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Power Consumption And Noise

Supermicro 5046A-XB: X58 Workstation Barebones

The 5046A-XB is sitting on the test bench next to another conventional workstation build used extensively for video production—Intel’s “V8” platform, based on an S5000XVN motherboard and two Xeon X5365 processors with 4 GB of FB-DIMM memory. Back in its day (a little less than two years ago), the “V8” was an eight-core behemoth. We put the configuration in an Intel SC5299-E server chassis, which turned out to be the way-wrong enclosure for a pedestal workstation. Both obscenely loud and capable of heating an office, this wasn’t a system to be used day in and out. It made an interesting subjective comparison to this Supermicro barebones, though.

Our first set of measurements comes from our Extech 380803 power analyzer, which we used to test the idle and load consumption of our reference X58-based platform and Supermicro’s SuperWorkstation.

Both systems sported similar hardware. Our reference build, of course, consists of an Asus Rampage II Extreme, 6 GB of Corsair memory, a Radeon HD 4870 512 MB card, and a Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 hard drive, all driven by a Cooler Master UCP 1100 W power supply. Our Supermicro build is outfit with the same processor, memory, graphics, and hard drive, but employs Supermicro's own C7X58 and 865 W power supply.

Although the SuperWorkstation is driving three case fans (to the reference system's none), its lower-output, more efficient PSU draws less power from the wall at both idle (with EIST and C1E disabled) and load, demonstrating the very real benefits of picking your power supply carefully and paying attention to its efficiency rating. Even at 281, the power supply load is considered light, so this configuration still has plenty of room to stretch.


Next up, we tested Supermicro's claims that the workstation is "whisper-quiet" using an Extech 407768 Sound Level Meter. We set the meter head-on, one meter away, used the A-weighting setting with a range between 30 and 80 dB, and used the slow preset for more averaged results.

Under load, we measured the barebone's acoustic power at 38.6 dB. That's significantly quieter than even the quietest enclosure in our recent full-tower roundup, ABS' Canyon 695. Of course, that system also had a pair of 4870s in CrossFire. Even still, as mentioned previously, we anticipate most professionals will use a single FirePro card or a pair of Quadro FX cards in SLI with a workstation like this one.

To better qualify that measurement, consider that the SuperWorkstation 5046A-XB is quieter than a five-drive NAS appliance (with four 1 TB drives) running in the same office. It might be a hulking mass of steel, but it really is as quiet as a mouse—an absolute must in an engineer or video enthusiast's quiet sanctuary.

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