Transtec Calleo 312 review

Price when reviewed

The specification of transtec’s latest Calleo 312 shows it’s clearly geared up with performance in mind as the price includes a quad-core Xeon and a whopping 32GB of FB-DIMM memory. It has another trick up its sleeve as it is also endowed with a triplet of solid state drives (SSDs).

SSDs in servers haven’t taken off in a big way due to their high costs and low capacities. However, they do have significant advantages over conventional hard disks as they are more suited to operations in harsher environments, their lack of moving parts means greater longevity, they’re silent and they consume less power. The last three attributes are the useful ones for the Calleo 312 as although the SSDs are designed for military and industrial use this server isn’t.

The front panel has room for up to four 3.5in. drives in hot-swap carriers with the OS run from a standard 80GB SATA hard disk in the first bay whilst the three SSDs were supplied configured as separate drives for data storage. The embedded RAID controller does support mirrors and RAID-5 arrays but considering each 16GB SSD costs in the region of £200 anything other than a non-redundant stripe would be too expensive in terms of lost capacity.

There’s little to be gained with the lower operational noise levels of the SSDs as the bank of four, dual-rotor fans looking after the processor is loud enough as it is making the Calleo a candidate for the server room. However, our tests showed that you can make measurable power savings.

We hooked up the server to our in-line power meter and saw it drawing 155W in idle which rose to 185W with SiSoft Sandra pushing the single Xeon processor to maximum load. For comparison purposed we whipped out the SSDs and replaced them with a triplet of 150GB Western Digital Raptor drives and saw power consumption in idle and under load rise by precisely 30W in both cases.

We found the SSDs offered nothing exciting in the performance stakes. Using the CrystalDiskMark testing utility we saw the SSDs returning modest sequential read and write speeds of 47MB/sec and 49MB/sec respectively – some way short of the manufacturer’s claims. The standard SATA drive delivered a far superior 74MB/sec and 72MB/sec for these tests. Incidentally, we also ran the same test on our Raptor drives and watched these return 86MB/sec and 83MB/sec sequential read and write speeds.

On to the server itself and the Calleo 312 is an all-Supermicro affair with the front panel and drive carriers decked out in transtec’s red and silver colour scheme. Even with four 3.5in. drive bays there’s room for DVD-ROM and floppy drives and grills are provided to improve air flow. Internally everything is neat and tidy with all cables secured and carefully routed through the chassis.

The server is endowed with a Supermicro X7DWU motherboard and although the price only included a single 2GHz quad-core Xeon E5405 processor there’s room for another alongside. Eight DIMM sockets are provided and remarkably these were filled to the brim with an octet of 4GB FB-DIMM modules making the server look particularly good value.

There’s room to expand as the L-shaped motherboard leaves space at the back for a pair of expansion cards on one side and another on the right. Although not supplied in the review system the motherboard accepts a number of riser card options offering PCI-e and PCI-X slots or you can go for a UIO (Universal I/O) card instead. We first saw UIO technology in the PC Pro Recommended Viglen HX220Ui which Supermicro designed to cut manufacturing costs by reducing the number of motherboards within a family.

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