NEC Express5800 120Rh-1 review

£3794
Price when reviewed

The Express5800 120Rh-1 is the latest addition to NEC’s rack server offerings and aims to deliver plenty of processing power in a slim-line 1U chassis. Its main target area is mid-sized business and remote offices looking for a well-specified server that can be used to deploy general network services such as web proxy, firewall, clustering, messaging or HPC.

NEC has always offered a good-value proposition and the 120Rh-1 is no exception, as it delivers a fine hardware package for the price. One area that sees some much needed attention is remote server management, and the 120Rh-1 now adds the new ExpressScope Engine 2 to NEC’s ESMPRO event viewer and DianaScope packages.

The motherboard sports an embedded IPMI chip, which supports direct browser access over HTTP and HTTPS allowing the server to be controlled irrespective of its status. As long as power is being supplied you can fire up the server, power it down, access the BIOS menus and shutdown the OS.

This feature is swiftly configured from the BIOS screen, where you can disable or enable it and opt for HTTPS communications only. The tidy Java-based interface offers easy access to the various features, and a handy LCD panel style graphic at the bottom provides an at-a-glance status readout of the server.

From the Remote Control page you can access all server power settings, the chassis identity LED, and if the OS is misbehaving the Dump option forcibly shuts it down. KVM over IP provides full remote control to the server and OS, but NEC has taken a leaf out of HP’s book and only offers this along with support for virtual boot devices as an optional extra that requires a licence.

The IPMI menu provides environmental readouts on processor temperatures, voltages, fan status and so on, and you also get a table showing power consumption. The latter is an area the 120Rh-1 needs to work on since it’s something of a power hog.

With the server powered down our in-line power meter registered a draw of 33W, and with it fired up and the OS in idle this went up to 259W. With SiSoft Sandra thrashing its processor cores to the max, power consumption peaked at 376W. The similarly equipped HP ProLiant DL360 G5 was measured at 30W when powered off, 213W with the OS in idle and 310W under heavy load.

NEC partners with MSI for most of its rack servers, and the 120Rh-1 is another example of this longstanding relationship. We don’t have a problem with this, as the chassis and motherboard deliver good build quality and plenty of features.

The server also sports the latest 2.5in SFF SAS hard disks and the extra space has been put to good use, as six-hot-swap bays are provided at the front. The larger 3.5in drives are rapidly falling out of favour in low-profile rack servers, since their size generally limits capacity to four bays, they’re heavier on power consumption and heat output, while RAID options are more restricted.

The server comes as standard with a good quality LSI SAS PCI-E RAID card, complete with 256MB cache memory and battery backup unit (BBU). The price for the review system only includes a pair of 146GB SAS drive in a simple mirror, but the card supports a wide range of arrays including RAID6 for dual-drive redundancy. The card is mounted on one side of the butterfly riser card at the rear and this has room for another PCI-E 8x half-height card on the other side.

The review system was supplied with a pair of Xeon 5460 processors, and these are fitted with large passive heatsinks that extend some way across the chassis. NEC has also included a generous 8GB of FB-DIMM memory consisting of a pair of 4GB modules, so there’s plenty of room to expand since the motherboard has 12 DIMM sockets. The server offers good memory fault tolerance, as it supports both mirroring across two separate banks and online sparing within each bank.

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