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The Mac Pro Killer Build Guide, featuring Supermicro and Intel (Page 3)

By Steven Bassiri from Oct 21, 2019 @ 22:06 CDT

Supermicro's X11SPA-T Motherboard

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Considering the motherboard is meant for serious workstation users, we didn't expect to find reinforced PCI-E slots or black heat sinks, or even a black PCB for that matter. Supermicro decided to spice things up a bit since this board is meant for enthusiasts and not the data center, so if you want to put the rig on display you would have no problem.

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The VRM is in a 6+1 phase configuration, and considering Intel is pretty strict with their TDPs for the Xeon W, we are happy to see Supermicro used their top of the line power stages and 70A inductors. The heat sink here should be enough to cool the VRM, but if you aren't using an air cooler we recommend a fan blow in the direction of the VRM. The rear IO features a 10Gbit LAN port (red), USB 3.1 10Gb/s type-A and type-C ports (red), a COM port, an onboard VGA port, four USB 3.0 ports, a1Gbit IPMI port (near COM port), a 1Gbit port (Intel), and 7.1 audio outputs with S/PDIF out.

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The PCI-E layout is x16/x8/x16/x8/x16/x8/x16. The bottom and top ports each get x16 from the CPU, while the rest of the ports get x32 lanes from the PEX8747 chip. The top PCI-E x16 slot shares x8 with the slot right below it. The two x16 ports in the middle will operate at x8 if the x8 ports below them are in use. The bottommost PCI-E x16 slot and all four M.2 slots share lanes, so if you use all four M.2 slot you won't be able to use the PCI-E slot. Each M.2 slot operates at x4 PCI-E 3.0 and they don't support SATA drives. We should mention that slot naming is a bit upside down, slot 7 is at the top and slot 1 is at the bottom.

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There are ten PWM fan headers on the motherboard that support up to 2.5A, so use 4-pin fan headers if you want to control the fans (3-pin fans will run full speed). There is a USB 3.0 internal header, a USB 2.0 internal header, a USB 3.0 type-A port, and a USB 3.1 10Gb/s type-C header onboard. Eight SATA6Gb/s ports are connected to the CPU.

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At the bottom of the motherboard we find many jumpers, one of them can come in handy as it can disable the onboard VGA port, which by default is the primary display output. We also find a COM port and our TPM header in the bottom right corner. The audio header is located right above the PCI-E slot.

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There are a total of three 8-pin 12v ESP power connectors on the motherboard. You only need to plug in the ones at the top of the motherboard for operation. However, if you use more than four of the PCI-E slots you need to use all three 12v power ports or you will void your warranty. Supermicro supplies a 6-pin PCI-E power to 8-pin 12v power converter in case your PSU only has two 8-pin wires. There is a beep code speaker at the top of the motherboard, and it can come in handy since there is no debug display.

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SMD DIMM slots pick up less electrical noise compared to through-hole DIMM slots, meaning a cleaner signal. For comparison sake, the $1.7K ASUS Dominus Extreme, which supports the 28-core Xeon W-3175X, uses through-hole DIMMs, and it can even overclock memory. Here we see SMD DIMMs for better signal integrity even though the maximum DRAM speed is 2933MHz. This attention to detail is appreciated, and we will mention the Mac Pro also uses SMD DIMMs.

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We just wanted to take a second and mention that this motherboard, the X11SPA-T is designed in the USA. Supermicro is one of few if any major motherboard manufacturers that design in the USA. We have personally visited their offices in the USA, and we can attest it's a full on operation and not just marketing and sales like most other motherboard vendors.

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Here is our Xeon-W CPU.

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