GCN Photo by Rick Steele
Gateway crams an awful lot of server into a 1U rack space.
GCN Photo by Rick Steele
[IMGCAP(1)] When a network administrator
needs to add a service to an existing network,
there are basically two ways to go. One would be
to get a specific-use appliance dedicated to the
particular task at hand. The other involves
buying a more generalized server that the administrator
could customize for whatever application
is needed, be it Web or file services,
database administration, or even working as a
Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol server.
Although a prepackaged appliance might be
the way to go in many cases, the advantage of
specialization is also its major potential drawback.
If the needs of your network change even a
little, a specialist appliance might not be able to
adapt. Also, when a replacement becomes necessary,
the outdated appliance will usually not be
able to be retooled to another function, and it
will likely be discarded.
A generalized server can be adapted to a variety
of purposes and can be altered to do a different
job if that becomes necessary. Of course, this
often requires additional software and a higher
level of effort on the part of the administrator,
but this is often much less expensive than purchasing
a whole new network appliance. Plus,
most servers can handle more than one task, so
for the most basic network functions, such as
file, print, directory and e-mail services, an
entry-level general purpose server can't be beat.
[IMGCAP(2)] We tested entry-level servers from Fujitsu
Computer Systems, Gateway and Hewlett-
Packard. Even though the manufacturers had
complied with our basic requirements ' such as
running Windows 2003 Server, with hard drives
in a Redundant Array of Independent Disks
configuration ' the units we received were different
in many ways. From 1U rackmountable
models to deep minitowers, the configurations
ran the gamut of shapes a server could come in.
It should be noted that although we asked for
and received Windows 2003 Server with each
machine, their standard configurations often do
not include them. All of the prices quoted in
this review include the cost of this operating
Once we got each server up and running, we
tested the performance of each with our new
Performance Test benchmark programs from
PassMark Software. Because servers do not typically
require high-end graphics, we decided that
the 3-D graphics portion of the benchmark test
was not applicable and did not use it. The ratings
quoted in this review are the weighted averages
of the remaining tests.
We also looked at existing features, which included
communication ports, duplicate power
supplies and ease of access to the components
for maintenance purposes.
[IMGCAP(3)]Expandability, which included unused memory
or expansion-card slots, was also a major concern.
And of course, we looked at the value of
the device, which was its price compared with
how it did in the other categories.
HP ProLiant ML310 G4COOL RAID:
A dedicated fan cools the Hewlett-Packard's drives.PERFORMANCE:
B+ EASE OF SETUP:
Good price for entry-level server. CONS:
The ProLiant ML310 G4 from Hewlett-
Packard defines the term entry-level server, both in its
capabilities and its price. It's a workhorse, and an economic
one to boot.
The ML310 G4 has a minitower configuration. We
found its single, standard 410-watt power supply to
be adequate for the existing configuration. However,
we felt that it would hamper the server's expandability
The ProLiant has an Intel Xeon Dual Core 3050 2.13
GHz processor and 2G of PC2-5300 memory, which
should provide serviceable levels of performance for
most basic tasks. The four-port drive bay has two 160G
hot-swappable drives in a mirrored RAID 1 configuration,
which means it has only 160G of hard drive space
but complete redundancy. The integrated ATI ES1000
Video Controller can handle any basic graphics needs.
The insides are very clean with good cable management.
We were very pleased to see a fan devoted
entirely to keeping the drives in the
hard drive bay cool. Redundancy requires the
hard drives to be spinning almost all the
time, and they can get hot rather quickly, but
this wasn't a problem in the ML310 G4 because
of this fan.
We found setting this server up to be easy.
We just plugged it in, and it was ready to serve. All HP
servers come with Integrated Lights Out (iLO) Version
2, which is the most robust remote server management
program we have seen. Finding it in an entry-level
server was like pure gold. The iLO2 breaks control
down to the component level instead of the system
level. Because many administrators prefer to access
their servers remotely, a good management tool is almost
essential, and we can't stress enough how great it
was to find one of this level included in the value price.
As for expandability, the HP had its advantages and
disadvantages. It has two PCI-X, one PCI-Ex4 and
one PCI-Ex1 expansion slots, which we found to be a
good assortment. However, the four DDR2 memory
slots mean that the maximum capacity is 8G, and this
could be achieved only by replacing the existing pair
of 1G modules. Although Serial ATA RAID support is
integrated, adding Serial Attached SCSI support
would require a controller card that would take up
one of the PCI-X slots. And of course, any expansion
for this server is limited by the 410 watts
coming out of its power supply.
Although the ProLiant got a respectable
score in our benchmark program, it was the
lowest of this roundup. Its integrated graphics
processor managed to perform the best in the
2-D graphics tests, and its processor managed
to excel in one or two of the CPU tests, but its
score of 599.9 puts it at the back of the pack.
We found the price of $2,236 for the ML310 G4,
which includes Windows 2003 Server, to be a great
bargain. Although the performance wasn't top-of-the-line
and expandability is a bit limited, this price makes
up for it. And the ease of setup means it's perfect for
situations where you need to add a server quickly.
The HP Proliant ML310 G4 would be well-suited to
any basic server task and especially useful to administrators
who need to buy several servers at once and do
not want to blow their entire budgets doing it.
Hewlett-Packard, (800) 888-9909, www.hp.com
Fujitsu Primergy TX150S5EASY ACCESS:
The Fujitsu has plenty of room for expansion.PERFORMANCE:
A+ EASE OF SETUP:
Fastest performance. CONS:
Lower-end CPU, minimal power supply.
The tower case of the Primergy TX150S5
from Fujitsu Computer Systems has a sleek look that
fortunately does not outshine the server's actual capabilities.
