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Lenovo ThinkSystem SR250 review: Proof that size doesn’t matter

A top value Xeon E server with a big storage potential, great features and quality remote management

Price
£1,155
  • Excellent XCC management software; Supports full Xeon E range; Attractive price
  • NVMe adapter is expensive

Along with great value, Lenovo's ThinkSystem SR250 will appeal to SMEs that want plenty of storage choices. Not only is it available with up to 10 SFF hot-swap drive bays, but two of them can be used for high-speed PCI-E NVMe SSDs.

Its clever AnyBay backplane allows you to install 8 SFF drives and 2 NVMe SSDs in bays 8 and 9. The only catch is you'll need to specify Lenovo's 1610-4P four-port NVMe switch adapter card which adds a hefty 630 to the asking price.

Businesses more interested in sheer capacity can select the 4 LFF bay model on review here. The embedded C246 chipset and integral Intel RSTe controller support cold-swap stripes, mirrors and RAID5 arrays, but you can choose from four SAS3/SATA RAID cards with Lenovo's high-end 930-8i bringing RAID6 and battery protected Flash cache into play.

With a total depth of only 555mm, it's shorter than your average 1U rack server but this compactness doesn't come at the cost of features. The SR250 supports the entire range of Xeon E CPUs with the review system equipped with an entry-level 3.3GHz 4-core E-2124.

The price includes a single 8GB stick of TruDDR4 memory and the four DIMM slots support up to 64GB. Lenovo's TruDDR4 memory uses only the best components and keeps your warranty and support contract intact as each stick has a unique signature that the server will verify.

There's plenty to see under the lid as the motherboard has an embedded 4-port mini-SAS backplane connector partnered by four more SATA ports. Three PCI-E expansion slots are provided with the lower one dedicated to servicing Lenovo's RAID cards while the single 2242/2280 M.2 SATA SSD slot can be used for hypervisor duties.

The server keeps a cool head with four cold-swap dual-rotor fans in front of the motherboard and noise levels are low; the SPLnFFT app on our iPad recorded 42dB at one metre. The price includes a big 450W hot-plug power supply with room for a second next door, and consumption is modest. We measured the server drawing 29W in idle, peaking at only 76W under heavy CPU load.

Lenovo has upped its game in the remote management stakes as the SR250 shows off its XClarity Controller (XCC) and dedicated Gigabit port. The Standard version provides features such as remote power controls, sensor monitoring, fan control and inventory while the Advanced upgrade adds remote KVM, virtual media services, remote OS deployment and real-time performance graphs.

The XCC web interface presents a smart home page packed with valuable information about system health and the status of all installed hardware. At-a-glance views of temperatures and system wide power usage are provided along with quick links for power management and remote control.

Step over to the Utilization page and you can view colourful graphs and charts showing historical power usage, fan and voltage status plus temperatures. RAID controllers and storage can be configured from the interface which also provides remote firmware update tools.

Hit F1 during boot-up and you can use the XClarity Provisioning Manager to configure the server, create RAID arrays and deploy an OS. We used the remote console to mount a virtual Windows Server 2016 ISO and chose the guided installation option which helped us create a mirrored RAID array and then loaded the OS in 30 minutes.

Despite its dainty proportions, the ThinkSystem SR250 has the credentials to handle a wide range of business applications. It teams up a great specification with good expansion potential plus classy server management tools - and all at a price that SMEs will find very appealing.

Verdict

Despite its dainty proportions, the ThinkSystem SR250 has the credentials to handle a wide range of business applications. It teams up a great specification with good expansion potential plus classy server management tools - and all at a price that SMEs will find very appealing.

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