The Dell PowerEdge R720 is one of the most iconic and influential servers in history. Released in 2012, this 2U rackmount server powered data centers and web hosting around the world for over a decade. Even today, the R720 continues to be a workhorse for many businesses and homelabs.
In this comprehensive review, we‘ll dive deep into the specs, hardware, configurations, pricing, and more on the Dell R720. By the end, you‘ll know everything about this server and whether it could be the right choice for your needs.
Before jumping in, here are 5 must-know facts on the R720:
- Part of the 12th generation Dell PowerEdge lineup, above the R710
- Rackmount server with 2U form factor design
- Supports 8 to 16 hard drives depending on configuration
- Ideal for web hosting, email servers, database servers
- Compatible with Windows Server and Linux operating systems
With those basics covered, let‘s explore what makes the R720 such an impressive and capable server.
The R720 packs some seriously powerful hardware under the hood. Here‘s an overview of the base specs:
|Processor||Intel Xeon E5-2600 series|
|CPU TDP||80W per processor|
|Max Memory||384GB per CPU (768GB total)|
|Memory Type||DDR3 ECC RAM|
|Memory Slots||24 DIMM slots|
|Drive Bays||8x 3.5" or 16x 2.5" hot-swap bays|
With the dual Xeon E5-2600 series processors, the R720 can deliver serious multi-threaded performance perfect for database, web, and application servers.
The 24 DIMM slots allow you to pack in up to 768GB of memory for memory-intensive workloads. And with up to 32TB of storage, you have ample capacity for hosting countless websites, applications, and databases.
Since it‘s an older server, the best way to buy the R720 is used/refurbished through sites like eBay or Amazon. Models in good condition can be found for $300 to $600.
When buying used, inspect the item condition and specifications closely. Some things to look for:
Physical condition – minor scratches are fine but major dents or damage could indicate problems.
Specs – aim for at least dual Xeon E5-2600 CPUs, 64GB RAM, H710 RAID controller, and multiple hard drives.
Warranty – even used enterprise gear sometimes includes a warranty, which provides more peace of mind.
Here is an example of a recommended R720 config priced very reasonably on Amazon:
Dell PowerEdge R720 Server 2X E5-2690 2.90Ghz 16-Core 192GB H710 (Renewed)
- Dual Intel Xeon E5-2690 16-core CPUs
- 192GB DDR3 ECC RAM
- H710 RAID controller
- 4x 6TB 7200RPM SAS drives
For the price, those are impressive specs that would work nicely for many uses like web hosting, databases, homelabs, and more.
To fully appreciate the R720, it helps to understand the history behind it.
Dell began making servers alongside its famous business computers and laptops in the 1990s. The PowerEdge line debuted in the early 2000s and quickly became a server staple.
The R720 arrived in 2012 as part of the 12th generation of PowerEdge. It replaced the previous R710 model with significantly upgraded hardware.
Most notably, the R720 was one of the first servers to utilize Intel‘s new Xeon E5-2600 processor based on the Sandy Bridge architecture. This brought major performance gains over previous Xeon chips.
In typical server fashion, the R720 uses a space-saving 2U rackmount chassis designed to be mounted in racks. Compared to a desktop, it has a flat, elongated shape versus a tower design.
Fully-loaded, the R720 is a hefty server tipping the scales at 65 pounds. The heavy-duty build quality ensures it will run 24/7 for years reliably in data centers.
Now 10+ years old, many R720 servers are still deployed. For less demanding workloads, the tried-and-true R720 has plenty of life left. Buying used can give you enterprise-grade performance for an affordable price.
The R720 ships in a few different configurations to suit specific needs:
Single vs Dual Processor
The base R720 comes equipped with a single Xeon E5-2600 CPU. For more demanding workloads, dual CPU models provide twice the cores and threads.
Dual CPU only adds marginally to the cost. And the performance doubles with multithreaded apps.
2.5" vs 3.5" Drive Bays
The R720 supports either eight 3.5" or sixteen 2.5" hot-swap drive bays.
2.5" models give you greater drive density for maximum storage capacity. 3.5" models allow using higher capacity drives.
10K RPM vs 15K RPM Drives
2.5" drive configurations could be equipped with either 10K or 15K RPM SAS drives.
The 15K RPM drives provide lower latency and faster responsiveness. But 10K RPM models strike a better balance of speed and cost.
The processing muscle behind the R720 comes from Intel Xeon E5-2600 series chips. Most models shipped with some variation of:
- E5-2620 (6 core, 2.0Ghz, 15MB cache)
- E5-2650 (8 core, 2.0Ghz, 20MB cache)
- E5-2690 (8 core, 2.9Ghz, 20MB cache)
With turbo boost, these CPUs can hit peak clocks up to 3.8GHz. The 15MB-20MB cache improves performance with memory-intensive workloads.
Having two physical CPUs provides tremendous processing power for demanding server apps. Even a single E5-2690 is comparable to a modern desktop i7 CPU.
