The Acer unit arrived yesterday, and the first thing I noticed was that it ships in a much smaller box than the HP MicroServer, but I wasn’t surprised by how much smaller the Acer would be in comparison. This is instantly a big plus for me at the moment with some extended travel coming up, something small and light, with a degree of flexibility is what I need.

So far I have 8GB installed, and have been in contact with my favourite Kingston employee to get the scoop on supported memory to take it to 16GB, which is going to be a much better option longer term for some of my virtualisation and testing projects I need to perform around Windows Intune and Windows 7 deployments.

The faster CPU is really noticeable, and it’s a bit of an unfair comparison for a low power dual core Athlon against a quad core Xeon with multithreading, and that’s before the CPU speeds are even taken into account.  Like most techs, I like to see more cores in Task Manager, and this certainly delivers, but the overall responsive while under load is much, much better. I will do a Windows 7 install within the next few days so that I can provide a sample WEI comparison between the two microservers, but remember though, one is a quarter the price of the other, and while HP and Acer may be targetting them at similar audiences – SMBs with a need for Small Business Server Essentials 2011, Windows Server Foundation 2008 R2 or Windows Server Standard 2008 R2, the way they go about the task is very different.

I’m not completely sold on the Acer concept of keeping the power button behind the locked front panel, and the keyhole on the side of the unit, but that’s a minor squabble. The ease of dropping in new drives is just as simple as the HP, but in this case you are limited to 4 internal HDDs plus 1 external eSATA drive, versus the HP’s ability to take up to 6 internal drives if you forgo the optical drive and route the eSATA cable into one of the internal drive bays that are free.

Setup was simple, the only catch I had was needing to change the order of boot devices to be able to get Windows to install off the flash drive. I’ve encountered this on my Acer Iconia W500 tablet as well, so it was easy enough to change, but it did have me scratching my head for a few minutes. I’ve kept the drives in AHCI mode rather than taking advantage of either the LSI or Intel onboard RAID capabilities, I’ll test those out at some point in the future.