Acer Altos G5350 review

£2499
Price when reviewed

AMD’s early launch of dual-core Opteron processors seems to be paying big dividends. We’re seeing more and more server manufacturers that were traditionally ‘Intel-only’ shops now putting a foot in both camps. Acer is the latest to break ranks and steps out cautiously, as the G5350 on review is the sole AMD representative in its server family. It’s targeted primarily at the workgroup market and aims to offer AMD fans dual-core processor support along with plenty of fault tolerance and good expansion capabilities.

Acer Altos G5350 review

Acer sits happily with the majority of blue-chip server vendors because, unlike the Tier 2 brigade, it manufactures its own components rather than relying on off-the-shelf parts. For overall build quality the G5350 isn’t quite up with the industrial-strength chassis from Dell, HP and IBM, but it’s more than sturdy enough for the job at hand. Physical security is good, too. The front panel can be key-locked shut to keep wandering fingers at bay and the side panel can also be padlocked shut. The number of 5.25in bays has been cut back to two, and this has allowed Acer to provide room for up to two quad-disk hot-swap enclosures. The review system came with the upper one fitted and it’s easy enough to slot in the second enclosure where its backplane can be cabled directly to the second SCSI interface on the expansion board.

Due to a certain amount of cable-related clutter the G5350 doesn’t present the tidiest of interiors, with a big clump of wires running down behind the storage bay backplane. The two Opteron 270 dual-core processors are at the top of the board and partnered by decently sized active heatsinks, while memory is split equally across two banks of four sockets, with each bank dedicated to the attendant processor. General cooling is handled efficiently by a large 120mm fan at the rear of the chassis, making overall noise levels low enough for this server to be unobtrusive in a general office environment.

Storage capacity is good for the price. You get a tasty trio of 73GB Seagate Cheetah Ultra320 SCSI hard disks for your money. Acer offers the G5350 as a Serial ATA variant as well, with RAID options available for both interfaces. The basic motherboard comes with only a pair of EIDE interfaces, but a mini-PCI socket next to the PCI slots is designed to accept an Adaptec-based Ultra320 dual-channel controller card. It slots easily into place and positions the two SCSI interfaces right next to the hard disk backplane. RAID options for this are limited, since Adaptec’s HostRAID supports only mirrored and striped arrays, but you can opt for a standard PCI RAID card instead if you want RAID5 as well. Acer advised us that in this scenario the expansion card would be available to provide interfaces for, say, an internal SCSI backup tape drive.

Acer has been busy working on its remote management facilities, and the system comes with the Acer Server Manager (ASM) software bundle. This isn’t as well featured as HP’s Insight Manager, but it still offers good remote browser access to any Altos server running the agent component. You can monitor server configuration, performance and storage, view a summary of key components and keep an eye on processors, system temperatures, fans and voltages. Graphs of processor or memory utilisation, hard disk activity and network port traffic can also be pulled up from the Performance tab. ASM provides good alerting options and a wizard helps you to choose from available servers, select the components you want to monitor and pick from a range of alert types that include network message, email and audible alarm.

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