IBM System x3100 M4 review

IBM is a latecomer to the Xeon-E3 server party, but its new System x3100 M4 is aimed at small businesses ready to swap their PC for a real server. Dave Mitchell delves deeper to see if it’s a better bet than entry-level offerings from Dell and HP.

21 Feb, 2012
ex VAT (as reviewed)
The new System x3100 M4 is a worthy candidate for small businesses looking for their first server and while it may not be as well specified as HP’s ProLiant ML110 G7, it is better value. It’s also extremely quiet, very well built and has impressively low power requirements.
Value award

IBM’ s latest System x3100 M4 entry-level server aims to tempt small businesses away from running their business software on a PC. There are many sound reasons for moving to a purpose-built server and IBM’s first Xeon E3 system is designed to offer a reliable, cost-effective and compact alternative.

IBM System x3100 M4

This little floor stander is up against some tough competition though, and in this review we stack it up against HP’s ProLiant ML110 G7 and Dell’s PowerEdge T110 II. Four Xeon E3 models are available in IBM’s standard off-the shelf Express range, but as the review sample shows, costs can be cut by opting for an Intel Core i3 version instead.

Such cash savings come with a few strings attached though, as although the 3.1GHz Core i3-2100 in this review model supports ECC server grade memory and has a low Thermal Design Power (TDP) of 65W, it’s only dual-core, doesn’t support Intel’s Turbo Boost technology and has a meagre 3MB cache.

However, that low TDP showed up nicely in our power tests, with the System x3100 M4 pulling a tiny 32W with Windows Server 2008 R2 in idle. Testing with the SiSoft Sandra, Core Damage and Intel Burn Test apps saw a peak power usage of just 59W under heavy load, too.

IBM System x3100 M4

The System x3100 M4 comes with a fixed 350W power supply, but consumption can be cut still further as IBM also offers a 300W 80Plus version. The HP ProLiant ML110 has more power options though, as it can be supplied with a fixed 350W unit or up to two 460W hot-plug modules.

We found the System x3100 M4 to be extremely quiet, making it well suited to small offices. The chassis has a single cooling fan at the rear, and together with the large passive processor heatsink and solid internal air shroud, noise levels drop down to next to nothing.


Chassis: Pedestal

CPU: 3.1GHz Core i3-2100

Memory: 2GB DDR3, expandable to 32GB

Storage: 250GB IBM SATA cold-swap hard disk (max 4)

RAID: embedded IBM ServeRAID C100

Array support: RAID0, 1, 10

Expansion: 4x PCI-e

Network: 2x Gigabit

Management: embedded IMM2 Basic

Power: 350W fixed supply

Software: IBM Systems Director 6.2.1

Warranty: 1 year on-site next-business-day

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