Xeon E5 CPUs also support vital technologies like ECC memory protection. And they feature quad-channel memory controllers to feed data to all those cores quickly.
The R720 can house an astounding 768GB of RAM if fully maxed out. 24 DIMM slots give you tons of upgrade flexibility.
Most real-world configurations shipped with between 64GB to 256GB. But even 128GB is sufficient for running multiple databases, virtual machines, and high-traffic web servers.
The R720 uses DDR3 ECC Registered RAM for maximum reliability and uptime. The quad-channel memory bus and fast 1866Mhz clock speed ensure the CPUs are well-fed with data.
Storage is where the R720 really shines, thanks to excellent drive bay flexibility:
2.5" Drive Bays:
- Up to 16 x 2.5" drive bays
- Supports SAS, SATA, SSD
- 10K or 15K RPM SAS drives
3.5" Drive Bays:
- Up to 8 x 3.5" drive bays
- Supports SAS, SATA, SSD
- Typically 7200RPM SATA drives
The 2.5" bays give you great density for packing in tons of storage. The 3.5" bays allow leveraging today‘s massive high-capacity SATA drives.
With either configuration, you get excellent drive-swapping flexibility. The hot-swap bays allow replacing failed drives without powering down.
The R720 supports RAID to provide drive redundancy and protect against failures. Typical RAID options include:
- RAID 1 – Disk mirroring
- RAID 5 – Distributed parity stripes
- RAID 6 – Double distributed parity stripes
- RAID 10 – Mirrored stripes
Most R720 servers ship with a hardware RAID card like the Perc H710 or H710P. This allows configuring RAID through the BIOS automatically.
For homelabs, you can also use software RAID in Linux or Windows Storage Spaces. But hardware RAID is best for performance and reliability.
With all that heavyweight hardware packed inside, the R720 isn‘t going to win any eco-awards for power efficiency. But Dell did optimize it reasonably well given the components involved.
The dual 495W 80 Plus Platinum power supplies provide excellent efficiency at typical loads. When maxed out, the R720 can draw 500-600W, so expect a $50+/month electric bill.
Having dual redundant PSUs gives you failover protection which is vital for a 24/7 server. If one PSU dies, the other will keep the system running until a replacement arrives.
For lower power usage, opt for lower wattage Xeon CPUs, fewer drives, and reduced RAM capacity. Just know that performance will decrease proportionally.
The R720 supports all modern server operating systems including:
- Windows Server 2008 R2 / 2012 / 2016
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux
- Ubuntu Server LTS
- VMware ESXi
- Citrix XenServer
This makes the R720 incredibly versatile for hosting different apps and services. The most popular OSes tend to be Windows Server for .NET apps and Linux for web servers and containers.
Dell includes excellent management tools for automating OS deployment, config management, and updates. The iDRAC remote access allows controlling the server remotely from anywhere.
The R720 is also virtualization-ready out of the box. You can easily create VMs using hypervisor software like ESXi. This allows you to host multiple apps and services in isolation.
When the R720 launched, it received positive reviews praising its balance of expandability, performance, and price. Customers appreciated the upgrade from the R710 with newer Intel CPUs and more drive flexibility.
But the public at large was never really aware of the R720 itself. It silently powered vital infrastructure behind the scenes at web hosting companies and enterprise data centers.
Even if you didn‘t know it, the internet services and apps you used in the last decade probably ran on R720 servers. The R720 played a crucial role in cloud computing and modern internet infrastructure.
Today, the R720 is so widespread it has impacted virtually every internet user indirectly. And it will continue running business-critical services for years until newer servers fully phase it out.
For the price, the R720 still represents a sweet spot of capability and value a decade later. Companies are able to reduce costs while still providing top-tier reliability using refurb R720s. And homelabbers can tap into enterprise-grade performance on the cheap.
The R720 cemented itself as one of the most successful and influential servers ever produced. It redefined expectations of what a rackmount server could offer. And it was a workhorse responsible for running today‘s internet as we know it.
The Dell PowerEdge R720 delivered a giant leap forward over previous servers when it launched. A decade later, it‘s still a compelling option for businesses needing lots of power and flexibility on a budget.
For homelabs and small offices, a refurbished R720 is a wise investment that balances capability and value. You can easily find models under $500 that will outperform newer consumer hardware.
With excellent drive support, abundant RAM capacity, dual Xeon power, and management features, the R720 has all the hallmarks of an enterprise-grade server. It can easily handle heavy workloads like databases, virtualization, web hosting, and more.
Of course, with aging hardware comes higher power draw and noise levels. Make sure to size appropriately for your workload and budget. But spec‘d right, the R720 has plenty of life left in it for most SMB use cases.
Overall the Dell PowerEdge R720 earns its reputation as one of the most capable and reliable 2U rackmount servers ever made. There‘s a reason it still powers critical infrastructure a decade later. For both businesses and homelabbers, it hits the sweet spot balancing performance, capacity, and value.