Lenovo ThinkServer TS460 review

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Lenovo ThinkServer TS460 review

Fast-growing SMBs looking for a tower server that can run with them will find Lenovo's ThinkServer TS460 a good partner. Along with support for Intel's latest E3-1200 v6 Xeons, it offers plenty of room for future expansion and some versatile storage options.

Only requiring a BIOS upgrade to its C232 chipset, the TS460 supports all members of this new CPU family with speeds ranging from 3GHz up to 3.9GHz. All models have four cores, 8MB of L3 cache and support faster 2400MHz ECC DDR4 memory.

Lenovo's estimated street price (ESP) for the 70TT003XEA model which sports a 3GHz E3-1220 v6 Xeon and 8GB of 2400MHz ECC DDR4 is $3839. Various builds will undoubtedly vary and it includes a generous three-year on-site warranty.

This 4U tower chassis is solidly built, and its side panel can be padlocked shut or secured with a Kensington lock. Even better, the front door can be key-locked shut which stops the side panel from being removed and also protects the power button and drive bays from wandering fingers.

The price includes a DVD-RW drive, leaving one bay free for upgrades such as Lenovo's internal USB RDX cartridge or LTO-6 SAS tape backup devices. The former can be connected to the motherboard's internal USB 2 port, while the latter requires a dedicated RAID 520i card.

Plenty of USB 3 ports are provided fore and aft, and a smart security feature is each one can be individually enabled or disabled from the BIOS setup screen. You have a standard VGA port at the rear but the TS460 doesn't feature Lenovo's trademark DisplayPort connector - which is no great loss in our view.

Internally, everything is neat and tidy with easy access for upgrades and maintenance. The server offers a tool-free design, so adapter cards and most components can be added or removed without reaching for a screwdriver.

Storage capacity

Entry systems have a 4-bay NHS (non-hot swap) LFF drive cage cabled directly to the motherboard's four SATA ports. These link up with the embedded SR 121i RAID controller, which supports mirrors, stripes and RAID5 arrays.

Lenovo offers a number of expansion kits, with the first adding a second 4-bay LFF hot-swap cage. You'll also require one of Lenovo's SAS/SATA RAID cards, with the entry-model RAID 520i supporting stripes and mirrors and requiring an upgrade key for RAID5 and 50.

Our review system is the 8-bay hot-swap SFF SAS3 version which has its cage backplane connected to a RAID 520i PCI-Express card. This can be upgraded to 16 SFF bays, and it's possible to mix one 4-bay LFF cage with an 8-bay SFF cage for some extra storage versatility.

Remote management

The review package includes Lenovo's TMM (ThinkServer Management Module) which provides a dedicated network port for remote management. Its web interface offers plenty of sensor readings about critical components and controls for powering the server on or off and resetting it.

We could tie in server events and errors with its email alerting system and use options such as AD authentication to restrict access to the TMM. Overall, the TMM is nowhere near as sophisticated as HPE's iLO4 or Dell's iDRAC8, but does score better for value as it includes full host and OS remote control as standard and not as an expensive upgrade.

We found more limitations when we declared the server to the lab's xClarity management platform. It gathered an inventory of the server's hardware, but many features are unavailable from the xClarity console and include server patterns, OS deployment, firmware updates and direct remote control, plus thermal and power graphs.

Unlike Dell's and HPE's entry-level servers, the TS460 doesn't offer any embedded OS deployment tools either. Even so, we booted the server with the Lenovo EasyStartup disk and had Windows Server 2012 R2 loaded and ready for action in 20 minutes.

Power, cooling and noise

Power redundancy is present and correct, as the price of the review system includes a pair of hot-plug 450W PSUs. You can save cash here though; Lenovo offers a model with a single fixed 350W PSU.

The E3 v6 Xeons have a lower TDP than their predecessors, which showed through in our power tests. In idle, we clocked the server drawing 37W, which peaked at only 52W under extreme load from the SiSoft Sandra benchmarking app.

Cooling is handled efficiently by fan modules for each drive cage, an active heatsink for the CPU and a 12cm diameter fan at the rear of the chassis. Aimed at general office use, the TS460 will be the perfect silent partner as the SPLnFFT iOS app measured low noise levels of 45dB with our iPad one metre away from the front.

Verdict

The weakest link for the ThinkServer TS460 is its TMM module which only offers basic remote management features and very limited integration with Lenovo's xClarity platform. If this is a key requirement, then we suggest checking out entry-level servers from Dell and HPE.

However, the TS460 scores well as a first server for growing businesses, offering versatile storage options and plenty of room to expand. The price looks good too, as the review system comes SAS3 ready and it includes a generous three-year on-site warranty.

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