This is a powerhouse of a system that can
hold its own against nearly any task.
The Primergy comes in a minitower case.
This gives everything plenty of room inside,
making all components easy to access. The
dimpled grill on the front not only makes the
TX150S5 look cool but also protects the front
of the hard drives and other components
while not interfering with air flow.
We found the Primergy to have a 1.83 MHz
Intel Xeon UP 3040 Dual-Core processor and 2G of
memory. The processor is on the low end of what one
would expect in even an entry-level server. The Matrox
G200 integrated graphics controller can handle
any requirements that a generalized server might
need to meet. Its four 73G hard drives are hot-swappable
and come in a striped RAID 0 configuration,
which yields 292G of usable space. This RAID controller
could be converted to RAID 1.
Inside the TX150S5, there is decent room to expand.
Four slots for DDR2 SDRAM would let you have as
much as 8G of memory, although doing so would
mean replacing the two 1G modules. We were pleased
to see two four-port SAS controllers in addition to one
four-port Serial ATA (SATA) controller. This would
allow for a wide variety of additional hard drives and
backup peripherals devices. The Primergy's two PCI-X
slots and its PCI, PCI-E x1 and PCI-E x8 slots accommodate
nearly any peripheral.
The only hindrance to adding whatever is
needed to this system is the anemic power
supply. Although fine for what it has, we
don't suspect the 410-watt supply would
hold out if much were added.
Setting up the Primergy took a few more
steps than a comparable server would. Fortunately,
all of the Fujitsu-specific disks required
to get it started are included, but
they still had to be run before the operating system
became available. This was, of course, nothing any administrator
couldn't handle, but it did take some extra
Although the TX150S5's minimal processor did cost
it in the CPU portion of the benchmark, it excelled in
enough other areas ' such as memory, 2-D graphics
and hard-drive performance ' to earn it 821.5 points
on average, which was the best in the review. Everything
comes together to make Primergy the best in
performance here. We wonder how much more the
server could have handled with a faster processor, but
that would have increased the price.
Fujitsu set the price for the Primergy TX150S5 at
$2,913, which includes Windows Server 2003. That is
a decent price considering the powerful performance
and decent expandability. The Primergy would do well
at nearly any server-related task and could easily be
adapted to any purpose. It's an entry-level server, with
a little extra oomph.
Fujitsu Computer Systems, (410) 987-4035, www.us.fujitsu.com
The Gateway has six memory slots for each of its two processors.PERFORMANCE:
A EASE OF SETUP:
Two processors, superb expansion capability. CONS:
Less familiar rack-mounted configuration.
The E-9422R from Gateway is so close to
the high end of scalability and processor speed that it is
nearly out of the range of devices that most would consider
entry-level servers. But on the other hand, it gives
a great example of how an entry-level rack mount
This server has the only rackmountable
chassis in our roundup and takes up 1U of
space. Its interior is not in a typical minitower
configuration, so finding your way around
might be a new experience. Fortunately, when
we removed the top panel, we found a detailed
color diagram printed on the inside,
which clearly indicated where everything was.
This was definitely an added bonus.
We found the E-9422R to have two hot-swappable
power supplies that have a capacity of 650 watts, which
is more than sufficient for the server's present and future
power needs. Its hot-swappable four-drive bay had
two 73G drives in a striped RAID 0 configuration,
yielding 146G of usable hard drive space. We were
pleased to see that this server had four USB ports '
two in front, two in back ' and no less than four Gigabit
Ethernet ports not counting the console port.
Gateway put in two separate Advanced Micro Devices
Dual Core 2.0 GHz processors, which almost turned
the E-9422R into a quad-processor system. With 2G of
memory devoted to each processor, this ensures that
each processor performs at optimal levels. Its integrated
Matrox G200 graphics chipset can handle any server-
related graphics task.
Setting up the E-9422R wasn't any harder than setting
up any other rack-mountable system. Of course, this did
mean extra time to attach it to a rack, but once
that was done, it was ready to go. Gateway's
Systems Manager software does a good job of
keeping the server maintained, even remotely.
Expandability is definitely the Gateway server's
strong suit. As a 1U rack-mounted system,
it has room for only one low-profile PCI-E x8
expansion card, but the amount of possible
memory capacity more than makes up for it.
There are six slots for each processor, which gives a
total capacity of 12G of RAM. And that means it has
12G of memory space devoted to each processor with
24G total expansion capacity inside the server ' an
amazing feat. This kind of memory would be enough
for even the most computationally intensive of tasks.
Add the ability to install drives into the hot-swappable
array, and the possibilities are virtually limitless. It's a
server ready to suit your needs today and tomorrow.
In our benchmarks, the E-9422R excelled in the CPU
portion of the tests, which is not surprising. Unfortunately,
it fell a bit short in the hard drive and memory
tests, and thus ended up with a score of 688.1, which is
in the middle of the pack.
The Gateway E-9422R server has a list price of
$3,078, which isn't bad, especially considering the second
processor and the impressive memory expansion
capability. This system would do well in a network environment
where shelf and desktop space are at a premium
and the needs of server capabilities are ever increasing,
which means it's a good choice for just about
Gateway, (888) 888-2075, www.gateway.com
The CPU tests included finding prime numbers and other math tasks, in addition to compression and encryption. The 2-D graphics tests covered lines and shapes and included a fonts and text test. To test the memory, various read and write tasks were used under different conditions. Read and write tests of various types were used for the hard drive, and the optical drive underwent a read test. The PassMark Rating is the weighted average of all the other totals, with CPU having the most weight, followed by memory. These are relative values, so a computer with a score twice as large in an area is considered to be twice as fast.