HP ProLiant ML330 G6

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The super deep ProLiant ML330 G6 is a 5U tower server that can make one hell of a racket when you turn it on, giving even the noisiest rack servers a run for their money.

Taking off the fascia reveals four quick release caddies, two housing drives in our review unit. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

The depth is a pure function of having to house a full-sized server board, and the cacophony does eventually die down, leaving you with a pulsating hum that may make geeks of a certain persuasion think they're working in the engineering section of a certain starship of a certain Federation of Planets.

The blue baffle that manages internal airflow. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

Despite its physical size, the hardware is quite modest for a server — a single quad-core Xeon E5506 @ 2.13GHz powers the system, along with 6GB DDR3 RAM. HP's website mentions that the ML330 can be dual-socketed, but you won't find this SKU on its website, which only lists single socket options, sans OS and oddly, has either dual or single channel RAM — not the best set up for a Nehalem-based server. Nonetheless more SKUs exist in the market than on HP's site, and of course you can always customise to your heart's desire.

The CPU heatsink is passive, hence the need for noisy fans. Considering it's a tower case, we'd be happy with a fan on the heatsink itself to minimise the noise. The two removable blue fan units also cool the storage bays behind them. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

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An ATI ES1000 powers the graphics, with a maximum resolution of either 1440x900 @ 32-bit colour, or 1600x1200 @ 16-bit, and output is supplied by a single VGA port.

The ATI ES1000, with an SD card slot above. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

Storage in our review sample was covered by a PCI-Express-based HP Smart Array P410 plugged into a pair of 3.5-inch, 146GB, 15,000K SAS drives.

The HP Smart Array P410 has two mini-SAS ports which support either 6G SAS or 3G SATA. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

This only used up one of the two mini-SAS ports provided on the card, with a single mini-SAS cable feeding a backplane which allowed up to four SAS disks to be hotswapped once the fascia of the case was taken off. There is space for another hotswap bay should you need the extra capacity.

Through one mini-SAS connector, the backplane can handle four hot-swappable SAS drives. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

Six extra SATA ports are to be found on the motherboard, with an internal USB port and an SD card reader, should you wish to trust your OS to something a little more long-life and less heat generating than a hard drive.

Six SATA ports are supplied, although one is already taken by the optical drive. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

Networking is delivered by a pair of gigabit Ethernet ports, thanks to the Broadcomm BCM5715, masquerading here as the HP NC326i. One of these ports can be used for management, courtesy of HP's iLO, although there's also a serial port provided if you need it.

HP's Integrated Lights Out management chip. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

You'll notice at this point that none of the included hardware dictates this machine be in a tower case, let alone one that takes up 5U — a well designed 1U rack mount chassis will fit everything just fine, bumping up to 2U will give the same storage expansion options. In fact, most rack mount units offer something this tower server doesn't — fan and PSU redundancy.

There are only a few ports on the ML330 G6 — two USB on the front, four on the back, dual-gigabit Ethernet serial and VGA — and you're done.

Ports are minimal along the rear, although another two USB ports are on the front.
(Credit: CBS Interactive)

Our particular model came bundled with Small Business Server 2008, which was pretty much par for the course — except for one small hiccup with HP's custom set-up procedure, specifically on the OS Credentials screen. This featured the usual username, password, domain, dns settings — however, if something was entered in an incorrect format or a password wasn't secure enough, the only feedback was that the entry was that it was "invalid" — with no hint as to what was actually wrong with the entry.

HP thoughtfully includes a hex tool inside the chassis, since a lot of the screws aren't your average Phillips head. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

The ML330 G6 has a fairly specific target market — the extremely small business. We're concerned by its lack of redundancy in fans and PSU, and also by the noise generated considering its size. It's effectively a workstation without the graphics grunt, the iLO being one of the few things setting it apart as a server. While this sort of solution may appeal to those trying to save money and potentially outsourcing their IT services, the rest of us will stick to racks.

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