- The Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50 is an entry-level tower server with support for an Intel Xeon processor and ECC RAM, but it lacks the power and scalability of a mid-range workstation.
- Reasons to avoid the Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50 include limited scalability, a small number of DIMM slots, no hot-swappable parts, limited storage options, and severely limited upgrade options.
- Some alternatives to the Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50 include the Dell T7810, HP Z640, and Dell PowerEdge T320, which offer more power, scalability, and storage options at a comparable or lower price.
- The Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50 is best suited for home lab users and small businesses, but it lacks crucial functionality to excel as a server or workstation, making the alternatives a better choice.
Are you looking for a new tower server? Have you wondered if you should avoid a Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50? The entry-level server is a fairly contentious market. You want something with plenty of power to handle the workloads on hand. With that in mind, you also don’t want to break the bank, as you could just as easily invest in a rackmount server with further expandability.
The Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50 seems like a delightful entry-level tower server at first blush. However, some glaring issues keep it from being a top recommendation in the world of servers. This review will cover some of the bigger issues with the system, as well as some alternatives to get you started with setting up your server.
What Is the Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50?
The Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50 is a tower server, meaning it mostly closely resembles a desktop PC in terms of form factor. Hardware is a whole different matter, with the ThinkSystem ST50 coming with support for an Intel Xeon processor and ECC RAM.
That said, the overall power and efficacy of the tech residing in the ThinkSystem ST50 is very much in line with a mid-range workstation. It isn’t designed with expansion or scale in mind, as you’ll discover through the course of this review.
|Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50
|Intel Xeon E-2100, Intel Core i3-8100 or 8300, Intel Pentium G5400 series, Intel Celeron G4900
|Internal Disk Drive Bays
|Four 3.5 internal drive bays
|Maximum Internal Storage
|32 TB if using hard drives, 3.84 TB if using SSDs
|Onboard 6 Gb SATA controller, 12 Gb RAID controller with software RAID support
|Three PCI-E slots, with a single x16 form factor being present
Reasons to Avoid a Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50
Keep reading for an in-depth review of the reasons why you should avoid a Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50.
It Isn’t Built to Scale
There’s no sugarcoating it really, the ThinkSystem ST50 is an anemic system on the best of days. You’ve got support for Coffee Lake processors, but the processors covered don’t account for higher-end Xeon or Intel i9 CPUs. As such, if your business starts expanding the ST50 is going to be outgrown quite rapidly.
The hardware is lower-end, even for its timeframe. It should do fine as a file server, or hosting some alternative function like IIS or SQL. However, if you’re looking for something with high performance, this isn’t going to be your best fit. The ThinkSystem ST50 doesn’t have the horsepower to scale with the growing needs of a business under rapid development.
There Are Limited DIMM Slots
You have a total of four RAM slots to cover your memory needs. This quickly maxes out at 64 GB. This pales in comparison to some of the other tower servers on the market currently. Now, you can’t realistically expect a tower server to have the same level of modularity as a blade or rackmount server.
That said, you would likely expect at least a minimum of six to eight DIMM slots. The rather paltry minimum RAM greatly reduces the potential for virtualization. You won’t be running many additional functions on the same machine. This is one of the stronger reasons to avoid the Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50.
No Parts Are Hot-Swappable
Imagine you’ve got a component failing on a server, but taking it down is going to require authorization from management. In most instances, you’d just have a hot-swappable drive or memory module. You snap it out, slot a new one in, and you’re good to go.
That isn’t the case with the Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50. There is nothing on the system that you can hot-swap. None of the drive cages support hot swapping storage. The same goes for the DIMM slots on the mainboard itself. This just isn’t tenable for a server employed in any capacity.
Downtime equates to lost money, and shutting down a server to replace a hard drive just isn’t forgivable, especially when there are a plethora of viable options in the same form factor on the market right now.
You Have Limited Storage Options
The weaker hardware bares its fangs once more on the Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50. You’ve got a whopping four drivebays. If you’re doing your math at home, this greatly hinders the overall pool of storage. This is further exacerbated by the lack of a hardware RAID controller.
You don’t want to have a server without a degree of redundancy. This is especially true if it is being used in a production environment. The software RAID implementation in Windows is fine, but a hardware RAID controller is more flexible. With a total of 32 TB of possible storage on mechanical drives, this is going to be quickly maxed out if you’re doing a lot of media storage.
Upgrade Options Are Severely Limited
You don’t have a ton of upgrade avenues with the ST50. One of the strongest reasons to avoid the Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50 relates to its lack of room for growth. You aren’t going to swap out the processor for a stronger one, as you might see with some Xeon-compatible motherboards.
There isn’t the option to add in another processor. You’ve got three PCI-E lanes, with only one conforming to the x16 form factor. This means if you’re looking to use this as a rendering machine for CGI or 3D modeling, you can slot in a single enterprise-grade GPU.
While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing from a cost perspective, you could just as readily purchase a rackmount server with plenty of storage, DIMM slots, and significantly more room for expansion cards using the PCI-E standard.
Alternatives to the Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50
Here are three of our favorite alternatives to the Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50.
The Dell T7810 is a powerhouse for the price of a mid-range business desktop. You’ve got access to 28 cores and 56 threads, all powered by a pair of Intel Xeon E5-2690s. That doesn’t even account for the 128 GB of DDR4 RAM, doubling the available memory pool when compared to Lenovo’s ST50.
You can get into the Dell T7810 for well under $500. You can get even cheaper pricing depending on which areas you’re prepared to skimp on. Simply put, this is a powerful machine that is going to serve a variety of functions well for several years. You might want to keep this one as a workstation, however, as you can’t hot-swap drives.
The HP Z640 is another tower server that represents a great value. You might not have the option of dual CPUs powering the machine, but it’s no slouch when it comes to raw performance. You’ve got ample space for RAM, and this uses a full-fat Intel Xeon processor.
Like the Dell T7810, you’ll likely want to use this as a workstation first and foremost. While it can certainly function as a server, the lack of hot-swap drive bays does hinder its usefulness as a server. In any other scenario where uptime isn’t crucial, this is a stellar machine that you can readily find for under $400.
Dell PowerEdge T320
The Dell PowerEdge T320 is a true server through and through. It is a single-socket server, meaning you’re not going to have room for a ton of virtualization support. That said, there is plenty to love about this tower server.
You’re still stuck with a software RAID controller, which is just unfortunately a common occurrence in this form factor. However, you do have hot-swappable drive bays and hotplug support on the power supply unit. This is going to get you far closer to your ideal uptime than going with the Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50.
The Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50 is a tough recommendation under the best circumstances. Where it might shine is in being a cost-effective system for home lab users and very small mom-and-pop shops. As a server, it lacks crucial functionality to truly excel in its intended role. Further, as a workstation, it simply just doesn’t have the raw power to handle most modern workloads.
You’re better off looking at any of the alternatives covered, which should come in cheaper than a new ST50.
Best Alternatives to the Lenovo ThinkSystem ST50
|1. Dell T7810
|2. HP Z640
|3. Dell PowerEdge T320
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