Lenovo ThinkServer RD210

Lenovo ThinkServer RD210

Summary: Lenovo's RD210 makes perfect sense if you're a small business that just needs a grunty all-purpose 1RU server.


Lenovo's latest 1RU ThinkServer packs dual-Xeon 5500 series CPUs, 16 DDR3 RAM slots supporting up to 128GB memory, and six 2.5-inch drive bays.

Lenovo ThinkServer RD210. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

The Chinese manufacturer's ties to IBM are obviously still quite strong, with a lot of IBM's innovations turning up in the RD210. So strong in fact, that the RD210 is pretty much a straight re-badge of IBM's System x3550 M2, right down to the pop-out LED diagnostic unit.

Lenovo calls it "EasyLED", IBM "LightPath", but regardless of name it's a pull-out, quick reference panel with light up LEDs, intended as a quick-glance hardware diagnostic tool.

EasyLED gives you quick hardware diagnostics. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

Looks like IBM/Lenovo's engineers had a different internal name for EasyLED, judging from where it connects to the motherboard. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

Beneath this is the slimline optical drive, to the right a pair of USB ports and a front-mounted VGA port. Flip to the rear, and you're treated to an RJ-45 management port, two gigabit Ethernet ports, VGA out, serial port, two more USB ports and dual-redundant 675W power supplies.

Our test unit, the 3796-2BM, came equipped with dual-Xeon E5506 CPUs @ 2.13GHz, 2x 2GB Elpida PC3-10600 RAM per processor and two Seagate Savvio 10K.3 146GB SAS drives. Opening the top of the server reveals not only the above components, but a bank of six dual-unit fans behind the drive bays, so if one fails, the second can keep going until a replacement occurs. Surprisingly, noise isn't bad and is quieter than what we're used to with 1RU servers.

Six dual-unit fans cool the RD210, with airflow split into four channels by baffles.
(Credit: CBS Interactive)

Two white baffles — one over the RAM slots, and one to the left of this (including some cable retention mechanisms) — split the airflow into four zones: CPU 1, chipset and expansion card 1; memory; CPU 2, chipset and expansion card 2; storage card and redundant PSUs. The fans don't have the best quick release mechanism we've used, requiring a tiny bit more fiddling than the norm to get them out.

The fan connector is a little fiddly, but nothing too worrying. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

Two riser boards are supplied, each converting slots on the motherboard into PCI-E x16 slots, although one can only take half-height cards, the other full. Between these is a connection point for an optional add-in card that provides an additional two gigabit Ethernet ports, if the two Broadcom BCM5709C NetXtreme II powered GigE ports aren't enough.

Storage is primarily handled by an LSI 3082E-R — an interesting beast that at the time of writing, seemed not to exist online. We can only assume it's either a successor to or a variant on the 3081E-R — both are based on LSI's immensely popular 1068E chipset and supply dual-mini-SAS ports, that can be broken out to four SAS/SATA data connections each.

LSI's SAS3082E-R isn't listed on its website. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

There's an unused mini-SAS port next to the controller on the motherboard, and a USB port is featured on the riser board that the 3082E-R is attached to. Our review sample was equipped with two Seagate Savvio 10K.3 146GB SAS drives, although usually drives are an optional extra.

A USB port is attached to the riser card that the LSI 3082E-R is plugged into.
(Credit: CBS Interactive)

Graphics are handled by the Matrox G200ev, which as usual for servers only offers 4:3 resolutions of 800x600, 1024x768, 1152x864, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200. While things looked fine on CRTs, we found colours overcooked on LCDs, which made the user interface difficult to read compared to the likes of the ATI ES1000 series or Aspeed chips.

With a bit of expansion, the RD210 is quite a powerful 1RU server. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

Lenovo's RD210 makes perfect sense if you're a small business that just needs a grunty all-purpose 1RU server. It has enough expandability to cope with extra IO as your demands grow, and Lenovo supports Windows Server 2008, Small Business Server 2003/2008, Essential Business Server 2008 and Novell SLES 10 operating systems, as well as Hyper-V, Xen Hypervisor and VMware virtualisation suites.

Topic: IBM

Craig Simms

About Craig Simms

Focusing on PC hardware, accessories and business products, Craig Simms is responsible for identifying new opportunities for the reviews channels on CNET Australia and ZDNet Australia, to better serve the readers. He has written about a vast range of technology since 2001, covering the gamut from print to online, hardware to software, consumer to enthusiast, the gaming world to workstations.

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