HP ProLiant ML350 G5 review

£1243
Price when reviewed

HP’s ProLiant servers continue to grow in popularity, with a recent report from analyst Gartner showing that this product family contributed significantly to HP firmly holding the top spot in global server shipments during 2007.

It’s easy to see why, since both rack and tower ProLiants offer a fine combination of features at affordable prices – and on review we have the latest ML350 G5, which HP boldly claims to be one of the most flexible tower servers in the world.

Build quality is up to the expected standard, with the server’s chassis and panels looking quite capable of handling the rigours of a busy office.

Physical security is particularly good, as the front door protects all expansion and drive bays plus the power and reset buttons. It can be key-locked shut, and this action also prevents the side panel from being removed.

There’s certainly plenty of choice in the storage department, as the server is endowed with a Smart Array 200i embedded controller that supports SAS or SATA hard disks.

You have two choices of hot-swap drive cage, with the review system kitted out with the six-bay SATA model, but you can go for the eight-bay 2.5in SAS drive version.

For a general purpose SMB server we’d recommend going for high capacity, low-cost SATA drives, since you’re unlikely to see any significant performance benefits from more expensive SAS drives.

The five 5.25in expansion bays up above the hard disks do seem excessive, as even with a DVD drive in the lower one we struggled to think of four more devices we’d want to fit in the remaining bays.

With the A-Listed Primergy TX300 S4 Fujitsu Siemens’ has been more inventive, as the server has fewer expansion bays and enough room for two hot-swap cages that each support up to six 2.5in SFF hard disks.

Internally, everything looks neat and tidy, with cabling kept to a minimum. A pair of processor sockets are located just behind the upper expansion bays, one with a decent 2.5GHz quad-core Xeon.

Eight memory banks are positioned towards the rear and the price for the review system includes the base configuration of 1GB, which can be upped to 16GB.

A minor complaint is the small plastic shroud used to direct air across the DIMM sockets, which is firmly fixed to the upper rear cooling fan and the whole assembly must be unclipped to gain access to them.

Office staff will approve of the server’s silent running. There’s a pair of large cooling fans at the rear, and the single processor in the review unit has an active heatsink, but we had to switch almost everything else off in the lab before we could even hear this system.

Adding a second processor will increase noise output, but either way you’d be hard-pushed to notice this server in a normal office environment. The network connection is handled by a single, embedded gigabit port, and there’s more room to expand since the motherboard offers triplets each of PCI-Express and PCI-X slots.

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If a key requirement for your tower server is good remote management then look no further, as the ML350 G5 is endowed with HP’s excellent iLO2 (integrated lights out) chip. This offers a dedicated Fast Ethernet management port and its tidy web interface provides plenty of control over the server.

You can reset the server, power it off and on and emulate pressing the power button, and iLO2 provides tools for monitoring the status of the controller and server and viewing installed components.

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