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Pros: Generally well built, well thought-out system.
Four double-height PCIe 3.0 x16 bays. Even when the lower four x16 bays are fully populated, none of the other PCIe slots are blocked. The downside is, this requires a huge (bigger than E-ATX) proprietary motherboard, but since it's integrated into this system, that's not something you need to worry about if you're not buying the board alone. And for you people who self-proclaim your tech knowledge 5+ on NewEgg: yes, you can run this system with only one CPU socket populated, but all the PCIe slots will not run off just one CPU (which ones are associated with which socket are clearly labeled on the motherboard). This is not a shortcoming of the system/motherboard! It is a reality of the fact that each CPU has a limited number of data lanes it can manage, and several linked to socket 1 are used by critical, integrated system components, like the C602 chipset.
Comes with two CPU heatsinks with PWM fans. I could see other manufacturers being tempted to make those an add-on purchase, but SM didn't cheap out here. Also (thanks in part to the wide MB's extra real estate), the sockets are well offset, so hot air from the cooler on CPU 1 doesn't get blown straight into CPU 2.
Cable management is pretty decent. Nothing is really loose or blocking airflow. Extra PCIe power is at-hand, but neatly zip-tied out of the way until you need it. Extra molex power connectors are similarly available near the 5.25 in bays. You will need molex to SATA power adapters if you plan to install accessories that only have the latter connector type (e.g. modern DVD/Blu-ray burners).
The case looks much better in person than in pictures. Granted, that's a subjective thing, but as someone who's used to "premium" all-aluminum cases, I was afraid I'd find the plastic+steel case an eye-sore. Really it's just functional, understated and fades into the background, which is what I ultimately prefer.
Cons: The side panel has a latch/handle that you are meant to pop open to access internal components, but the panel is also secured by two, small screws at the back. Without the screws, I have trouble securing the door fully (even when latched, the bottom edge seems to want to pop out a bit. So, the screws are necessary, but they are also quite small. For example, if the case were rack-mounted with the optional rail kit, in a data-center environment, I could so see one of those little screws dropping through the ventilation holes on your raised floor, never to be seen again (ya, you know you've had that happen at least once in your DC). What's the point in having tool-less, hot-swapable fans in the case, if you need a tool to access them anyway? Considering how modular and well thought-out the rest of the case is, these tiny screws just stand-out to me as an oversight. They should be replaced with captive thumb screws for securing the back edge of the access panel. Supermicro, are you listening?
Fans are a bit loud, even at idle. Heck, even when the system is powered OFF, the PSU fans make significant noise. If you ever get the system fans to spin up to 100%, the whole thing makes a high-pitched whine not unlike a jet engine. Overall, the constant hum doesn't bother me, and is offset by the fact that the fans do move a lot of air. So, no eggs off the rating. However, it's worth noting that if you're in a sound-sensitive environment, this system is far from quiet.
The remote console, accessible through the IPMI, is very, very slow. I think the processor they're using to run it just doesn't have enough horsepower. If I enable KVM encryption and try to run the Java console from a remote system, it grinds down to near-zero frame rate and eventually crashes. Without encryption, it runs a bit more reliably, but it's still not exactly snappy. The cost of reasonably powerful ARM SOCs being so low these days, I'd have gladly paid Supermicro an extra $25 for higher IPMI/BMC specs (it's a plausible price difference, considering you can get a whole Raspberry Pi for that).
No onboard audio or USB-3. For a pure server, that's expected, but since this system is marketed as a "workstation," it really should have a full bevy of desktop user features, in addition to the fancy server stuff. For my purposes, missing these doesn't bother me much, but I still feel that in 2014 these are essential workstation features which are conspicuous by their absence.
Other Thoughts: This is a data-center grade, 4u server, which happens to come with feet instead of rails, so you can set it on its side and use it on/under your desk as a tower workstation. It has all the typical server features: lights-out management (IPMI) provides system monitoring, power control, and KVM, independent of the OS, over a dedicated LAN port; redundant, hot-swapable PSUs; hot-swapable fans, which cover the whole motherboard with excellent, front-to-back air-flow.
