Tom's Storage Charts 2009: A New Test Environment

Platform: Supermicro X8SAX w/ X58 Chipset

For this system, we weren’t looking for an enthusiast product with lots of overclocking margin, sophisticated voltage regulators, impressive cooling solutions, or fancy PCB colors. Instead, our goal was to find a workhorse that would provide maximum interface flexibility while also working for a long time, as we intend to keep the configuration for at least a few years.

These requirements meant that the system had to be a state-of-the-art product, suitable for running notebook, desktop, and professional products for workstations and servers. And although PCI Express has been replacing the parallel 64-bit PCI-X standard on servers (a process that should accelerate through roughly the end of this year), they may still require PCI-X slots for enterprise controller testing. We also wanted to use a system whose integrated storage controller would be suitable for running both hard drives and SSDs. The only choice was Intel’s X58 platform with the ICH10R southbridge.

We selected Supermicro’s X8SAX workstation board, which is a standard ATX model, but comes in an unusual layout: the DIMM sockets are located on top of the board, which is preferred in servers, as it allows easy ventilation. You’ll also notice that other components are also aligned the same way—for example, the PCI-X bridge and MCH heat sinks, the power connector and most of the other connectors. The board was designed for Core i7 processors or Intel’s Xeon 3500- and 5500-series chips, which are also based on the Nehalem architecture. Using 4 GB DDR3 DIMMs, you can reach a total memory capacity of 24 GB; unbuffered DDR3-800, 1066, and 1333 memory is supported.

Superior Connectivity

Two Intel 82547L controllers provide dual Gigabit Ethernet connections. In addition to that, this board’s connector panel provides as many as eight USB 2.0 ports that can be used out of the box, and two additional headers can provide four more ports should you need them. The board is based on the ICH10R southbridge and hence provides six AHCI SATA/300 ports with NCQ support and one 32-bit PCI 2.3 slot. The X58 chipset supports PCI Express connectivity. Supermicro implements two fully featured x16 PCI Express 2.0 slots and one x4 slot. In addition to this, there is a PXH (PCI-X hub) available that powers the two 64-bit PCI-X 100/133 MHz slots for legacy workstation/server cards.

You will find more information on this motherboard on the Supermicro Web site: