The Supermicro X11SRA Motherboard Review: C422 based Workstation for Xeon-W

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018 - Motherboards, Teknologi

The Supermicro X11SRA Motherboard Review: C422 based Workstation for Xeon-W

For many professionals, a consumer level board may not have the features needed to satisfy their needs. Typically these boards include additional network functions and can have more and different types of storage options such as U.2 ports or switches. The Supermicro X11SRA, the motherbaord in this review, is aimed at the workstation market that sometimes has non-consumer demands. The X11SRA works only with the Xeon-W family of CPUs, analagous to the Skylake-X Core CPUs but supporting RDIMMs and ECC for up to 512GB of memory. These systems are designed to deliver a lot of horsepower, up to 18 cores, as well as storage and other needs. 

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Supermicro X11SRA Overview

Earlier this year at CES 2018, the AnandTech team was able to stop by Supermicro's suite. One of the items on display was the X11SRA workstation motherboard, supporting Xeon W processors with ECC based DDR4 RAM and using the C422 chipset. This is a bit different to what most high-end desktop users are used to, such as X299 and non-ECC. In the past, Intel had the two families of products served by a single platform. However, they are now separated. Because of this more black and white delineation, users are seeing fewer and fewer professional-grade motherboards on the open market for the workstation processors, which leaves most sales coming from pre-built OEMs. Supermicro is one of those OEMs, but has put out the X11SRA (and its variants) on the consumer market. 

When testing, the performance on the workstation class motherboard was in line with the X299 motherboards we have tested so far. For this testing, we used the Xeon-W equivalent in the W-2155, which has the same core/thread count as our Core i9-7900X, as well as the same clock speeds. The only difference between these setups will be the motherboard and its ECC memory.

The X11SRA really excelled in power use, using less power than any of the X299 based motherboards we have tested so far. Load testing was towards the top as well with only the EVGA X299 boards using less power on load. The only area where the board saw lackluster results was in the boot times. Due to the additional checks on POST for the memory, we saw boot times well over 1 minute and 20 seconds. Compared to the consumer level boards, the X11SRA boot nearly four times slower due to the additional checks the workstation level board completes during its POST. 

Being a workstation class board, expectations should be different compared to the consumer level boards we have been looking at over the past few months. The motherboard isn't marketed for extreme gamers for example (though it does have a solid audio codec using the latest Realtek ALC1220), and SLI/Crossfire support will not be found here, with the focus much more on compute. The board will support three graphics cards in its three full-length and reinforced slots. 

Other features on the board include USB 3.1 ports from an ASMedia controller, a legacy PS/2 port for keyboard or mouse, and dual NICs. One is a standard Intel Gigabit Ethernet port, while the other is an Aquantia 5 Gigabit Ethernet port offering users a lot faster throughput as well as additional features for workstation-level boards. 

Competition for this X11SRA motherboard is limited, as so few C422 chipset motherboards are available for consumers. The X11SRA is available for $340 from Amazon, while ASUS' C422 PRO/SE is $410.

A side note to say thank you to Kingston, for sampling us some of their ECC RDIMM memory for this review.

The Kingston 4x8GB DDR4 2666 CL19-19-19 RDIMM (KSM26RS8/8HAI) kit worked flawlessly throughout, and uses SK Hynix memory ICs.

 

Information on Intel's C422 and our other Reviews

On the workstation side of Intel's high-end desktop platform, the Xeon-W processors were released with the intent to work on the C422 chipset, separating the motherboard lines for workstation and enthusiasts class CPUs. As a result, X299 based Skylake-X CPUs will not work in this chipset, and the Xeon-W processors will not work in X299 motherboards.  

Intel Xeon-W Processors (LGA2066)
 CoresBase
Freq.
Turbo
2.0
L3
(MB)
L3/core
(MB)
TDPPrice
Xeon W-219518/362.3 GHz4.3 GHz24.751.375140 W$2553
Xeon W-217514/282.5 GHz4.3 GHz19.251.375140 W$1947
Xeon W-215510/203.3 GHz4.5 GHz13.751.375140 W$1440
Xeon W-21458/163.7 GHz4.5 GHz11.001.375140 W$1113
Xeon W-21356/123.7 GHz4.5 GHz8.251.375140 W$835
Xeon W-21336/123.6 GHz3.9 GHz8.251.375140 W$617
Xeon W-21254/84.0 GHz4.5 GHz8.252.0630 W$444
Xeon W-21234/83.6 GHz3.9 GHz8.252.0630 W$294
Xeon W-2104*4/43.2 GHzN/A8.252.0630 W$255
Xeon W-2102*4/42.9 GHzN/A8.252.0630 W$202

*Off-roadmap processors for specific OEMs only

Other AnandTech X299 Motherboard Reviews and Xeon-W Article:

To read specifically about the X299 chip/platform and the specifications therein, our deep dive into what it is can be found at this link.

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