Boston Value Series 160 G8 review

£3179
Price when reviewed

Boston’s Value Series 160 G8 might look ordinary, but it’s a rack server with a difference: it’s the first we’ve seen with Intel’s Xeon E5-1600 processor. With the E5-1600 family targeting high-end workstation applications and pumping out a hefty 130W TDP, it’s also the first we’ve seen to employ watercooling to deal with its higher heat output and keep noise to a minimum.

The Value Series 160 G8 is aimed at businesses that want a single-socket 1U rack server with more grunt than the current crop of Xeon E3 v2 alternatives. On paper, it looks up to the task: the processor, Intel’s Xeon E5-1650, operates at 3.2GHz, and Turbo Boost 2 support allows it to step up to a maximum of 3.8GHz.

The Xeon E5-1650 is the entry point for this family of three CPUs, all of which support 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM. The advantages over the Xeon E3 v2 are that the Hyper-Threaded six-core chip gives you 12 logical cores – as opposed to eight – and has a larger 12MB of L3 cache.

Initially, the price seems high for a compact 1U rack server, but the specification is generous. A healthy 32GB of RDIMM memory is installed as standard, and Boston includes a quartet of 1TB Seagate SATA SFF drives.

Boston Value Series 160 G8

Watercooling comes courtesy of CoolIT’s ECO II-1U system, which uses a mix of water and propylene glycol with anti-fungal and anti-corrosion additives. The block on the CPU contains an electric pump to circulate the coolant via two plastic pipes to a radiator assembly behind the drive bays. Three dual-rotor fans are fitted behind the radiator; a fourth serves the expansion bay.

Boston’s watercooling pays dividends. Even with our SiSoft Sandra power-consumption test pummelling all 12 logical CPU cores at 100%, the fans remained quiet, only increasing speed slightly for the duration of the test. It’s a shame, then, that the dual 400W redundant power supplies let the side down – their internal cooling fans were far more audible at close range.

If low power consumption is a key requirement, the Value Series 160 G8 isn’t such a good choice. With Windows Server 2012 running idle, we clocked it drawing a modest 68W, but with SiSoft Sandra running, it peaked at an uncomfortable 194W; the 3.4GHz Xeon E3-1240 v2 in Boston’s Value Series 120 G8 pulled 33W in idle and peaked at only 80W.

The server employs a Supermicro X9SRi-F motherboard, but Boston hasn’t capitalised on its mix of embedded SATA and SAS ports. The X9SRi-F has two SATA III and four SATA II ports, but only the latter were connected to the backplane; the remaining drive bays were wired to the four SATA ports on the embedded storage control unit (SCU), which was disabled in the BIOS.

After we enabled the SCU, Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology (RST) Windows utility identified it as a C600 SAS RAID controller running in SATA mode. For SAS deployments, we’d recommend the X9SRi-3F model, which has an onboard eight-port SAS SCU.

Boston Value Series 160 G8

RAID options are reasonable. The chipset supports mirrors, stripes and RAID5, although the latter is only supported in Windows, since it’s managed by the RST utility. If the SCU is enabled, you can’t have a RAID array spanning both controllers.

Expansion is limited to a single riser card with a PCI Express x16 slot. Two Gigabit network ports are provided at the rear; these can be bonded into fault-tolerant or load-balanced teams using Intel’s driver settings.

As this is the “F” variant of this family of motherboards, you get the embedded RMM and dedicated network port for remote management. Its web browser interface can’t match the features offered by Dell’s iDRAC7 or HP’s iLO4, but it does provide a useful readout of sensor data for all critical components.

Each sensor has thresholds that can be linked to SNMP traps and email alerts if breached. You can also remotely control power and, unlike some of its rivals, the Boston’s RMM includes KVM-over-IP remote control and virtual media services as standard.

For such a small rack server, the Value Series 160 G8 packs some serious processing power, and watercooling keeps noise levels to a minimum. However, power consumption is much higher than rival Xeon E3 servers, and its messy storage arrangement fails to impress.

Warranty

Warranty 3yr on-site

Ratings

Physical

Server format Rack
Server configuration 1U

Processor

CPU family Intel Xeon
CPU nominal frequency 3.20GHz
Processors supplied 1
CPU socket count 1

Memory

RAM capacity 256GB
Memory type DDR3

Storage

Hard disk configuration 4 x 1TB Seagate SATA III hot-swap hard disks
Total hard disk capacity 4,000GB
RAID module Intel C602
RAID levels supported 0, 1, 5, 10

Networking

Gigabit LAN ports 2

Motherboard

PCI-E x16 slots total 1

Power supply

Power supply rating 400W

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 68W
Peak power consumption 194W

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