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IBM System x3100 M4 review

Verdict

A compact, well-formed server with plenty of expansion potential and low power usage

Review Date: 17 Jan 2012

Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell

Price when reviewed: £407 (£488 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

With the System x3100 M4, IBM aims to wean small businesses away from running business apps on a PC to a purpose-built server. It’s IBM’s first Xeon E3 entry-level pedestal server, and in this exclusive review we find out how it stacks up against the A-Listed HP ProLiant ML110 G7 and Dell PowerEdge T110 II.

Four Xeon E3 models are available in IBM’s Express range, but as our review model shows, you can cut costs by opting for a Core i3 version instead. These savings come with a few strings attached, however. Although the 3.1GHz Core i3-2100 on test supports ECC server-grade memory and has a low TDP of 65W, it’s only dual core, it doesn’t support Intel’s Turbo Boost and has only a 3MB cache.

That low TDP was evident in our power tests, with the server pulling only 32W with Windows Server 2008 R2 in idle. Testing with the SiSoft Sandra Core Damage and Intel Burn Test apps saw a peak power usage of 59W under heavy load. The server comes with a fixed 350W supply, but consumption could be reduced even further by opting for the 300W 80Plus version.

IBM System x3100 M4

The chassis has a single cooling fan at the rear, a large passive heatsink on the processor and a solid internal air shroud, all of which combine to reduce noise levels to almost nothing.

Build quality is up to IBM’s usual high standard, and the chassis is smaller than both the Dell and HP alternatives. It can be mounted in a standard 19in rack if required, with IBM offering an optional kit of rails and spacers.

There’s room at the front for two 5.25in devices, such as a DVD writer and RDX or tape drive, and behind the removable front panel is a four-drive hard disk bay. Power and SATA interfaces are wired directly to the back of the bay, so drives can slide in and out easily. Termed “simple-swap” by IBM, the drives aren’t hot-swappable; the server must be powered down to remove them.

The motherboard has an embedded IBM ServeRAID C100 six-port SATA controller, based on LSI’s MegaRAID chip. This supports stripes and mirrors, it can be managed locally and remotely using the LSI MegaRAID Storage Manager Windows utility, and it has an optional upgrade for RAID5.

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