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ASRock Shows Off its X99 WS Workstation Motherboard

In addition to the X99M Killer board we covered earlier today, ASRock today also revealed its X99 WS motherboard, which is aimed at workstations, and if you have even one quick glance at it, you will probably agree.

Next to the LGA2011-3 socket we find eight DDR4 memory slots for quad-channel memory that will allow you to install up to 128 GB of memory when using 16 GB DIMMs. Expansion is covered by a mind-boggling six PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots. There is a Molex power connector beside the top PCI-Express slot to give a little extra power to these slots. 

Storage connectivity is covered by 10 SATA3 (6 GB/s) ports, along with a single Ultra M.2 slot. The Ultra M.2 slot is driven by four PCI-Express 3.0 lanes, which is a departure from the two PCI-Express 2.0 lanes you'll see on most motherboards.

One notable omissions to the spec list is SATA-Express, but as we mentioned in our X99M Killer post, ASRock left it off because the company feels that there aren't yet enough SATA-Express devices on the market yet to justify its inclusion. We're happier with the Ultra M.2 slots, anyway.

The rear I/O panel sports a single PS/2 port, four USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, four USB 3.0 ports, dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet, and analog HD audio, and there's also an optical TOSLINK output. The dual Intel-driven Gigabit Ethernet and the exclusive use of PCI-Express x16 slots will be the selling points for the ASRock X99 WS.

No word on pricing yet, though we expect the board to become available around the same time as the Haswell-E CPUs are to debut, which is rumored to be August 29.

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  • mapesdhs
    From having worked on a number of WS boards, my immediate observations would be:

    - Primary PCIe slot too high up. Hefty GPU cards can clash with air coolers,
    and even with DIMMs.

    - Bottom slot is right next to all sorts of board-edge items; make the board
    longer! It's a WS board for grud's sake, it's going to be used in bigger cases.

    - Power/reset/debug and I/O panel pins are all on the bottom edge - the whole
    lot will be obscured by a large GPU, can't see debug code on powerup, front
    panel pins are hard to connect, etc. Move the debug and reset/power to the
    top/right of the board, and again, make the board longer so a 2-slot GPU in
    the bottom slot won't block all these bottom-edge items.

    These issues really can become a total pain with WS-type boards, especially in
    quad-GPU setups. The ASUS M4E has its power/reset buttons in the right place,
    but its WS boards suffer from the same bottom-edge issues.

    I don't understand why WS boards are always made to be so short.
    Indeed, I'd regard a real WS board as one which was extra long to allow for
    triple slot spacing with 4 GPUs, PLEX switches for 4-way @ x16, and x1/x4
    slots inbetween the main slots. It would also help a lot if case vendors could
    find a way of allowing one to adjust the vertical position of the mbd so it can
    be put lower down to allow for larger water coolers up top (eg. Aerocool
    XPredator would benefit from this), ie. a repositionable backplate zone. Thus,
    a case with 10 slots at the back could be adjusted to have the mbd 2 slots
    further down, leaving 8 slots (often what is needed for quad-GPU) and more
    room at the top.

    Ian.

    Reply
  • bambiboom
    Gentlemen?,
    The upcoming ASRock X99 WS, LGA 2011 workstation motherboard employing the X99 chipset is very welcome, especially given the 10 SATA III connections and the new Ultra M.2 port. The C602 chipset as far as I know supports two SATA III ports.

    Also welcome is the row of six PCIe x16 slots which take advantage of the 40 PCIe lanes of Xeon E5 as compared to the 16 lanes of LGA1150 (Xeon E3). I'm quite certain that not all six slots may run at x16 simultaneously, but the flexibility in configuration and card placement is an attractive feature.

