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Exclusive Acer Revo Center RC-111 Review

Acer-RevoCenterIt is always welcome to see a major international PC manufacturer launching new products into the neglected Windows Home Server 2011 marketplace, providing a much needed boost to the beleaguered profile of the WHS platform.

The Acer Revo Center RC-111 is the latest home server from the Taiwanese PC giant, and it looks to be a very promising and capable device. Details of the final hardware configurations, destination markets and prices are not available at the moment, but it’s clear that this looks to be a well put together domestic server that should find favour amongst any WHS fans across the world.

 

Hardware

Build quality is up there with the best of them, measuring around 20 (8in)w x 22 (8.5in)h x 21 (8in)d the metal chassis feels suitably solid and strong. Quiet in operation, and drawing around 30 watts of power with the two supplied hard disks, the little black cube seems unobtrusive and well suited to a home environment.

Revo Center_03

Up front the lines are kept clean and uncluttered with the most things being hidden by a full height front door. The door is edged with a metallic orange handle and contains four little holes for the disk status LED’s to peek through. On the left side of the case are the main status lights, a backup button, a USB 2.0 socket and the power switch sitting right on top of the server.

Revo Center Open

Opening the door reveals the four user removable hard disk caddies, that I am happy to report are the screw-less variety which make installing additional hard disks an absolute breeze. There is no mechanism to lock either the front door or the caddies into the chassis, which although a minor issue may be important to some.

Revo Center Rear

The back is also simple and uncluttered. Here we find an e-SATA port, two USB 2.0 sockets, a gigabit LAN port, power input and finally a reset switch for putting the server into recovery mode when performing a rebuild. There seems to be a PCI-e x1 port behind the half-height slot on the case, but it wasn’t used during the review so I can’t confirm if its available for use.

Revo-08

Internally, our review sample had an Intel Atom D525 processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory and 2TB +250GB hard disks.

 

+250GB disk?

One unexpected feature of the Revo Center, and not something I have seen on a home server appliance before is a 2.5” hard disk fixed inside the server, completely separate from the main removable disks. When you think about it, this is a clever idea which allows the operating system to be installed on a non-removable disk, leaving all of the user accessible disks free for upgrades without worrying about accidentally removing the boot disk.

Revo Center 2.5 Hard Disk

Ok, so on the negative side you will need to crack open the case to replace it in the event of a failure, but as you can see from the image above, it isn’t difficult to get at it in its position beneath the main storage bay.

 

Rebuild

It is inevitable that rebuilding a headless server is going to be a more complicated process than rebuilding one with a keyboard and screen. The Revo Center has the same challenges to address as any other manufacturer, and Acer have chosen to solve the problem by requiring the user to have a free USB thumb drive. One isn’t provided so make sure you have one available if you ever need to rebuild the server.

Revo Center Rebuild

To rebuild or reset your server, first you run the recovery DVD application on a client PC; it will request the minimum 8GB thumb drive, and will then proceed to erase and configure it ready for booting the server. When this is done, you insert the thumb drive into the Revo Center, power on and poke a bent paperclip into the rear reset hole. Meanwhile the original recovery application sits and waits for the server to show up on the LAN. All being well, the client will see the server and commence the installation/reset of the servers operating system.

This is all actually a pretty painless process, and once the thumb drive is configured, it’s no harder to rebuild than any other headless server I have seen. One thing to note however, is that the factory reset process will install the operating system to the largest hard disk it finds. So if you want the OS on the smaller internal 2.5” disk, and its a fair assumption that you would, then you need to ensure that all the other 3.5” drives are removed. There doesn’t seem to be an option in the factory reset process to choose which disk receives the OS.

 

Windows Home Server 2011

Once completed, anybody familiar with WHS 2011 will see that the factory rebuild process brings a couple of extra bits not found on a regular WHS build.

WHS Dashboard

 

System Information

Acer have included their own System Information add-in which provides you will all sorts of useful information about the Revo Center hardware that isn’t available on the standard WHS dashboard.

System Information

Initially the screen shows hardware information, CPU, memory and storage usage along with temperature, voltage and fan speed details. From the menu on the right, other things can also be configured.

