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These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.
Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 5~10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.
There isn't much excitement or innovation happening in 1U rackmount servers, but the Supermicro SuperServer 5018A-FTN4 is interesting nevertheless purely due to its internals. The real star of the show is the A1SRi-2758F mini-ITX motherboard and its embedded Atom C2758 SoC. The C2758 represents a giant leap forward for Intel, a snappy 8-core chip that truly addresses the gap behind the previous generation of Atom and the current crop of ULV Ivy Bridge based chips like the Core i3-3217U. The difference wasn't just in the numbers either we could actually feel the difference. It's the first embedded processor we've used that didn't exhibit noticeable lag or unresponsiveness compared to a "proper" socketed desktop solution.
Low power consumption is one of the few positive aspects associated with the Atom name and this is one area where the 5018A-FTN4 fell somewhat short. Sitting idle, the power draw was comparable to custom builds of thin mini-ITX boards paired with the 55W Pentium G2120T. It made up for this on load, with the SuperServer taking a commanding lead, but of course once you really start putting the chip to work, the processing power really isn't comparable. Overall, it's a very energy efficient server, just not as thrifty as one would expect with an Atom running at its core. It's not the fault of the included power supply, as the 200W 80 Plus Gold unit inside is only a small step behind a quality external power source.
In any event, the power draw was low enough that the CPU fan didn't really have much work to do, and interestingly the motherboard specifications describe it as a "passive heat sink" and no fan is included. We're not sure whether one ships with the 5018A-FTN4. The power supply fan on the otherhand is a whiny, rickety abomination that thankfully never sped up during our time with it, keeping the noise output at a modest level. Acoustics aren't a priority for 1U rackmount server but for what it's worth the 5018A-FTN4 is probably quieter than most.
The SuperServer 5018A-FTN4 can be found for between US$500 and US$530 which seems reasonable for a barebones 1U server with these specifications. 2-bay Ivy Bridge based Xeon 1U servers can be had for US$350~$400 but these are typically limited to two NICs and a compatible processor costs an additional US$200 at minimum. We can't imagine these server chips are much more frugal than their desktop counterparts so the choice boils down to question of speed vs. energy efficiency.
Our thanks to Supermicro
for the SuperServer SuperServer 5018A-FTN4 sample.
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Gigabyte GA-H77TN Thin Mini-ITX Motherboard
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this article in the SPCR Forums.
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