Dell EMC PowerEdge R650xs review: An ‘xtra special’ rack server

A powerful and expandable 1U rack server that’s ideal for businesses on a strict budget

A photograph of the Dell EMC PowerEdge R650xs

IT Pro Verdict


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    Top value

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    Choice of powerful hardware packages

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    Top-notch remote management

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    Plenty of room to grow with demand


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    Only supports the BOSS S1 card

Dell EMC offers a remarkable range of PowerEdge rack servers for organisations of all sizes and its ‘xs’ family is designed to satisfy those with a narrower range of requirements and smaller budgets. The standard PowerEdge R650 is an impressive 1U rack server but businesses with small to mid-range workloads won’t want to pay extra for the privilege of having high-end options such as support for core-heavy Xeon Scalable Platinum CPUs, 4TB of memory, Intel PMEM 200 modules, triple GPU cards and water cooling.

The PowerEdge R650xs is a cost optimized version of the R650 and targets workloads such medium density virtualization, VDI, SDNs, database scale-out and HPC. Limiting the R650xs to 32-core Xeon Scalable Gold CPUs has extra cost benefits for VMware fans too, as it means they won’t have to step over the per-core licensing threshold.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R650xs review: Internal layout

At first glance, there’s little to differentiate the R650xs from its more powerful brother - although at 735mm deep, its chassis is shorter by around 75mm. You’ll find more differences under the lid, as the R650xs uses the same internal design as the previous generation of 1U rack server models.

To improve cooling for Platinum CPUs, the R650 uses a T-shaped motherboard so its PSUs can be positioned on each side of the chassis, whereas the R650xs keeps both PSUs in a single rear hot-plug bay on the left. Opt for a modest hardware specification and you can save even more cash by fitting low-cost 600W PSUs - which aren’t available for the R650.

All cooling is handled by a bank of fans arranged in front of the motherboard and the type will be determined by your choice of CPU. For modules up to a 165W TDP, you can specify standard fans, but as our system was supplied with a pair of 205W TDP 28-core Xeon Scalable Gold 6330 modules, it required a set of seven high-performance Gold fans.

A photograph of the interior of the Dell EMC PowerEdge R650xs

The good news is there are no expansion restrictions, and the R650xs supports up to three PCI-E Gen 4 half-length, half-height cards – the same as the R650. There’s more, as underneath the central two-slot riser is an OCP 3 edge connector, and the price of our system includes a Broadcom dual-port 25GbE mezzanine card.

Dell EMC advised us that a lot of its customers don’t purchase more than 1TB of server memory so the number of DIMM slots has been halved to 16 to meet this upper limit. Our system was supplied with all its DIMM slots filled with 16GB DDR4 modules for a healthy total of 256GB.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R650xs review: Storage choices

General storage options are extensive; the R650xs can be ordered with four LFF, eight SFF or ten SFF front drive bays. While pricing up our system via Dell EMC’s online store, we found that if you choose a backplane that supports 10 front SAS/SATA bays or 10 NVMe SSDs, you can add a rear Flex Bay which provides room for two NVMe SSDs, although this does come at the cost of the central two-slot expansion riser.

RAID choices are extensive and start with the server’s embedded PERC S150 controller which provides software-managed RAID0, 1, 5 and 10 arrays for SATA devices. You can choose from a wide range of hardware RAID controllers and the price we’ve shown includes Dell EMC’s top-dog PERC H755 Front SAS card

Along with support for all popular RAID array types including RAID6 and 60, it sports 8GB of DDR4 cache memory and a battery backup unit (BBU). A feature which makes for a very tidy interior is the RAID card and BBU are neatly mounted in a dedicated space above the drive bays, plug directly into the backplane and connect to the motherboard with one cable.

A photograph of the interior of the Dell EMC PowerEdge R650xs

The R650xs doesn’t support the latest BOSS (boot optimised storage solution) S2 card which presents dual M.2 SATA SSDs in removable carriers at the rear. Instead, it has a dedicated slot between its two expansion card risers where the older cold-swap BOSS S1 card nestles, and we’ve priced the system up with dual mirrored 480GB SSDs.

A cheaper alternative for running an embedded hypervisor is Dell EMC’s IDSDM (internal dual SD module). This fits into a dedicated slot on the motherboard, provides redundant storage and costs £253 for one with dual 64GB microSD cards.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R650xs review: Remote management

There are no compromises with remote management as the R650xs has the same Dell EMC iDRAC9 controller as its more well-endowed PowerEdge brethren. It presents a slick web console offering a wealth of information on system and component status, power usage and cooling efficiency along with a hardware inventory plus direct access to BIOS and storage configurations.

The optional Quick Sync 2 module is a great feature for support staff that want walk-up diagnostics on their mobile device. Using the OpenManage Mobile (OMM) app, you connect to it over Bluetooth and view all server information, alerts and the health status of hardware components.

We run the OpenManage Enterprise (OME) software in the lab as a Hyper-V VM and after it discovered the server’s iDRAC9, we could manage and monitor it, control power and run remote control sessions. Add an OME Enterprise Advanced license and you can use the Power Manager plug-in to view historical graphs of server power consumption plus thermals and as long as the server has a valid support contract, you can integrate OME with the free CloudIQ cloud hosted service to receive server telemetry and predictive analytics.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R650xs review: Verdict

Dell EMC’s PowerEdge R650xs is a great choice for businesses with moderate workloads to satisfy and a close eye on their budget. It may be a cost-optimised model but this superbly built 1U rack server offers a powerful specification at a good price, and has very few compromises for storage and expansion potential while remote management services are simply the best.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R650xs specifications

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Chassis1U rack
CPU2 x 28-core 2GHz Intel Xeon Scalable Gold 6330
Memory256GB 2,933MHz ECC DDR4 (max 1TB)
Storage bays8 x hot-swap SFF (max. 12 with rear Flex Bay)
RAIDDell PERC H755 front SAS/8GB cache with BBU
Storage included6 x 1.2TB SAS3 SFF HDDs
Other StorageDell BOSS-S1 with 2 x 480GB M.2 SATA SSDs
Network2 x Gigabit LOM, Broadcom dual 25GbE OCP 3
Expansion3 x PCI-E 4 slots, 1 x OCP 3 edge slot
Power2 x 1,400W Platinum hot-plug PSUs
ManagementDell iDRAC9 Enterprise 15G
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.