Performance Monitor

The Hardware Health and Performance Monitor page allows you to set the monitor refresh interval and to set the performance threshold of CPU, memory and storage.

Network Settings

Network Settings lets you change the TCP/IP settings without needing to RDP into the server directly.

LED Brightness

The front LED’s brightness can be controlled if they are too bright for you.

iTunes

And finally there is control of the built-in Firefly server which allows serving of the music library directly to iTunes clients.

 

Lights Out

Revo-02

Lights-Out Community Edition also gets installed by default, which allows you to put the server into sleep mode or wake the system up at chosen times. All this will help save electricity if you sleep the server when its not needed. During sleep the Revo Center consumes about 11 watts of power compared to the 30 watts when running.

 

In Use

No complaints about the level of performance delivered by this server. The combination of the Intel Atom D525 and the 4GB of DDR3 memory provide plenty of power to fuel all the standard WHS 2011 duties. Files are served without delay, media is transcoded in the web pages just fine and the console is always snappy and responsive.

From an end user point of view, there wasn’t any perceivable difference to the performance when using the 3.5” or the 2.5” disk for the operating system. This is welcome news, as it seems there are no penalties for using the smaller disk, freeing up the removable drives for file storage, which  greatly simplifies upgrades for any non-technical owner of this server.

Hard Disks

Expanding outside of the case is possible using the rear USB 2.0 or e-SATA connections (no details available of whether e-SATA is port multiplier capable or not). The USB 2.0 count isn’t as generous as many other servers, but with the availability of todays multi-TB hard disks, this should be enough for most peoples needs.

The front mounted USB port and backup button provide a facility to copy files from a USB device, and have them stored in a shared  folder and classified according to type. I have seen this sort of copy capability on other servers, and it provides a simple import mechanism if you need it.

 

Verdict

As we don’t currently have any details of availability, hardware configurations or pricing, it’s very hard to make any value for money decisions on this server.

Looking purely at it’s build quality and capabilities, it hard not to like the Revo Center. It sits small, quiet and compact on the desk; the Intel Atom D525 provides plenty of oomph to power Windows Home Server 2011; the internal 250GB drive simplifies storage upgrades and the case offers enough expansion to keep most domestic users satisfied.

Lets hope the current hard disk pricing blip doesn’t damage the prospects of this server in the marketplace.

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Comments (30)

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  1. Bob Crook says:

    Great improvements. Hopefully it’ll come with the one disk and then BYODs will be the first lowest cost option. $99 anyone? Okay $199?

  2. Vortex says:

    But where is two additional USB (3.0) ports?

  3. Steve Crick says:

    Only e-Sata, 2 x USB 2.0 on the rear, and 1 on the front. No USB 3.0 or thunderbolt on the sample that I had.

  4. Eric Lau says:

    In Malaysia, Acer selling it at RM1,099 but different from the spec mentioned in this review.

    2GB DDR3 Memory, 1TB Hard Drive….

    Until now still can’t figure out on setup remote web access, probably my modem is out of date. Any recommendation?

  5. TriAxis says:

    I’ve been waiting for this Acer to be released for like 6 months. I finally gave up today and bought a HP ProLiant G6. The ProLiant is 4 inches taller, but I was much happier with the specs. By default the ProLiant gives me a 2nd Gen Intel i3 at 2.93ghz, where the Intel Atom D525 runs at 1.83ghz. The memory speed of the Acer is 800mhz, where the ProLiant runs at 1333. There were other benefits as well.
    Anyways I got my ProLiant for $399, then bought 4GB of Crucial Server Memory for $38, Then Windows Home Server 2011 software for $49, then will use some of my old harddrives for storage. So for under $500, I got a pretty good server. :)

  6. Johan Bouwer says:

    Will WHS 2011 work with XP Prof computers and a Mac?

  7. [...] Exclusive Acer Revo Center RC-111 Review __________________ Books: HP DV8-1050, Dell630, iPad I, 2t ChefinRechner: AMD Athlon II [...]