For workstations, I usually build my own systems from individual components (including a high-end aluminum case). When I saw the value in this bare-bones system, I couldn't resist it. Consider, it comes with TWO 1620W Platinum PSUs. Even discounting the facts they're pre-wired to be redundant and are hot-swapable, what would you say they're worth? $300 each would be conservative I think. Add to that an 8-bay, hot-swapable SATA/SAS backplane, all the fans, etc, and I feel like I got more than my money's worth--and I haven't even counted the dual-socket Supermicro motherboard yet.
So far, Supermicro customer support has been excellent. There was a discrepancy in the manual for this model, so I emailed them to request clarification. Someone who could write intelligible English responded within 24-hours, clarified the erratum, and informed me the downloadable manual would be revised on their site by the next day. I haven't had a serious problem yet (and hope not to), but considering that's how they address a minor discrepancy, I feel pretty good about their responsiveness.
It is worth noting that I am running FreeBSD on this system. Although it is not on their "Supported OS" list, everything seems to work out of the box. For Linux users, RHEL is on their officially supported list.
This review is from: Acronis True Image 2013
Pros: + Sensible (if not perfect) user interface.
+ Many different options for backup type (files, disks, partitions, full, incremental... etc).
+ I performed what I would consider a "difficult" restore operation, and Acronis handled it flawlessly (see below).
Cons: - I have not tested every aspect of this software, but everything has worked really well for me so far.
Other Thoughts: I use Windows very little--almost exclusively to play games--so I have never been too protective of the data stored on my Windows drive. Nevertheless, I had an Intel RAID-1 volume as my C: drive. That's the volume Acronis was backing up. As many of you probably know, even switching your SATA controller from AHCI to RAID mode (with or without an actual multi-disk array), or back again, will generally cause Windows to gag, unless you perform some registry incantations, etc, in advance.
Well, I decided to reuse the two disks in the Windows RAID array for something else, and ordered a Samsung 840 Pro from NewEgg to become my new Windows drive. I didn't really need the redundancy of the RAID-1 for Windows (especially with Acronis running backups too), and I did want to boost the loading speed of my games a little with the SSD. So I blew away the RAID, knowing that I had the Acronis backup, so I wouldn't lose any files. Nevertheless, I fully expected the process of restoring Windows onto my new drive in a bootable, happy state was going to be a chore.
The Samsung SSD arrived today, I installed it, and booted the Acronis recovery CD, with my backup drive plugged into the computer. I thought, "no way is this going to be a straight-forward recovery, but I have nothing to lose by giving it a try, and when it chokes I can worry about manually rebuilding Windows later."
It didn't choke. Not even a little bit.
I pointed the Acronis restoration utility at the new Samsung destination drive, and after about 20 minutes it declared it was finished restoring. Windows 8 (in EFI mode incidentally) booted on the first try from my new SSD. I've installed some overdue updates and rebooted several times since the restoration, and it's still working perfectly (and fast, as an SSD should).
To sum up, this was a migration from an image of Windows taken off two disks, in RAID mode, to a single SSD, in AHCI mode, with a completely different capacity, and it still worked flawlessly! Acronis resized the partitions, and fixed Windows' boot settings, all automagically, and without a hiccup. I'm sold (well, I was already sold--I paid for the product after all--but I'd pay for it again based on this experience).
Pros: • Sturdy, all-metal construction. Keeps things cool, and feels like quality.
• A single 5.25in bay turns into 4 hot-swappable 2.5in drive bays: great if you're low on expansion space, or just have a lot of drives to connect.
• Drive carriages interchangeable with other Icy Dock products, and extras available on NewEgg--see item #N82E16817994125.
• Easy to install, and for me, everything worked as it should out of the box.
Cons: None so far. Maybe slightly quieter fans would be nice, but they don't exactly bother me.
Other Thoughts: Bought two of these (along with its cousin, the 2 x 2.5in + optical bay--see item #N82E16817994146) and couldn't be happier with them. Drives are easy enough to swap, and the metal carriages provide extra protection when outside the computer. Two of these give me eight hot-swappable SATA/SAS bays from only two 5.25in slots--a very efficient use of space for me.
Some other reviewers have noted that they don't see the HDD activity LEDs working. I can confirm that they are there, and they do work, under the correct circumstances. As Icy Dock says in their documentation, the amber activity lights depend upon the disk and controller you use to provide the correct signaling. For example, SATA drives I have used running in Windows don't seem to show any activity lights, but on my SAS controller in BSD, the amber lights start flashing.