HPE Gen10 Microserver review – October 2017

Courtesy of Phillip Ireland

Specification & Features

  • AMD X3216 1.6GHz (3.0GHz Turbo Clock) APU (CPU with Graphics)
  • 1x 8GB DDR4 ECC RAM (Max 32GB DDR4 UDIMM ECC RAM)
  • 1x 500GB Hard Drive

Power cables, manuals and Clear OS informationThis unit is in a small cube form factor. It has a default configuration that can fit 4 3.5” and 1 slim-line DVD drive. It has 2x USB3 ports on the front and 2 on the rear, paired with 2 USB2 ports. The USB3 ports work out of the box with no need to add drivers to OS’s like Windows Server or Ubuntu, which is great to see.
Other notable hardware includes 2 Display Port connectors, capable of driving 2 displays and 2 PCIe slots if that isn’t enough. Along with the external USB ports, there is also an internal USB2 port, suitable for booting an Operating System, leaving the drive bays for data storage.

A Look On the Outside

This thing is solid! You could throw this thing at someone and I’m pretty sure your data would still be safe, its that good. (although the wife says I can’t make that much mess, so I won’t try it)

The front of the server gives us a corporate feel with a splash of colour. It supplies the door for housing the 4 hard drives, along with a power button, DVD drive if fitted and USB connections.

From the moment the door comes off in your hands though, you start to see what HP has done this time around. For instance, cooling is helped by a thin mesh in the door. Also, make no mistake the door is solid and won’t come off thanks to its magnetic catch, but once open you get 2 surprises. First is the door falling away and second is that the hard drives have no caddies this time around. Ok, then so just screws and a pull-down latch to lock things in place. It’s a different setup, but other servers have been doing this so it’s not something new, just a slight cost saving measure.
Around the back is the business. Display ports and USB3 is where it’s at. For a business product, it does seem as if HP isn’t sure where this one lies. PCI Express slots cover the rear, along with a large really quiet system controlled fan and small power supply complete the setup.

A Look On the Inside

Getting into the server is the same as other generations. With a thumbscrew less this time round, removing the 2 on the rear, sliding back and lifting up gives us our first view of the unit. It’s really really clean inside. This unit won’t overheat that’s for sure. The cabling is tidy, the drive bays are neat and although very thin cabling is used for the SATA connectors, its not a problem as the distance is so short. HP also used similar if not the same ones in the G8 and that works fine.  I/O on the inside is limited to a USB connector, 2x PCIe slots and an additional SATA connector for the DVD bay. Along with the 2 RAM slots that’s pretty much it. The large fan is quiet even with the case off and the power supply is tiny. This unit definitely has some modding potential. Did you spot the SATA 6 port that never was? (except on BETA versions of the unit)
The APU/CPU is also soldered on the board, so unlike the G8 where you could upgrade to a faster CPU such as a Xeon or otherwise, on the G10 this isn’t possible, which actually stems the upgradability in future quite a bit.

Up & Running

The Microserver installed Windows 10 Pro with no issues, which is great to see. Even things like USB3 worked straight away with no extra drivers to install which for a small business or homelab just makes life that little bit easier.
Scoring a little over 2000 points on the CPU Benchmark website, the APU in this server isn’t going to get any great processing done. But, it has plenty for a Windows desktop environment or a server workstation. It will even run some virtual machines, just pace yourself on what you think you can get from a box of small size and you’ll be surprised on how far it takes you.
Now, running Windows 10 Pro gives me a chance to try out Emby and whilst the theatre part of the client software worked fine through the display ports, I wanted to know of the improvements to the APU when transcoding content. Ok, not a great task, but along with a piece of software called Heavy Load, I could find out how hot the machine got, how much power it took from the wall and what it actually does.
Firstly, transcoding and Heavy Load are a little different and the APU treats them so. One will convert a media track to something else, using memory and CPU cycles, the other just the CPU for crunching data.
Results: Both Heavy Load and transcoding didn’t push the temps much higher than they were already, only by a few degrees (highly scientific I know). The power draw from the wall was 24-26W at idle and 50.5W (usually around 45W) at 100% load on the CPU, RAM and disk. It’s not really surprising as the CPU has a TDP of 15W, making it great for servers like this which I suspect will end up doing some sort of backup duties.
When running Windows 10 Pro, we also carried out some network speed testing and the server performs as it should, maxing out the Gig link without any issues. For those wanting this unit as a storage server and running a different OS such as Clear OS or freeNAS you’ll be pleased with the transfer speeds.

Final Thoughts

I’ve had the G6 and G8 microservers in my homelab acting as backup servers for a few years now at least. What I’ve found from them is that they’re a solid performer, quiet and get the job done without any fuss. The G6 was great at capacity, the G8 having that extra control and micro SD card slot on the inside gave great flexibility for us techies! The G10 brings more updates to hardware such as faster bus and DDR4 speeds. Whilst this seems great, its not the whole picture.
I can see where HP have cut some corners and favoured others. HP doesn’t seem to know where this box will fit and it can be set up as a home theatre running Emby or a backup server, amongst many other uses. Its not a bad thing, but when multi-purpose comes in, some features have to change. We come to the iLO, which the G10 is getting a bad rep for on the Internet. Being both a home labber and a business techy, all I can say is that at home it doesn’t bother me but at work it may do, especially if its used for critical things (small business sometimes use smaller things like this for Active Directory, Email or other uses), then I’m not sure I’d like to not have that lack of management. It’s definitely not the be al and end all though as some of the Internet would have you believe.

Would I get one? I have the G8 and apart from its RAM upgrade cost, I really like it. The G10 looks good and performs well and next to my G8, it looks like they were made for each other. Apart from the CPU being soldered and the RAM prices, I’d love one to add to the lab as it would be a great test bench machine for VMs and storage for backups! The current pricing for this spec is a little steep compared to the G8 but prices go down and it’s a very reasonable unit.

Best Bits

  • Up to 32GB DDR4 RAM
  • High storage capacity
  • Looks good
  • Very quiet
  • Small size & very solid build

Worst Bits

  • APU/CPU Soldered to the motherboard
  • No iLO
  • Bad rep from the Internet

Overall Score:  7/10