    One aspect of the ASRock X99 WS that I question is along the same lines as mentioned by mapesdhs, that of a seeimngly crowded layout. Workstations are increasingly used for long slogs of calculations using every core and CUDA (MATLAB), demanding video editing /processing, and rendering. Running renderings recently on an HP z420, the Quadro 4000 touched 105C and the E5-1620 83C. The new Haswell-E's will be include Xeon E5's of 8, 10, 12, 14 , 16, and 18 cores. The demanding uses and the presence of all those cores add to a lot of potential heat. Even though the voltages for the CPUs and DDR4 are gradually reduced- DDR4 is 1.2V, generous cooling should be a high priority and not necessary to measure and calculate to the the last mm. Those RAM slots would probably be useable only with RAM without heat spreaders. Perhaps DDR4 doesn't need it, but after five years with 83-90C DDR2- I err on the side of caution. As storage becomes less expensive, workstation are also using larger 1+0 RAIDs, demanding larger cases anyway. If I were to use this board, I would use closed loop liquid cooling and a large, airy case, so I would rather see this one as an E-ATX board with some space between the CPU and RAM and in general less crowded.

    Still, if the performance is as good as it might be and the price is reasonable- under $350, it looks to be very good and a new 8-core Xeon E5-1660 v3 at 3.5/ 3.9GHz, a PCIe SSD, 64GB of 1866 DDR4, a Quadro K5000 or Firepro W7000 could make me very happy.

    I'll look forward to Tom's giving this one a test drive, especially with regards to Ultra M.2.

    Cheers,

    BambiBoom

    P.S. It's not terribly important, but I wish Intel would change their Xeon designation system and drop the v2 , v3 when the CPU's are substantially different. For example, when the six-core E5-1660 v2 becomes the eight-core E5-1660 v3 on a completely different die, why not call it simply E5-1680 or similar?
    Reply
  • mapesdhs
    bambiboom writes:
    > Also welcome is the row of six PCIe x16 slots which take advantage of the 40 PCIe lanes of Xeon E5
    > as compared to the 16 lanes of LGA1150 (Xeon E3). I'm quite certain that not all six slots may run at
    > x16 simultaneously, but the flexibility in configuration and card placement is an attractive feature.

    One would hope they've set it up akin to the X79 Extreme 11, but we shall see.


    > ... Running renderings recently on an HP z420, the Quadro 4000 touched 105C and the E5-1620 83C. ...

    The stock cooler on the Q4K is rubbish. Replace it with something better. I've done this several times;
    using a Gelic Icy Vision II, load temps dropped by 45C. Using a Zalman VF1000, load temps dropped
    by 25C. The former does take up 3 slots, but that's ok if you're not using the affected slots. The Zalman
    cooler uses just 2 slots, but it's harder to find (I got one 2nd hand from an old 4870 card). An added
    benefit: both solutions massively reduce noise levels, especially the Icy Vision II.

    As for the CPU, use water cooling. I've been using Corsair H100i and H110s for all X79 builds,
    works very well, good temps and low noise (I don't use the stock fans though).


    > ... If I were to use this board, I would use closed loop liquid cooling and a large, airy case,
    > so I would rather see this one as an E-ATX board with some space between the CPU and
    > RAM and in general less crowded.

    So far I've been using Cooler Master HAF 932 cases and one Aerocool XPredator, but they
    both have limitations. My next build will be with a Nanoxia Deep Silence (NDS) 6. It's huge,
    so plenty of space inside, but I will have to modify it to have wheels for easier movement.
    bambiboom, have a look at the specs,?rel=ugc]http://www.nanoxia-world.com/product/1/55/Deep+Silence+6+]specs, and check some reviews.
    specs, and check some reviews. Note that although it's a
    bit pricey, I always replace stock fans in cases with NDS fans anyway, so the overall cost
    will be about the same since this unit already has the desired fans.


    > Still, if the performance is as good as it might be and the price is reasonable- under $350,
    > it looks to be very good and a new 8-core Xeon E5-1660 v3 at 3.5/ 3.9GHz, a PCIe SSD,
    > 64GB of 1866 DDR4, a Quadro K5000 or Firepro W7000 could make me very happy.

