Lenovo are a manufacturer known for producing tower computers, all in ones, laptops, phones and servers. Since Lenovo have so much experience with computers their TS140 server catering for the small business market should tick all the boxes it needs to but can it cater for the home server market?
Since I was in need of a home file/media server I purchased a TS140 and in this review I shall see how it compares as a home server in comparison to Lenovo’s rivals offerings and the DIY options available.
The TS140 is equipped with a Xeon E3-1226V3 CPU which is clocked at 3.3GHz, this should be enough for even for the most demanding situations with multiple clients streaming the same content at once. Since the CPU has a Passmark score of 7469 it should be able to handle three 1080p streams or seven 720p streams. This means the server is more than equiped to distribute content around the home.
It doesn’t end there though as the server also comes with 4GB ECC RAM which is not a large amount but should be enough to keep up with most tasks as content distribution and file servers dont usually require large amounts of RAM to function optimally. The RAM is also ECC which is a must for businesses but for home use is a nice addition as the ECC RAM prevents data corruption which could be possible with normal RAM. This may not seem necesary but could be a usefull addition if you are storing family photos or critical documents on the server.
Storage is also a section where the server doesn’t thrill but it also doesn’t dissapoint. Out of the box the TS140 is equipped with a 1TB HDD which should be enough for any basic file storage. However for those of you wanting to store movies and other media for streaming an upgrade may be necesary in order to sustain you media consumption. This is an area where the TS140 is lacking as despite the servers ability to have up to 16TB in storage expansion the server only comes with two 3.5″ bays and two 5.25″ bays. This isn’t the best as one of the 3.5″ bays is poppulated by the pre-installed HDD and one of the 5.25″ bays is poppulated by a slim optical drive but these can be removed to free up space for expansion.
All this hardware would be useless without the necessary networking though. Luckily the server is equipped with a gigabit ethernet port which at the present time should be more than necessary for streaming media around the network or for sending and receiving files. However in the future if your house is equipped with Cat 6 cable you may want to upgrade to 10 gigabit using a PCI-E based expansion card.
Speaking of the PCI-E expansion the server has two gen 2 PCI-E slots (1x & 4x), one gen 3 PCI-E 16x slot and a legacy PCI slot so there is enough room to accomodate RAID cards and other potential expansion hardware.
The Lenovo TS140 is in the budget small business server market so it faces competition from the Dell T20 and the HP microserver gen 8. Compared to the Gen 8 microserver the TS140 appears to be a far superior option as it has the same amount of RAM, a quad core CPU compared to the microservers dual core celeron and it is equipped with a 1TB HDD. Despite this the microserver does have hot-swappable drive bays which may be a usefull addition (Especially with the TS140s lack of bays). However this comes at a cost of around £60 more but ultimately if you are planning on running a media server this will be necesary. As for the T20 which comes in Pentium and Xeon variants it depends on what you need the server for as the Pentium variant is around £90 and the Xeon variant at a similar price as the TS140. The T20 does have more 3.5″ bays but the Xeon variant is the E3-1225V3 is slightly slower.
How I set my server up
To test the server I installed CentOS 7 minimal in UEFI mode on a 120GB SSD which I added to the system. This was to aid with faster boot up times as the server wont be running 24/7/365. On CentOS 7 I installed webmin, SAMBA and Plex media server. I also plan to install other features onto the server such as game servers to see what it can actually run. As for the custom alternative, you can’t build a server with ECC RAM and a Xeon for less than £300 so the nearest competitor would be a non-ECC server running a Pentium CPU. This would be suitable but remember that it still doesn’t offer the data security against corruption or the capacity for multiple transcoded streams.
Remember though you can use whatever O/S is most familiar to you such as Windows Server 2012 or Ubuntu server and run Plex through your chosen O/S. However remember that operating systems operating with a CLI (Command line interface) will be less resource intensive allowing the servers performance to be freed up for the tasks you set it.
How did it run?
So as a media server it ran very well, I managed to maintain four streams with three streams being sent to 1080p devices and the other stream to my smartphone. This was taking place whilst I copied files to server via SAMBA over the network and at no point did the server stall or crash. This was expected as the Xeon is more than capable of being the CPU in a media server but it does show how in-expensive setting up a media server can be. The noise levels of the server were also more than bearable with the fans being surprisingly quiet
Is it worth it?
In my situation I found the server to be worth it as the server has made distributing content around my home much easier. However this could be achieved by any server but compared to Pentium/Celeron based servers I would definitely recommend the TS140 as the extra cores and AES technology may become usefull in the future for encrypting the server and allowing the server function even in the future if you choose to expand its reach to clients on the network. As for it being compared to a DIY server the ECC RAM and Xeon for less than £300 is more than worth it. Remember though that I’ve just tested the server as a media server and for tasks like Minecraft servers the Xeon will show its abilities even more.