The Dell EMC PowerEdge T40 is a cheap server. It sacrifices many of the hallmark features of the PowerEdge line in order to achieve an extremely low cost. Since it is designed to be a starting server for the SMB, SOHO, and edge computing space, the trade-offs mean that Dell can compete aggressively on price. Although at the time of writing this review it is $669 on Dell’s website, they can go into the $349 range when promotions are available and applied. For some sense of how inexpensive the rest of the system is, the list price for the Intel Xeon E-2224G is $213 (tray price, excluding incentives and OEM discounts.) If this is the class of server you need, then it can be an extreme value. In our review, we are going to look at the great features, the trade-offs made to hit this price, and some of the adjacent options and competition in this space.
Dell EMC PowerEdge T40 Video
If you want to listen to a review rather than read, you can check the accompanying video.
We have more detail in the review here but there is a bit more color on the video version.
Dell EMC PowerEdge T40 Overview
The Dell EMC PowerEdge T40 is a 20.4L chassis which is about 25% smaller than the previous-generation PowerEdge T30 which was 27.4L in size. This chassis may look familiar to some. It seems to be shared between the PowerEdge T40 and the Dell Precision 3630.
Looking at the front of the system, we see some unique features. Since this is a server, based on a workstation platform, we get a front audio jack, four USB ports including a USB 3.0 and Type-C port on the front of the system. We also get an optical drive bay that uses a DVD RW drive. This is also in the workstation version, but it seems like removing the DVD drive could be a way to save costs. External units sell for $15-20 new (see Amazon.)
Looking at the rear of the system, we have a fairly standard workstation layout as well. We get serial console and PS/2 mouse/ keyboard ports. There are four USB 3 and two USB 2 ports. One gets a single 1GbE port with an Intel i219 controller. That is important for OS compatibility and is likely a reason we do not see VMware advertised on the T40’s product page. Another unique feature is that we get two DisplayPort outputs. Although this is a server, it can drive dual 4K displays without issue.
A nice feature one does not get on many other servers in this class is some of Dell’s mechanical design. As an example, to open the chassis, instead of screws, one gets a nice latching mechanism that releases the side cover.
Another nice feature is the Service Information guide. This is an important feature since it helps those servicing the system understand some layout and procedural nuances. If one thinks of a SMB server that is deployed and must be serviced in 5 years by a non-technical employee that is exactly the scenario that these guides help with. Many other competitive servers skip this type of feature, especially in the white box or build-your-own segments of this market.
Once the cover is off, one can see how Dell managed to keep the PowerEdge T40 so compact. Although it is a traditional mini tower form factor, Dell places the PSU above the CPU area to optimize volumetric utilization.
An awesome feature of this chassis is the swing-out PSU. One can de-latch the PSU arm from the rear then swing the PSU out of the way. this gives easy access to the motherboard. Cables are oriented such that they remain attached even as the PSU moves on this swing arm. The PSU is a 300W 80Plus Bronze unit. In comparison, the Precision 3630 uses a 300W 80Plus Gold PSU. This is part of the theme of the PowerEdge T40 trading eco-friendliness for lower costs.
Looking at the motherboard, we can see a fairly standard layout.
The CPU uses an LGA1151 socket. In this case, we have an Intel C246 chipset platform and the pre-configured CPU is usually the Intel Xeon E-2224G. We should note that the Intel C246 has features that are not being utilized here. For example, we get AMT 12 support, but not vPro support. vPro support would have been excellent for a lower-cost IPMI alternative. We also get 8GB of memory installed. The system can take up to 4x 16GB for 64GB of memory. Intel supports up to 4x 32GB or 128GB with this CPU and PCH, so this is another example of not utilizing the entire platform’s features to save costs.
The 1TB 7.2K rpm hard drive is affixed to the front side of the chassis, between the PSU swing arm joints. Hard drive installation uses a blue plastic carrier that is extremely easy to service. We will note that this is not a hot-swap backplane solution and each drive is individually cabled.
Perhaps the biggest fault we have with the system is not providing two additional blue carriers for additional hard drives. There are spaces for up to three 3.5″ drives, but Dell does not include the carriers. While this is more common at the higher-end of the segment, for the SMB/ SOHO space these should be included with the system to make installation easier. Some markets that will get the PowerEdge T40 may not have the best access to official Dell drives for this system. We would gladly trade the optical drive for these trays. From a competitive standpoint, the HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus has four drive bays (also not hot-swap) and includes mounting hardware for all four.
On the subject of expansion, one can see that there is a PCIe Gen3 x16 slot, two x4 slots. There is also a legacy PCI slot. PCI was developed in the early 1990’s, it was prominent until around 2004-2006 as PCIe became the new standard. This is effectively a slot that is two decades past its prime. One will say there are still solutions that require PCI, but at this point, the number of systems being produced with unused PCI slots makes this largely superfluous and not very eco-friendly. We can save some plastic and energy by not putting these in all but extremely specialized systems.
We will note that there is an M.2 slot. While this functions on the Precision 3630, we could not get a drive recognized on the unit we purchased in this slot.
One may have noticed we did not mention iDRAC. To save costs, the iDRAC BMC solution is not included on the PowerEdge T40. That means one has AMT like a desktop, but not a server-like BMC. HPE removed the feature on the HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10. As we saw with our HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus v Gen10 Hardware Overview and subsequent MicroServer Gen10 Plus review, HPE received feedback that its customers wanted to manage servers at the edge as they would servers in the data center. One will need to step up to the Dell EMC PowerEdge T140 for that feature. Without iDRAC, it starts to become debatable whether this is a server or a workstation.
Next, we are going to look at our test configuration and performance before getting to power consumption and our final words.