Dell PowerEdge 2900 review

£5610
Price when reviewed
We’ve always been impressed with Dell’s build quality, but the 2900 takes it to the next level. Its chassis is built like a tank. The front panel is lockable to prevent access to the bays and hard disks, and it has a cut-out for Dell’s distinctive new LCD panel, which changes colour to indicate faults. Storage options are extremely good, as the front panel has room for up to eight SAS or SATA hard disks in hot-swap carriers. An optional flex-bay can be fitted in the lower of the two spare 5.25in bays above, and this has its own backplane and interface.

Internally, the chassis is split vertically, with the power distribution board at the back and the motherboard sited in front of it. Power fault tolerance is well catered for, as the server has room for two massive 930W hot-swap supplies. At first glance, the cooling arrangements make the interior of the 2900 look a little cluttered. But when you see how easy the various fan cages are to remove, you realise that access is actually very good. The system came supplied with a single 5050 Xeon processor mounted by a large passive heatsink, and both sockets have dedicated fans in front of them. The price includes 8GB of buffered memory and this can be increased to 48GB. Even the memory sockets have their own dedicated fan, and its cage can be unclipped and swung out to remove the hot-swap module inside. The embedded Gigabit adapters come with integral TOE (TCP offload engines), although this feature is optional and is enabled with a hardware key.

The motherboard sports only a couple of SATA interfaces, so you’ll need one of Dell’s controller cards fitted. In the case of our review sample, the PERC 5/i RAID card was provided. This fits in a dedicated slot below the PCI-X slots and includes a healthy dose of cache memory and a battery backup pack. Underneath this is Dell’s optional DRAC 5/i remote controller, which is well worth having, as it provides a dedicated management port and full web browser access to the server. From the smart web interface, you can monitor components and control power on the server irrespective of its condition.

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