NEC Express5800 120Rj-2 review

Price when reviewed

Intel’s second generation of quad- and dual-core Xeons has created a flurry of activity in the server market already this year, with vendors revamping their product ranges with the new 45nm processors.

NEC Express5800 120Rj-2 review

In our exclusive reviews, we saw Boston deliver one of the first examples of Intel’s latest 5400 Xeons with its Igloo I2600, HP stepped up shortly after with its fifth-generation ProLiant DL360, and now NEC moves in with a family of five new servers.

In this exclusive review, we take a closer look at the new Express5800 120Rj-2. This is one of two new rack systems from NEC targeted at workgroups and medium to large businesses running a range of applications including general network services, databases and virtualisation.

NEC has had a long-standing relationship with MSI, so it’s no surprise to find this vendor providing the foundation for the 120Rj-2. We have no problems with this, as the chassis and motherboard deliver good build quality and plenty of features.

NEC now steps in line with the competition, as it makes the switch from 3.5in to 2.5in hard disks. With the spotlight on the environment it makes perfect sense, since these smaller drives consume less power and produce far less heat than their bigger brethren.

The small form factor (SFF) also improves your RAID array outlook, as the server has a hard disk cage at the front with room for up to eight drives making even RAID6 dual redundancy a distinct possibility.

One area where NEC fails to impress is server management, and it now lags significantly behind the likes of HP and Fujitsu Siemens. NEC’s ExpressScope suite comes up short when compared with HP’s Systems Insight Manager software.

The ESMPRO utility really could do with some graphical refreshment since it hasn’t seen any updates for a number of years and is looking very dated.

It kicks off with a discovery routine that scans the network and lists all SNMP devices, and those servers with the ESMPRO agent loaded can be queried directly from the map for hardware inventory and performance graphs of selected components.

The server sports an embedded KVM over IP management chip, which can be accessed remotely using a web browser. The interface is easy enough to use and allows you to monitor server activity, remotely control it using the VNC software, shutdown or restart the OS and schedule power cycles. You can also use the bundled DianaScope utility, but we found this a real pain to set up and ultimately lacking in features.

The 120Rj-2 is a bit of a power hog when it isn’t busy, as our in-line meter measured the server drawing 275W in idle and 312W with SiSoft Sandra pushing all eight cores to their limit.

The ProLiant DL360 G5 we reviewed the previous month had a very similar specification and yet this pulled only 213W in idle and a similar 310W when under load. Note that power monitoring and management are conspicuous by their absence as, unlike HP and Fujitsu Siemens, you don’t get any facilities to dynamically control the processors, restrict power consumption or favour performance.

On a brighter note, the 120Rj-2 is delivering a very tempting specification for the price. Three of the hard disk bays are fitted with 146GB Seagate SAS SFF hard disks and there’s also room at the front for a 5.25in device such as a backup tape drive. The motherboard also has a single SATA port set aside just for this purpose.

RAID options are particularly good since NEC has selected LSI Logic’s latest MegaRAID 8702EM2 controller, and this includes the full 256MB of cache memory and battery backup unit.

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