    Is that with ECC RAM? If not, get the 5930K instead, easily better than a 10-core XEON
    once oc'd. Btw, the K5000 is about 3X faster than the Q4000, I've tested both recently.


    > I'll look forward to Tom's giving this one a test drive, especially with regards to Ultra M.2.

    The newer storage tech is a definite improvement. And I read yesterday that it will
    support at least 128GB RAM.


    > eight-core E5-1660 v3 on a completely different die, why not call it simply E5-1680 or similar?

    I agree, but then lots of modern tech marketing names are really dumb.

    Ian.



    Reply
  • bambiboom
    13975557 said:
    bambiboom writes:
    > Also welcome is the row of six PCIe x16 slots which take advantage of the 40 PCIe lanes of Xeon E5
    > as compared to the 16 lanes of LGA1150 (Xeon E3). I'm quite certain that not all six slots may run at
    > x16 simultaneously, but the flexibility in configuration and card placement is an attractive feature.

    One would hope they've set it up akin to the X79 Extreme 11, but we shall see.


    > ... Running renderings recently on an HP z420, the Quadro 4000 touched 105C and the E5-1620 83C. ...

    The stock cooler on the Q4K is rubbish. Replace it with something better. I've done this several times;
    using a Gelic Icy Vision II, load temps dropped by 45C. Using a Zalman VF1000, load temps dropped
    by 25C. The former does take up 3 slots, but that's ok if you're not using the affected slots. The Zalman
    cooler uses just 2 slots, but it's harder to find (I got one 2nd hand from an old 4870 card). An added
    benefit: both solutions massively reduce noise levels, especially the Icy Vision II.

    As for the CPU, use water cooling. I've been using Corsair H100i and H110s for all X79 builds,
    works very well, good temps and low noise (I don't use the stock fans though).


    > ... If I were to use this board, I would use closed loop liquid cooling and a large, airy case,
    > so I would rather see this one as an E-ATX board with some space between the CPU and
    > RAM and in general less crowded.

    So far I've been using Cooler Master HAF 932 cases and one Aerocool XPredator, but they
    both have limitations. My next build will be with a Nanoxia Deep Silence (NDS) 6. It's huge,
    so plenty of space inside, but I will have to modify it to have wheels for easier movement.
    bambiboom, have a look at the specs,?rel=ugc]http://www.nanoxia-world.com/product/1/55/Deep+Silence+6+]specs, and check some reviews.
    specs, and check some reviews. Note that although it's a
    bit pricey, I always replace stock fans in cases with NDS fans anyway, so the overall cost
    will be about the same since this unit already has the desired fans.


    > Still, if the performance is as good as it might be and the price is reasonable- under $350,
    > it looks to be very good and a new 8-core Xeon E5-1660 v3 at 3.5/ 3.9GHz, a PCIe SSD,
    > 64GB of 1866 DDR4, a Quadro K5000 or Firepro W7000 could make me very happy.

    Is that with ECC RAM? If not, get the 5930K instead, easily better than a 10-core XEON
    once oc'd. Btw, the K5000 is about 3X faster than the Q4000, I've tested both recently.


    > I'll look forward to Tom's giving this one a test drive, especially with regards to Ultra M.2.

    The newer storage tech is a definite improvement. And I read yesterday that it will
    support at least 128GB RAM.


    > eight-core E5-1660 v3 on a completely different die, why not call it simply E5-1680 or similar?

    I agree, but then lots of modern tech marketing names are really dumb.

    Ian.

    Ian,
    Motherboard design been interesting in the last couple of years as evidenced by the different approaches to workstation motherboard makers such as ASRock and ASUS as compared to makers such as Supermicro and Tyan, that is, makers who make a full range of boards and makers who tend to be known for workstation boards. The ASRock X99 WS is very promising, but does show slight signs of concessions and marketing appeal to a broader market. Supermicro and Tyan workstation boards are more closely focused. Perhaps Tom's might have a features / performance comparison of workstation boards with a high performance consumer / gaming board as reference?