  8. nono says:

    Hi,
    How do you hook this up with a monitor since it doesn’t have a vga out? Do you do terminal service to the server? But then, how do you assign the IP to this server before you could even Terminal into this server? pls clarify?

    Tks.

    • Steve Crick says:

      It is a headless server, so doesnt allow a monitor. The rebuild process takes this into account.

      It gets is IP address from DHCP, and you have many options to find out what address its been given. Normally you router will show you what IP addresses it has given to what devices.

  9. Steve says:

    I really want this server–have you heard anything new about when it might come out here in the US? I saw your previous article about the US having too much inventory, but they don’t even list the H342 on their main page any more.

    Thanks!

  10. MJ says:

    I see that the Acer RC111 has now started appearing on some Canadian websites such as ncix.com, albeit without stock. I would expect that this means that they are now entering the supply chain outside of Japan and Malaysia. Anyone know anything?

  11. Johan Bouwer says:

    I finally had enough and bought a used HP MediaSmart server via Amazon US. Works as advertised. Have problems with my Mac but that is due to OS Lion. Neither Microsoft nor Apple appear to be working on a solution which is a bummer.

  12. Ed O says:

    Another month has gone by. Where is the RC-111? Nobody else is making a WHS box either. Is WHS not relevant anymore given the plethora of NAS servers out there.

  13. Chris says:

    I received the Acer Revo RC-111 as warranty replacement for my H340 which decided to have a complete failure. My Revo RC-111 didn’t come with the internal HDD, but did come with a 2TB HDD which had WHS 2011 installed. I’m fairly impressed with the hardware, but MUCH less impressed with WHS 2011 itself which has been a bit of a confusing mess IMHO.

  14. William says:

    Interesting thread. I haven’t given much thought to replacing my Acer H340, which has worked flawlessly since I replaced all its hard drives to the WD Black drives. But Microsoft’s support for WHS V1 ends in January 2013, so I’d like to spend the next 6 months transitioning to a new Acer server that runs WHS 2011. I’d snap up the Acer Revo Center in a heartbeat to retain all the advantages I’ve come to like in my current Acer server. It’s regrettable that WHS wasn’t embraced by the mainstream computer users, although not surprising, either.

  15. Paul says:

    We currently have 4 revo RC111 machines .

    We have removed the thin rear plates that you can see better from the inside of the unit to uncover the VGA port and an extra 2 USB sockets .

    1 server is now running CentOS linux as a web/mail/domain server

    1 server is Running server 2003 std r2 as a basic Point of sale database backend server

    1 server is running as an “untangle” linux firewall box

    1 server is running a CentOS VSftp ftp server with virtual users controlled with myphp.

    Only thing we cant figure out how to do is access the system bios settings , we can change the hardware clock in the bios with linux commands but would like to be able to changethe boot order to prioritize an external optical drive .

    any clues ?

  16. [...] is not too expensive, the motherboard is out of control. Personally, I would buy one of the “Revo Home Servers” from Acer before I even decided to get some new parts for the [...]

  17. MJ says:

    My new rc111 never gets to the all LEDs white state. The i LED blinks continuously & the network & drive LEDs blink randomly. Do I need to open a port on my router? The manual says nothing about troubleshooting…

  18. Ryan Jackson says:

    Has anyone found the sequence to get to bios on the rc111?

    Thanks

  19. Owen says:

    Been round and round about what appliance to buy for a home server, to finally reject the linux based systems as risk going with WHS 2011 and this Acer.

    I have found a vendor and I am about to make a purchase decision. I need feedback please.

    1) though it seems the unit does not ship with the small SSD for the O/S, has anyone determined that one can be added without limiting the 4-bay drives.

    2) has anyone had any bad experiences with these Revo WHS2011s?

    Thanks

  20. Owen says:

    Has anyone figured out how to:

    1) access the bios in this Acer Revo unit?

  21. Owen says:

    Can anyone answer why MS is letting WHS waste away while linux based NASs are exploding onto the market and Apple is not even in the picture?

    Admittedly, WHS was years ahead of its time, but now MS could scoop this market very easily with a revamped and supported WHS.

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