HP Proliant MicroServer

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TESTING

The BIOS provides hardware monitoring of temperatures, fan speed and voltages, but no user control. Fan speed control is automated, tied to a temperature sensor(s?) somewhere within the system. Given these conditions, baseline system noise was defined to be the MicroServer running with no hard drives. In actual use, this server is not likely to get the extremely high, extended CPU or GPU loads used routinely for benchmarking desktop PCs; idle or near idle conditions are likely to predominate, which means the fans are not likely to ramp up in speed often. The more significant variable is probably going to the noise made by the hard drives, in idle and in seek.

System Configurations

As delivered with 2 GB RAM and...

    1. no drives (Baseline)
    2. 2 Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 160GB SATA drives
    3. 2 Western Digital Green 2 TB AV drives (5400 RPM)
    4. 4 Western Digital Green 2 TB AV drives (5400 RPM)

Measurement and Analysis Tools

GENERAL USE IMPRESSIONS

The sample HP MicroServer, as delivered with MS Windows Server 2008: R2 Foundation installed, was hooked into the SPCR gigabit wired network, which has 4 unmanaged switches. It was used for a week mainly as a file server and backup, roles the MicroServer fulfilled smoothly without any issues. Transfer speeds varied depending on the type of files and the other machines involved, but it was as speedy as any other system in the network, reaching a maximum of 100~110 MB/s. We did not see any significant benefit from the dual 7200 RPM drives compared to the mostly 5400 RPM WD Green and Samsung Eco Green HDDs running on the network storage boxes and PCs. The unit was placed in a closet, where a fanless single 2TB HDD NAS box resides. This system is inaudble outside the closet; the Seagate-equipped HP is audible, though subdued.

Other functions such as e-mail, database or intranet Web server were not explored. We have no doubt that the MicroServer can handle all such functions with the user number suggested by HP: 10 or fewer. Users will likely experience slowdowns at the higher end of the recommended number.

PRELIMINARY NOISE CHECKS

1. Baseline Noise: This is defined as the lowest possible noise level of the system. Adding any other components can only increase the noise. The hard drives were removed, and the system booted into the BIOS menu. It was left running for about five minutes before any measurements were taken.


23 dBA @ 1m in our anechoic chamber.

Our baseline measurement is 2 dBA higher than HP's claim of 21 dBA for the MicroServer, which is pretty close, given that HP used the >1m ISO 7779 "By-stander" position for the mic. The overall noise level is modest, and the noise quality is not bad. Though it has distinct tonal aspects and is several decibels louder than the noisiest PC in the lab (~16 dBA@1m) we could live with the noise.

2. As Delivered, with two Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 160 GB HDDs: Surprisingly, the measured SPLwas almost identical, whether one or both drives were engaged. The difference in perceived noise between no drives and with these drives running was night and day, however. The acoustic signature of the sample as delivered is best described as extremely tonal, annoying and difficult to tolerate for any length of time in a quiet environment. Perhaps in a busy office with lots of other machines running, its noise would fade into the background buzz, but in our quiet lab, no way. The fault lies much more with HP's choice of hard drives than in the MicroServer.


Still 23 dBA @ 1m but with a completely different sonic signature. Without the Seagate drives, there was no output above 3 kHz. With them, the upper range is riddled with highly audible tonal spikes.

3. With two WD Green 2TB HDDs: This was to confirm our perception that the Seagate Barracudas caused much of the annoying acoustic character of the sample system, as delivered. WD Greens are currently our favorite quiet HDDs, widely available at low prices, and used by many SPCR enthusiasts. As expected, with the WD Green drives, the overall acoustic character became much closer to the baseline, even though the measured SPL was slightly higher than with the Barracuda drives. Again, while the overall level is a bit higher than we prefer, we can live with this noise.


With WD Greens, the same measured SPL as the Barracudas, but virtually no increased high frequency noise. The recording shows slightly higher broadband noise but no increased tonality over the baseline noise.

4. With four WD Green 2TB HDDs: The measured SPL barely went up, to 24 dBA, and the subjective impression was the same. The fact that the noise level rose so little tells us that other sources of noise in the system set the noise floor, not the very quiet WD Green drives.



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