Our review of the Dell X4012 12-port 10GbE switch is one that we have had on the burner for some time. This review came about because our Editor-in-Chief, Patrick, has an unhealthy obsession with half-width switches and wanted one of these. One day I got a text saying, “hey Rohit, I just bought an X4012! Review?” It was game on. In my time using the Dell X4012 10GbE switch I found it capable, yet prime for an update. There are a few minor items that Dell’s team can improve that would make this a category killer. As it stands, it is an excellent option for 10GbE SFP+ in a small colocation space or remote branch office. In this review, we are going to cover why.
Dell X4012 Hardware Overview
Overall the Dell X4012 is an interesting switch. From the front, we see the headlining feature, twelve SFP+ 10GbE ports. There is also a USB port and a service tag.
The rear of the unit, one finds a console port along with two switches, a Kensington lock port, and a recessed factory reset switch. There is also a standard power connector and you can use lower-voltage office power (e.g. 120V) or higher-voltage data center power (e.g. 208V or 240V.)
We were a little surprised with the console port being on the rear of the unit. That makes the console port very difficult to access if it is in a rack.
There are a few other quirks of the unit. This tiny switch has twelve screws holding down the top cover. When you hold the unit or try to flex it, it is extremely rigid and does not make even a slight squeak. Most other vendors use one to three screws along with some metal flanges. This is one of those overkill scenarios where Dell simply went well beyond the industry norm.
Another quirk is the mounting options provided. In the box, we received four standard Dell EMC rack ears. That is great, except the unit itself if a half-width switch. If you are buying this switch because you simply wanted twelve SFP+ ports, you can attach all four rack ears but only one will then attach in a standard 19″ rack. Dell EMC expects that you will either buy the dual switch shelf for about $150 or the extended rack ears for around $20-25. It is still a strange choice to have four ears that cannot be used to secure it to the rack. The side-by-side mounting option is great if you have two X-Series switches. We will not that the Dell X4012 is a different depth than some of their S-series half-width switches so if you wanted to pair the X4012 with Dell EMC S4112-ON half-width 10GbE switches you are likely out of luck.
On the plus side, if you want a noisy desktop switch, the unit came with four rubber feet. This is more likely intended for an equipment closet scenario where a rack will not be used instead of as an office desktop switch.
Perhaps the biggest design question is: why is there no 1GbE management port on this switch? We are going to explore that in the next section around management.
Inside we find an internal PCB with the switch ASIC, memory, the control plane, and traces to the front SFP+ cages. One can also see the internal power supply. This is not a hot-swap unit to save costs. A theory using half-width switches is that you get redundancy in 1U by using a second switch.
One quick look at the fans finds two 1U fans connected via 3-pin connections to the console port and reset switch complex. As with the power supply, these are not hot swap and with 12 screws to get the lid off, you are not getting inside for a quick hardware replacement anyway. One of the fans services the PSU, the other is more along the ASIC and management controller side of the chassis. This is a design for cost saving over redundancy and servicablility.
Again, one item to keep in mind here is that this is inexpensive, small hardware so we do not expect to see some of the hardware features we expect on higher-end switches. We have a review of the Dell Networking S4112F-ON coming, and there you can immediately see the differences in design on a significantly more expensive switch.
Next, we are going to take a look at the management, before getting to performance and our final words.