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WinLab Reviews
American Multisystems InfoGOLD PP200 RAID Server
This Server Goes for the Gold

-- by Serdar Yegulalp

American Multisystems InfoGOLD PP200 RAID Server is a solid, entry-level server that goes for the gold with speed and power-and some glamour where it counts.

"Speed" is definitely the keyword here, even though there's only one processor. Running under preinstalled NT Server 4.0, Wintune produced a CPU score of 412MIPS, a blazing video score of 56Mpixels per second and uncached disk throughput of 1.6MB per second. Our Word and Excel macros executed average times of 8 and 13 seconds, respectively.

Two of the four 72-pin SIMM slots on the motherboard (which supports up to 512MB) are filled with 64MB of EDO RAM, which is a respectable memory amount for a file or Web server. Two UltraWide SCSI-2 cards inhabit two of the four PCI slots. One card is dedicated to driving the RAID array, while the other governs the boot drive, Jaz Drive and CD-ROM. Both are Adaptec AHA-2940UW Fast-Ultra-Wide controllers, and feature internal and external 68-pin connectors.

The 4GB RAID 5 array uses a SCSI-2 interface, but the disks within the array are 1GB Western Digital EIDE models, each installed in a convenient docking chassis. Changing a drive takes about 5 minutes and requires a screwdriver to remove the old drive from its mounting frame and fasten in a new one. The frame comes with a special connector clip that supplies both power and signal to and from the drive, and makes docking easier. The five-drive array is preformatted and ready to roll out of the box.

Aside from the RAID array, the other glamorous feature is an Iomega Jaz Drive, complete with a cartridge full of tools (for Windows 3.1 and 95, but not NT). The Jaz Drive is a good choice for backups, since there's no room for an internal tape drive without removing something. The NEC 8X CD-ROM drive is more than adequate for getting programs and data into the system. I installed Word and Excel from Microsoft Office 95's CD-ROM in about a minute.

For a display, the InfoGOLD comes with a 15-inch ArtMedia monitor-a small unit with an attractive picture. The ArtMedia comes with digital controls but lacks on-screen programming. An upgrade to a 17-inch monitor is available for an additional $299. The smooth and comfortable mouse is the standard-issue serial Microsoft mode, but the keyboard has a mushy feel and a microscopic backspace key. Even worse, the keyboard uses a full-size plug, and there's only a PS/2 keyboard connector on the system unit. Since a converter wasn't supplied, I had to dig one up myself.

For communicating with the outside world, the InfoGOLD is outfitted with a 3Com 3C905 100Mbps PCI Ethernet adapter. For dial-in or dial-out communications, a Diamond SupraExpress 33.6 Plug-and-Play modem sits in one of the ISA slots. NT 4.0's vastly improved Dial-Up Networking and 100Mbps Ethernet support mesh well with both pieces of hardware.

Getting the case off requires a Philips screwdriver and a little elbow grease. To remove either side panel, the top panel must also be unscrewed. Three cooling fans keep the insides well ventilated: one fan on the power supply, another for the bays at the top of the machine and the third blowing laterally through the case body. Aside from the filled external bays, the inside of the chassis is nearly roomy enough to fit a whole mini-tower-sized system inside. Cable traffic to and from the main peripherals (CD-ROM, main hard drive, RAID box) are bundled and out of the way of the CPU cooling fan. The CPU has a heat sink and a fan for added life and cooling, and the SIMM sockets offer easy access and service.

Preloaded software is minimal-just Windows NT Server 4.0. One potentially problematic omission is the lack of a copy of the NT Server CD-ROM. The entire contents of the setup folder on the CD-ROM has been copied to a directory on the RAID drive. This is fine for installing drivers and NT components, but it won't help if the whole system goes down and you need the CD-ROM plus boot disks to reboot. Also, system documentation is minimal. Manuals for the motherboard, modem, video card and other components are supplied, but there's no overall documentation for the system.

WINDOWS Magazine continues to look for the first entry-level server we believe deserves a place on our Recommended List. For the price, the InfoGOLD PP200 is hard to beat: 100Mbps Ethernet, a RAID array, processing power to burn and a fair amount of room to grow. The InfoGOLD is a strong candidate, but falls just short because of its skimpy documentation. However, it's a good value and worth your consideration.

W Info File

American Multisystems InfoGOLD PP200 RAID Server
Price: $6,595
Pros: RAID array;100Mb Ethernet; Jaz Drive
Cons: Skimpy documentation; SIMMs instead of DIMMs
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
American Multisystems
800-888-6615, 408-945-2296
Circle #572 or visit Winfo Online
WinMag Box Score: 3.0

Copyright (c) 1997 CMP Media Inc.

Windows Magazine, March 1997, page 140.

[ Go to March 1997 Table of Contents ]