WD Sentinel DX4000 4TB server review

As the most expensive server in our roundup we had high expectations for WD’s SOHO server offering. It’s obvious that the bulk of the cost has gone into the storage with a whopping 4TB of storage space — a country mile ahead of the competitors. However as you’ll see from our review this emphasis on storage space has come at the cost of functionality as there’s not much else that the default DX4000 can do.

WD Sentinel DX4000 4TB server with APC rating

Like the Acer AC100 and the HP ProLiant MicroServer G7 Western Digital has gone for a tiny cubic form factor making this an easy box to hide. We appreciate the inclusion of a small LCD screen on the front which shows what the server’s doing (booting up running backups and more) as well as its IP address. However the lack of any kind of video out means you’ll need to do all of your server administration remotely which can be slightly more cumbersome when things go pear-shaped. Under the LCD screen resides the four hot-swappable drive bays and we found the locking mechanism to be perfect. The door covering these bays isn’t lockable which might be a problem in less secure environments.

Our review sample arrived with two of these bays filled by WD RE4-GP 2TB hard drives running in RAID 1 mode enterprise class products limited to a 5400rpm speed. Upgrading to three or four drives automatically migrates the existing data over to RAID 5 mode a nice touch that non-techies will love. Unfortunately the default choice of operating system is rather limiting. While Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials is fantastic for backing up a network of up to 25 clients and the unit also functions as a DLNA server it doesn’t support most of the third-party media serving software available for other servers. If you want to install something like Air Video Server or Serviio you’ll be out of luck. For this reason we were unable to benchmark the CPU to test transcoding performance.

The inclusion of two Gigabit Ethernet ports will be a godsend for some networks but the DX4000 lacks connectivity options on the whole. Just two USB 3.0 ports adorn the rear of the case a huge step down from other servers in this category. As far as we can tell there’s also no option to install internal components due to a lack of PCI/PCI-E slots.

With so much of the cost geared towards the huge amount of storage it’s no surprise to see a relatively average CPU powering the server. Intel’s Atom D525 dual-core CPU chugs along at just 1.8GHz suggesting performance in the realm of the much more affordable HP ProLiant MicroServer G7. Our file copy benchmarks show that the WD server leads the HP in write performance but lags behind in read performance.

If you’re after a pure storage solution the WD Sentinel DX4000 offers a vast amount of capacity compared to the competition. Unfortunately this comes at the cost of performance and flexibility making this device suitable only for a very specific set of users.

Special features :

  • Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials
  • 2 x 2TB 5400RPM WD drives
  • RAID 1 and 5 support

Pros : Huge amount of storage easy drive upgrade options handy LCD screen.
Cons : OS limits your software installs mediocre performance.
Verdict : 8 out of 10. Highly Recommended!

Available from Western Digital retailing for $1400.

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