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Supermicro C7Z97-OCE (Intel Z97) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 1150/1151 in Motherboards | Posted: Feb 25, 2015 11:02 pm
TweakTown Rating: 90%Manufacturer: Supermicro

Circuit Analysis

 

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This section will start off with a look at power regulation and then shift into general circuit selection and implementation.

 

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The VRM on this board is unlike any other seen on a consumer DIY motherboard. They are using server grade 45A Vitec inductors, along with Infineon branded DrMOS and a Primarion PWM. Everything on this board for the most part is server-grade. There are six 560uF polymer can-type capacitors for a total of 3360uF. There are also a few MLCC used in the output filter, which hints that this VRM might fall into the higher frequency operating range.

 

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The PX3746 is a 6 phase digital PWM from Primarion (Infineon). Infineon is known for high quality products, however, the cost of their products is usually higher than companies like uPI or Richtek. The C7Z97-OCE uses 6x DrMOS TDA21215, there is no datasheet on this part, but it's from Infineon. We can assume that it is a 35A DrMOS at least, and perhaps even 40A. The only datasheet available is for the TDA21220 and it is a 50A part.

 

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This is the memory VRM, using the same TDA21215 DrMOS, however, a different Primarion PWM, the PX3743, it is either a 2 or 3 phase digital PWM. I am glad Supermicro decided to go digital for both the memory and CPU VRs.

 

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This is a Z123201, I believe it to be a POL (point of load) device which is like an all-in-one VRM used to power low current devices, such as the PCH in this case. The use of all the heavily integrated components in the VRs (DrMOS and POL) increases board real-estate for other devices, something you see often on servers. These all point to engineers who work on servers working on this board, and that is a great sign for those who want high quality and solid engineering.

 

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This is the PCI-E layout. The Flexible I/0 that Intel gave the Z87 and Z97 PCH is being used here in a 4:8:6 arrangement. There are four native USB 3.0 ports, six SATA 6Gb/s (2 to M.2 and four to connectors), and 8x PCI-E. The reason they are able to do USB 3.1 is because Supermicro allocated 2x lanes to the ASM1042 for 10Gb/s of bandwidth (PCI-E 1x is 5Gb/s). They also allocated 2x PCI-E to the M.2.

 

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An Intel WGI217V, a very common PHY, is used in conjunction with the PCH to provide GBit LAN. However, half of the NIC is in the PCH and this physical layer device (PHY) provides the actual port signals. Supermicro also went with a WGI210AT, which is a commonly used secondary NIC for boards with dual Intel NICs.

 

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This is the ASM1042 that gets two PCI-E lanes and in return provides the USB 3.0/3.1 internal header. The ASM1061 provides two SATA 6Gb/s to make for a total of six SATA connectors.

 

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The board has M.2 directly from the PCH, however, I should mention that at this time I was not able to boot directly from it.

 

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The audio utilizes an ALC1150, however, there is no differential on the output, possibly limiting how high the SNR will go with this particular Realtek codec. The cleanliness of the PCB in this area signifies that they did put a lot of thought into making the audio section separate from the rest of the board. You can say it is isolated, and the sound quality is actually very good.

 

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A PEX8605 is a four port switch, it takes in 1 lane of PCI-E 1x 2.0 and makes it 3 lanes of PCI-E 1x 2.0 which are then used for the black PCI-E slots. There are also 6x ASM1480 which switch the CPU's PCI-E lanes from 16x/0x/0x to 8x/8x/0x to 8x/4x/4x in the blue slots.

 

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A Nuvoton NCT6776D is used as the super IO, it is a very common super IO and the board doesn't have issues having its sensors read by other programs.

 

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The Texas Instruments LC14A is a 4 port hex inverter, most likely used for the POST Code display, or for the OC button functionality. Texas Instruments GD75252 is a chip that allows for the serial port (COM). The TPM port is provided by the Super IO.

 

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The BIOS ROM is actually a 128Mbit (16MB) part, I have only seen this on the GBT Z87/Z97 boards and most X99 motherboards. This is a huge BIOS ROM, partially because of the backup boot sector, but also because this board has Supermicro's first shot at a UEFI featuring a GUI, and they didn't want any size restrictions to deal with. An ASMedia ASM1442K is a level shifter for digital video, it converts the digital video signal to HDMI/DVI so that you can have an HDMI port on the board.

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