    The cooling problem with the Quadro 4000 seems to be that it's a single height card with limited LFM whereas the double height Quadro 5000 doesn't have this. I've considered the Gelid Icy Vision and a month ago, cancelled an order at the last minute, concerned about fan noise. What was your experience with the Gelid? I've transferred all my rendering work to a dual Xeon Dell Precision T5400- it can sit in the corner and use all those cores. Also, next Spring, when changing to a 2560 X 1440 monitor, I'll also move to a more powerful GPU, perhaps a K5000 or W7000. The W7000, though has also been criticized for marginal cooling.

    Yes, Nanoxia cases are interesting designs, not expensive, and packed with attention to sound and cooling. I'm a fan of the very sober, giant, and infinitely optioned CaseLabs, but the Nanoxia is a consideration.

    ECC: As I will be running structural, gas flow, thermal simulations, and waveform analysis /processing (MATLAB), all my future systems will have ECC RAM.

    Cheers,

    BambiBoom
    Reply
  • WyomingKnott
    I'd be curious to see how many total simultaneous PCI-E 3.0 lines power those six PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots.
    Reply
  • mapesdhs
    bambiboom,

    Fan noise with the Gelid is excellent when used with the Quadro 4K, you'll love it.

    The K5000 is sweet, typically 3X faster than the 4000. Have to say though, I reckon
    the newer K5500 is a more worthy investment, unless you can get a K5000 for a
    good price (I did, about 550 UKP IIRC).

    Ian.

    Reply
  • Wizsteve Wiz
    why mix old tech with new they just don't get it i say remove the four USB 2.0 ports and replace with 3.0 ports they waste so much space on these boards why only 6 slots ??
    i want 9 slots remove that crappy sound chip nobody will use.and more space between slots so we can use them all. want to impress us ?? make a MB that holds 3TB of DDR4 ram with 48 GB of DDR4 built into MB
    Reply
  • mapesdhs
    Wiz,

    Many pro users have legacy devices which are expensive to replace, or for which newer drivers are not available.

    Some devices will not init properly on poweron via USB3.

    Many devices take up more than one slot, so for quite a few users 6 slots is plenty. Though I agree spacing them
    out more would be nice, especially having 4 GPUs with a free slot inbetween all, this would make mbds much longer,
    ruling them out from use in many cases.

    The current CPUs do not support that much RAM. If you want lots of RAM, get an SGI UV series once it's been updated
    with these newer XEONs. The current models with older XEONS already scale to 64TB.

    Ian.

    Reply
  • Wizsteve Wiz
    mapesdhs,

    WE don't want usb 2.0 ports on a mb or need them fact is one could just use a slot to place a usb 2.0 adapter card if they really needed them .

    as for the ram yes xenos go there but not really where i was going with the idea if i was building a mb i would have a built in ram drive 48gb might be too small but would be fine for the os and a few programs (antivirus ,firewall,ect) the 3tb was based on the new xenos e7 with two processors .
    Reply
  • mapesdhs
    Rather odd to assert that just because you don't need USB2, therefore nobody should need them.
    I'm inferring from their presence on so many pro-type boards that the manufacturers figure from
    their own customer feedback it's still sensible to include them, for similar reasons that some still
    have PCI slots. Legacy hardware is a huge industry; I help maintain systems worldwide which date
    from the late 1980s, and that's not regarded as unusual by the standards of many companies
    which still have old IBM mainframes, etc.

    It's no surprise PCI has vanished from consumer boards, but pro boards will offer tech like PCI
    and USB2 for a long time to come (check the Supermicro boards, or the pro/server range from Asrock).

    Ian.

    Reply