- Review Price: £763.00
The Pentium 4 processor may be aimed primarily at PCs and workstations but it’s made a significant impact over the past couple of years in the entry-level server market as well. Small businesses looking for a simple solution for handling file and print services plus email and web serving don’t want to pay a premium for Xeon-based systems. At this level the P4 has carved more than a niche for itself as it offers a cost-effective alternative with more than enough power to handle these types of tasks. It stands to reason that Intel’s dual-core Pentium D is an ideal candidate for the very same applications and the Armari DC945G Server on review is a prime example as it delivers two processors close to the price of one.
The DC945G is a smart Supermicro partnership which comprises this Taiwanese manufacturer’s 733i pedestal chassis and PDSLA motherboard. The price includes a 2.8GHz Pentium D processor partnered by a tasty 1GB of memory comprising a matched pair of 512MB unbuffered Corsair DDR2-5400 modules. Armari advised that as it buys memory in bulk the faster memory adds very little to the overall cost of the system.
All too often we’ve seen PCs masquerading as low-cost servers so what makes the DC945G stand out? Actually, Supermicro has been quite canny when it designed this system as it is capable of satisfying general workstation or server duties. The chassis is very well built and delivers plenty of expansion potential whilst the motherboard offers a range of useful features. The x16 PCI Express slot makes high performance workstation graphics a possibility but you also get a simple embedded graphics chipset as well. The audio ports at the rear won’t cut any ice for server duties but the four-port SATA controller means the system can handle plenty of low-cost, high capacity storage. An embedded Gigabit Ethernet controller handles the network connection and you also get some decent remote server management capabilities as well.
The front of the chassis offers a pair of 5.25in bays with one occupied by an IDE dual-layer DVD writer. Physical security extends to padlocking the side panel shut and the chassis is fitted with an internal intrusion detection micro-switch. Armari has made a good job of keeping the interior tidy as all power and interface cables are neatly tied up out of the way allowing unrestricted access for maintenance and upgrades. A hard disk enclosure with room for up to four drives sits under the 5.25in bays and the price includes a single 120GB Western Digital Caviar SATA/150 drive. Adding more drives isn’t too difficult as the enclosure is secured with three easily accessible screws enabling it to be removed from the chassis without any hassle.
Storage options are a mixed bag as the Intel ICH7 controller supports the latest SATA II specification so each channel can handle up to 300MB/sec throughput. However, it’s a real shame that the controller doesn’t support RAID -1 mirroring as this feature is normally found in most embedded SATA chipsets. The upshot is that if you want RAID you’ll have to source a separate controller card and as the motherboard only offers slower 32-bit/33MHz PCI slots it could create a performance bottleneck.
As servers are expected to run 24/7 operations cooling needs to be good and Armari doesn’t disappoint. The extra heat from the processor’s dual execution cores is handled by a large heatsink with a radial fan and air is shunted out the rear of the chassis by a 120mm fan. A third fan sits underneath the disk enclosure and a plastic shroud directs air over the motherboard and also up to the hard disks. Considering the amount of air movement operational noise levels are reasonable although you wouldn’t want this box next to your desk.
The DC945G ticks the last box for server duties as Supermicro provides its SuperO Doctor III remote management utility. This accesses the myriad sensors on the motherboard and presents the data in a smart web browser console. You can keep an eye on all fan speeds, chassis and processor temperatures, system voltages and the chassis intrusion detector and link thresholds for each value into an alerting system. This supports both pager and email so if any component starts playing up the utility can notify you immediately. The server can be remotely controlled so you can redirect the server’s console to another system, switch it off and shutdown the operating system. Different login accounts are used to control access so administrators can remotely control the server whilst users can only view the data. For local monitoring Supermicro also includes a simple Client utility which provides basic information about critical components and chassis security but can also send out alerts via email and pager.
As a first server for small businesses the DC946G is offering a good value proposition. With solid build quality, excellent internal cooling throughout, remote monitoring and room to expand it meets the majority of requirements for active server duty although it’s a pity the warranty is only a measly one year RTB and the motherboard doesn’t offer any embedded hard disk mirroring.
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.