Dell PowerEdge R660 review: Power to the rack

The Dell PowerEdge R660 Gen4 Xeon Scalable 1U rack server delivers an impressive processing density

The Dell PowerEdge R660 hardware on the ITPro background
(Image: © Future)

IT Pro Verdict


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    Smartly designed internals

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    All Gen4 Xeon Scalable CPUs supported

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    Impressive expansion potential

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    Smart Flow options

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    Remote management tools


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    Pricey NVMe SSDs

The Dell PowerEdge R660 is designed for businesses that want their rack cabinets to deliver maximum processing density. Supporting Intel's fourth-generation Xeon Scalable 'Sapphire Rapids' processors, this dual-socket 1U rack server achieves this admirably as it supports all these latest CPUs right up to the top-dog 56-core Platinum 8480+.

Aimed at demanding workloads such as VDI, OTP, AI/ML, database analytics and high-density virtualization, the R660 looks up to the task as along with a high CPU core count, it crams in 32 DIMM slots allowing it to support a maximum 8TB of fast DDR5 memory. There's plenty more on the table as along with PCIe Gen 5 expansion slots, it offers an impressive range of storage options, including E3.S EDSFF Gen5 NVMe SSDs and support for up to three 75W single-width GPU cards.

Dell PowerEdge R660 review: Smart Flow

As we saw in our PowerEdge R760 review, Dell also offers Smart Flow chassis options for the R660. It's easy to spot these as they have an extra air grill fitted in the middle of the front panel which occupies the space for two SFF drive bays.

It's designed to optimize airflow and allows the R660 to support any Gen4 Xeon Scalable CPU in normal air cooled environments. Direct liquid cooling systems are expensive and Smart Flow improves the thermal capacity of an air-cooled R660 so it can handle 300W TDP CPUs in ambient temperatures of 35C and 350W TDP CPUs at 30C. 

Even better, it supports the full 8TB of DDR5 memory at 35C with a 300W TDP CPU and at 30C with a 350W TDP CPU. It provides a 15% airflow improvement in CFM (cubic feet per minute) in a chassis with 10 SFF drives and Dell also estimates it can deliver a 20% fan power saving over a standard eight-bay R660 system.

Dell PowerEdge R660 review: Server internals

Lifting the R660's lid shows a similar layout to the R760 with a T-shaped motherboard in residence. This design is pretty much par for the course with Dell's 1U and 2U Gen16 PowerEdge servers as it allows the PSUs to be positioned on each side of the chassis to reduce hotspots and improve cooling efficiency.

A bank of eight dual-rotor fans behind the drive backplane handles all chassis cooling and a smart feature is the fan modules are grouped in pairs with each fitted in hot-swap carriers. Dell has simplified cooling options over the R650 as you can choose from standard fan modules or Gold very high performance (VHP) fans.

Dell supplied our system with a pair of 32-core 2.1GHz Gold 6430 CPUs mounted by T-shaped heatsinks that extend an extra radiator bar across their attendant bank of four fans. No internal space is wasted as each socket is flanked closely on either side by banks of eight DIMM slots and we received 1TB of DDR5 in our system.

Expansion options are very good as you have single and double-sided riser cards at the back allowing the R660 to present a half-height, low-profile and two full height, half-length Gen5 PCIe slots. There's more as you can specify an optional dual-Gigabit LOM card while underneath the central riser is an OCP slot which supports plenty of mezzanine cards ranging from Gigabit to 25GbE.

Dell PowerEdge R660 review: Storage surprises

The R660 is remarkably well-endowed in the storage department with our system sporting ten front SFF hot-swap drive bays. Smart Flow systems support eight front drives but you can increase this to ten with a rear dual-drive cage which replaces the central riser card. 

Inside the Dell PowerEdge R660 hardware

(Image credit: Future)

As to storage devices, the choice is yours as the server supports SAS4, SATA and NVMe HDDs and SSDs. A recent addition is the option to specify E3.S EDSFF Gen5 NVMe SSDs and the R660 can support up to 16 in a Smart Flow configuration.

RAID permutations are equally good as along with all the previous generation PERC 11 controllers, Dell offers its new PERC 12 tri-mode cards. We have the Front H965i adapter fitted directly to the drive backplane which supports SATA, SAS4 and Gen4 NVMe devices and as we also have the universal backplane, it allows four U.2 NVMe SSDs to be installed in the last four bays.

Another new storage feature is Dell's BOSS (boot optimized storage solution) N1 card. It presents two M.2 NVMe SSDs in removable hot-swap carriers at the rear of the server and is ideal for running an OS on a fault-tolerant mirrored drive.

Dell PowerEdge R660 review: Server management 

Remote server management is the best with Dell's embedded iDRAC9 controller offering a smart web console packed full of valuable status information and hardware inventory. It provides direct access to BIOS and RAID configuration with the Datacenter licence enabling streaming telemetry for predictive analytics.

The console for the Dell PowerEdge R600

(Image credit: Future)

Dell's OpenManage Enterprise (OME) software presents a central console for managing all your servers. We run it on a Hyper-V host and importing an OME Enterprise Advanced licence to the review server's iDRAC9 brought the Power Manager plug-in into play for system consumption and thermal monitoring.

The OME Monitoring Metrics page presents twelve graphs for areas such as CPU, storage, memory, fan and FPGA power consumption, component utilisation and airflow in CFM. Enterprises worried about data centre power usage will approve of Power Manager as they can apply thermal event-based policies and per-rack power caps to groups of servers and use the EPR (emergency power reduction) service to force them to throttle back to a low power mode.

Dell PowerEdge R660 review: Verdict

For a 1U rack server, Dell's PowerEdge R660 is incredibly versatile and will appeal to businesses that want to squeeze maximum processing power from their rack cabinets. Design, storage options and expansion potential are excellent, remote management services are tops and Dell's Smart Flow chassis options allow the R660 to support all core-heavy Gen4 Xeon CPUs in air-cooled environments.

Dell PowerEdge R660 specifications

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Chassis1U rack
CPU2 x 32-core 2.1GHz Intel Xeon Scalable Gold 6430
Memory1TB 4,800MT/s ECC DDR5 (max 8TB)
Storage bays10 x hot-swap SFF (max. 12 with rear bay)
RAIDDell PERC H965i front SAS/SATA/NVMe 8GB cache with BBU
Storage included6 x 800GB SAS3 SSDs
Other StorageDell BOSS-N1 with 2 x 480GB M.2 NVMe SSDs
Network2 x Gigabit LOM, Broadcom dual 10/25GbE OCP 3
Expansion3 x PCIe Gen5 slots, 1 x OCP 3 edge slot
Power2 x 1,400W Platinum hot-plug PSUs
ManagementDell iDRAC9 Enterprise 16G, Quick Sync 2 module
Warranty3Yr Basic On-Site NBD
Dave Mitchell

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.

Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.