Review: Dell PowerEdge R730

Introduction and design

Despite all the hype around the benefits of a converged infrastructure, the market for standalone servers remains strong with Dell one of the contenders for top spot with its PowerEdge family of tower, rack-mount and blade server platforms.

Now in its thirteenth generation, many of the models have been uprated to take advantage of the latest Haswell-based Intel Xeon v3 processors, including the new PowerEdge R730 which has sockets to take two from the Haswell-based Xeon E5-2600 line-up. It also boasts DDR4 memory and a range of flexible storage options to suit everything from general purpose file and print duties, through email, web and database hosting to providing a highly scalable server consolidation and VDI platform.


The R730 follows the traditional rack-mount server design with a heavy, robust and extremely well engineered all-metal chassis designed to take up two rack units (sliding rails are included) with a lift-off lid for ease of access. Most of the components are then colour coded – blue to mark those that can only be changed when powered down and a light red (Dell calls it terracotta) for those that can be hot-swapped.

A pair of redundant power supplies slide in at the back. These were rated at 750 Watts on the server we looked at although higher wattages are available to match the processor and storage combination chosen.

Dell PowerEdge R730 fans

Each power supply also has its own fan although most of the cooling is handled by a bank of six fans in the middle of the chassis. These can be hot-swapped and the complete array lifted out for ease of access to the rest of the server.

Some care is needed when it comes to storage configuration as, although the R730 can be equipped with small form factor drive bays to take sixteen 2.5-inch disks or SSDs, this has to be specified up front and the review server had metalwork for just eight with no upgrade available to add to this later. A chassis to take eight 3.5-inch disks is also available.

Dell PowerEdge R730 disk detail

Choices, choices, choices…

Sold mainly into corporate datacentres, customers are unlikely to ever try and save money by specifying a single processor inside the R730. However, there are lots of options and you don’t have to splash out to get the 14 cores/28 threads provided by the 2.3GHz E5-2695 v3 processors in the review server featured here.

Indeed, you could start out with a pair of E5-2650 v3 chips, with exactly the same clock speed plus 10 cores/20 threads per processor, denting performance a little but saving just under £2,400 (around $3,660, AU$4,800). For less demanding applications, a pair of 6 core/6 thread E5-2609 v3 processors would shave £3,646 (around $5,570, AU$7,290) off the price of the review system.

RAM can also be expensive with support for the latest DDR4 memory technology provided, courtesy of the Intel C610 chipset on the Dell motherboard. Ours came with a modest 64GB of ECC protected memory, filling just eight of the 24 available DIMM slots. Maximum count is 768GB using 32GB modules although when we checked the Dell website only 16GB DIMMs appeared to be available.

Extra RAM, of course, can push the price up considerably and it’s worth noting that some of the lower specification processors are limited to accessing memory at 1,600MHz or 1,866MHz rather than the 2,133MHz supported by the review setup.

Storage and networking

With up to 16 disks the R730 can be equipped with lots of internal storage with the usual choice of SATA or SAS drives in a range of capacities to suit different applications and budgets. An on-board SATA controller is available on all models (the PERC S130), but this only supports software-based RAID 0,1 and 5 and for Windows only, so most buyers will go for one of Dell’s plug-in PERC adapters which will enable them to build faster, more resilient, arrays.

Ours came with a PERC H730P Mini which, as the name suggests, is a tiny board that fits into a dedicated slot on the R730 motherboard. Able to handle 6Gbps SATA and 12Gbps SAS drives, the H730P offers the usual striping and redundancy options all the way to RAID 6 to protect against dual disk failure. It also comes with 2GB of cache and, optionally, battery backup.

 PE R730 PERC RAID detail

Solid state disks are available as an option for those who want them. However the number of drive bays is a limitation and if it’s storage you’re after you should look at the R730xd which can take up to 24 drives at the front and a couple more round the back, plus an option of a mix of 3.5-inch disks and up to twelve 1.8-inch SSDs.

PE R730 network detail

Networking options

Networking is handled by a plug-in card daughter board, ours shipping with the default 4-port Gigabit module, with 10GbE adapters available for those wanting maximum bandwidth. A separate integrated Gigabit port is also available for out of band remote via a Dell iDRAC8 Express controller.

In its basic form this provides remote access via an intuitive web interface with remote console, power capping and other tools available by upgrading to an Enterprise license. The iDRAC controller also equips the server for management from Dell’s OpenManage Server Administrator and other SNMP consoles.


Overall the R730 has a lot to offer, but it does come at a price which depends largely on specification plus whatever offers Dell happens to be running at the time. To give you an idea of the cost, however, the review system carries an RRP of £10,549 ex VAT (around $16,100, AU$21,100) but at the time of testing was available for just £8,033 ex VAT (around $12,300, AU$16,000). Still a fair amount of money, but very good value given what you get and a drop in the ocean when it comes to most data centre budgets.


We liked

The previous model (the R720) was already a substantial and well-engineered server with lots of configuration options, but support for the latest Haswell Xeons and DDR4 memory takes the R730 to a new level of performance, with good networking and remote management to go with it.

On the storage front, too, there are lots of choices enabling the R730 to be put to use hosting a wide range and number of applications without the need for extra rack space.

We disliked

The fixed drive bay configurations could trip up customers needing to quickly boost storage capacity. Some care is also needed when it comes to selecting processors and memory as these can be expensive and very easy to over-specify.

Final verdict

The PowerEdge R730 takes Dell’s Intel-based 2U rack-mount series to another level with processor, memory, storage, networking and management options all getting a makeover. The end result? A solid, workmanlike and very powerful platform that will help keep Dell and the PowerEdge brand at the top of the tree as far as data centre servers are concerned.