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HP ProLiant MicroServer “N40L” Review

Originally published on April 12, 2012.

The HP ProLiant MicroServer is an entry-level server suited for the small home or office. With 4 drive bays plus a CD/DVD drive slot meaning a large storage capacity and a motherboard-mounted USB port it could be used as a NAS or even an ESXi host. I’ve recently bought two of these to add to the home lab setup.

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Specifications:

Processor: 1.5Ghz Dual-Core AMD N40L Processor
2GB DDR3 Non-ECC RAM (Max 8GB)
Hard Disk: 250GB HDD included
Price: £139.99 (After £100 mail-in rebate, eBuyer.com)
External: Front power button, HDD and LAN indicators, 4x USB 2 ports.
Rear: 4x USB 2 Ports, VGA output, single gigabit LAN port.
4x Non hot-swap SATA drive bays
1x CD/DVD drive bay (empty).
Motherboard supporting RAID 0, 1.
1x PCIe 16x Slot, 1x PCIe 1x Slot.

The MicroServer was smaller than I thought it was going to be – two side-by-side would fit in a 19″ Rack mount if you had a shelf to put them on. The front has two LEDs, one for network and one for hard disk activity. The HP Logo on the front lights up blue when the server is on, while the machine is on standby the power button is orange. Four USB ports are provided on the front which is enough if for when you have to install the OS from a memory stick (no CD drive is included, although there is space for one). Two USB ports, an eSATA port, a single gigabit LAN port and a VGA output are on the back, as well as the power input, main exhaust fan and two PCI blanking plates. The front has a lockable door which provides access to the 4 SATA hot-swap bays inside. Three of the bays has the hard disk tray in empty, while the fourth holds the 250GB disk included with the server, and attached to the inside of the door (which has a fine mesh acting as a dust cover) is a small Allen key and enough screws for installing and securing 4 hard disks in the bays.

 

The single fan is quiet and would bearable if it was sitting on a shelf in an office – the single hard disk cannot be heard over the sound of the fan. However I expect if you were to fill all four bays with large, fast hard disks the noise would increase significantly. Other reviews have noted a poor fit with the drives within the bay causing an annoying rattle, but I have only got the one disk currently so I have not experienced this. The motherboard is mounted for easy access to the CPU and dual RAM slots – it can be slid in and out but I have not needed to try this yet.

There is also an Add-in card at around £60 which provides a basic iLO (integrated Lights-Out) remote management which contains another LAN ports and a VGA output. Maybe something for a real die-hard, but most people would be fine without it.

Good points:
– Very well built, cannot fault it at all (save for one point below)
– For the price, excellent value considering you get 2GB RAM and a hard disk with it.
– Quiet (at entry-level specs)

Bad Points:
– The trays for mounting the disks are stiff to remove, and empty they feel rather fragile. I don’t know the cost for a replacement but given the price and fact it’s not a professional SAN-level construction it’s good enough.
– Two network ports are not on the server. Again, not really that important, just a “nice to have” thing.
– The onboard RAID only supports RAID 0 and 1. When a machine can have 4 hard disks in it RAID 5 would be nice, 10 better – but most people would use software raid instead.

One final point is that while the server can have Server 2008 32-Bit installed on it, HP does not provide (obviously, anyway) any network drivers for it, so 64-bit is needed for LAN use. Just one of those small things you happen to run into.

Final words.

All in all, for this price, you really cannot fault what HP have managed to put together in this small package. Have one as a media server, have one as a home web server, have one as a backup server (after putting some more disk in it, that is) for all your documents. Hell, if you’ve got a “more than average” home network it’s well worth having. If you cannot bring yourself to needing one of the HP ML-series servers, this is a perfect machine to have. Highly recommended – congratulations, HP.

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