Dell PowerEdge 1850

  • Editors' rating
    8.3 Excellent


  • Support for dual EM64T Xeon processors
  • optional PCI Express I/O
  • good choice of availability and management options


  • Limited to two internal drive bays
  • cable management an afterthought

Care is needed when evaluating low profile rack-mount servers, as compromises are often made, both to fit the format and bring the product in at a reasonable price. However, we found few such compromises on Dell's PowerEdge 1850 (PE1850), a highly configurable rack-mount server that can be set up to handle a wide range of applications.

Space is always at a premium in a 1U case, but a very tidy layout enables Dell to take full advantage of what’s available inside the PE1850. As well as dual-processor support, you can specify Intel Xeon EM64T (Extended Memory 64 Technology) chips with clock speeds of up to 3.6GHz and an 800MHz frontside bus. Processors with either 1MB or 2MB of cache can also be specified and, with six DIMM sockets, the 1850 can be configured with an impressive 12GB of DDR2 system memory.

You can then choose either PCI-X or next generation PCI Express I/O, using different riser cards on top of the main motherboard. Each provides room for two expansion slots with one 64-bit/133MHz and one 64-bit/100MHz connector on the PCI-X version plus 4- and 8-lane sockets on the PCI Express riser. Moreover, both expansion slots are available even with an optional second power supply fitted -- which isn’t always the case on some products.

On the downside, the toolless design isn’t as good as some we’ve seen, with cable management, in particular, something of an afterthought. The lid also overhangs the back panel, requiring special adapters for some of the connectors.

Similarly, if we were to be hyper-critical, the fact that you only get two drive bays could be seen as drawback. Still, Dell does offer a choice of 10,000rpm and 15,000 rpm drives with capacities of up to 300GB, which should prove more than adequate, both for OS requirements and a range of applications. There’s also an on-board Ultra320 SCSI controller, and you can opt for a riser with embedded RAID controller. Plus the two expansion slots make it possible to fit a range of other adapters to connect the PE1850 to external storage arrays, fibre channel and iSCSI storage networks.

Another benefit of a RAID controller is hot-plug support for the disks; other high availability features include the second power supply, redundant fans, ECC memory and memory mirroring. An on-board management controller is also included (IPMI 1.5 compliant), with an optional controller that plugs directly onto the motherboard to provide full remote management without using one of the standard I/O slots.

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BIOS and drivers shared with other PowerEdge servers help further simplify deployment with a copy of Dell’s own OpenManage management software also included as standard.

Finally, the PE1850 is certified for Windows, Red Hat Linux and Novell NetWare and, just as with other Dell servers these can be factory installed if required. Performance will, naturally, depend on exactly how you configure the hardware and the software involved. However, our test server came with dual 3.6GHz processors, 1GB of memory and two 73GB 15,000rpm hard disks. This configuration we found to be well suited to a wide range of applications, delivering excellent results with both Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Windows software installed.