Supermicro has released a powerful Mini-ITX motherboard that jams a whole lot of features into a very small motherboard. We can see this product working as a Point of Sale (POS) machine, an industrial PC, and in some situations, as an applications server, or workstation. We can even see this motherboard being used for home systems that can run office applications, and even play many games.
Industrial and POS systems usually require a fair amount of COM ports, in order to handle all different types of devices, and this motherboard has five in total. This gives it good compatibility, and the ability to handle all kinds of legacy type devices.
Most OEM or system integrators will typically purchase complete systems that build on a motherboard like this. We also see a growing trend of users who prefer systems that do not take up a lot of desk space, and this motherboard can fit in a very small enclosure.
Low-power systems are also important these days; this not only keeps things cooler, but it saves on power bills too.
The X10SLV motherboard meets all of these requirements, so let us take a closer look at this new Haswell Xeon supporting, workstation motherboard from Supermicro.
Specifications for the Supermicro X10SLV motherboard are as follows.
One of the nice features of this motherboard is the mSATA port, which can take a 256 GB SSD. This makes the system a complete standalone product that does not require any other devices to run. It also comes with plenty of COM ports should your application require them.
As you can see by looking at the motherboard, space is a premium. The main CPU socket area does not have a lot of room around it, but a stock Intel heat sink fits very nicely. It does come pretty close to the RAM modules, but we found no real clearance issues. The power supply circuits sit right under the heat sink, and gain some airflow from the heat sink fan to keep them cool.
The left side of the motherboard shows the PCIe 2.0 slot, and the mSATA connector. Even though there are only 4x SATA ports (2 x SATA3 and 2 x SATA2) for a board like this, this is more than enough.
The left side of the back I/O panel has the VESA Display port, and HDMI connectors. The next two stacks show two GB LAN ports. Under those, there are two USB 3.0 (blue), and two USB 2.0 (black) ports. Next, we find the DVI-I video port, and two COM ports, followed by the audio outputs.
The left side of the motherboard has the PCIe slot, and the bulk of the jumpers.
Starting on the left side of the picture, jumpers #1 and #2 are JI2C1, and JI2C2. These are the SMB, to PCIe Slot jumpers, which allow you to select options for the System Management Bus (SMB) to PCIe, and PCI slots.
#3 is the Watch Dog reset jumper.
#4 is BIOS recovery.
#5 is Front Panel Audio Enable.
#6 is ME Manufacturing Mode, which allows the user to flash the firmware from a host server.
#7 is USB Wake up, which allows the user to press a keyboard or mouse to wake up the system, or to disable this feature.
#8 is Onboard Speaker jumper, which can be set to internal, or external.
At the very far right, we see the COM4 header block.
Here is a front left, top down, view of the X10SLV, which shows the various header locations, and the Intel H81 Express chipset location.
On the far left is the BIOS chip installed in a socket, and right below that is the COM4 header.
Next is a USB Type A (2.0) connector, followed by a header block for USB 4 and USB5, and then the 2x SATA3 and 2x SATA2 connectors.
Right along the left side of the front edge, we find a fan header, and below that, the COM3 header block.
The next row has the COM5 header block, and below that is the header block for the front panel controls. The last three headers are: the GPIO (general-purpose I/O) header, a fan header, and the TPM header (trusted platform module).
Finally, the last white header is a SMB connector.
The BIOS screens listed here are pretty much the standard Supermicro BIOS screens that support this platform. We will just take a look at a few screens that show some of the features of this motherboard.
Here, we see the main Advanced tab, and adjustable settings.
This is the CPU Configuration tab. There are quite a few options for controlling the CPU power limits. These can come in handy for systems that need to have very low-power states when not in use.
This is the Serial Port Configuration tab. This board has a large number of serial ports that allow it to connect to many different types of devices. This includes devices such as printers, bar code scanners, and other point of sale devices.
This is the second part of the Serial Port Configuration tab.
The Memory Configuration tab shows that the max speed of memory for this board is 1600 MHz, which is just fine for this board, as there is no need for faster RAM kits for these types of systems.
A PCIe 2.0 slot is more than enough for these systems. The only time you might want a PCIe 3.0 slot, is if you are planning to use a high-end graphics or network card.
Test System Setup
Special thanks to Supermicro, NZXT, and Kingston for their support!
The test setup configuration is typical for a workstation or server. The power supply used in these tests is a much higher wattage than is needed. A 100-watt PSU would be more than enough to power a system like this.
The CPU used in these tests was an Intel Core i7 4771 @ 3.5GHz. We also showed a Xeon processor E3-1285 v3 (8M cache and 3.60GHz), to use as a comparison in performance. The memory installed is 16GB of Kingston CL11 1600MHz RAM.
For all tests that were run, we used optimized BIOS settings for the i7 4771. This includes speed step, and other settings being turned on, to reflect how a system would be used in a production environment.
This is the CPU-Z screen, showing the various stats of the i7 4771. As you can see, this CPU has a Max TDP of 84 watts, and core voltage of 1.005V. This means that this CPU runs nice and cool under low voltage.
PCMARK 8 is the latest version in the series of PC benchmarking tools by Futuremark. It is fully compatible with Windows 8, and can be run under Windows 7.
Just like in the previous tests that we did with these two CPU's, we found the results to be very close to those tests. You can see in the PCMark 8 tests, both the i7 4771, and E3-1285v3, are very close in performance, with the i7 4771 getting slightly better results. These two CPU's are very close in specifications, with only 100MHz difference in stock and turbo speeds.
Sandra 2013 SP6 is the latest version in the series of PC benchmarking tools by SiSoftware. Sandra 2013 SP6 tests the performance of your PC by running a whole series of tests including CPU, Memory, Storage, and Graphics benchmarks, to come up with a final number as a rating of the systems performance.
Again, we see only a slight difference between the two CPU's. As usual, running these tests multiple times will net slightly different scores, so these CPU's are about equal in this test.
PassMark Performance Test runs 32 different tests including CPU, 2D & 3D graphics, disk, and memory tests, to come up with an overall system ranking that allows you to determine how fast your computer is in comparison with other systems.
Here, we see only a slight difference between these two CPU's, which is something that will be common in the rest of the tests that follow.
DPC Latency Checker analyzes the computer system's ability to handle real-time data streams. It is useful in finding the causes of interruptions in real-time audio and video streams (otherwise known as dropouts).
Note: DPC Latency Checker does not show the correct results in Windows 8 or Server 2012 systems, because of how the implementations of kernel timers function in these operating systems. We ran each test for five minutes, and recorded the max latency over this period. Results from 0-1000 are good, while results higher than 1000 show that the system might have a problem.
Even though there is a little less than a 100 point difference here for DPS results, this is very close, and well under the 1000 millisecond threshold.
We did find that we had slightly better DPC results on this motherboard over some of the others we tested using the Intel 4771 CPU. They are nothing to write home about though.
The SPECwpc V1.0 workstation benchmark provides over 30 different workloads divided into application categories, and generates a score for each one.
This is a new test that we will be using on all platforms from now on. We ran the X10SLV as a light duty workstation, so it can be compared other motherboards. Not all of the tests are able to run on the X10SLV, because it only has an integrated graphics chip.
This platform actually holds up pretty well as a media workstation. The system handles media type jobs pretty well considering it is only using integrated graphics; as a home based system, it does a good job.
CINEBENCH is a real-world cross-platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. The test scenario uses all of your system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene. This scene makes use of various algorithms to stress all available processor cores. You can also run it with a single-core mode to give a single-core rating.
We found very close results, but with a slightly better score for the i7-4771.
Again, we found very close results, but with a slightly better score for the i7-4771.
wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance. This is a great test to use to rate the system speed, and also works as a stress test to see how well the system cooling is performing.
This is a very good test, and you can see that these CPU's perform very well.
POV-Ray (Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer) creates three-dimensional, photorealistic images using a rendering technique called ray tracing. Ray tracing is not a fast process by any means, but it produces very high quality images with realistic reflections, shading, perspective, and other effects.
This is a very good test to stress CPU threads. It is also good for checking memory stability and overclocks, to see if the system is stable. The latest 3.6 version is a free download, and has the benchmark utility that we have run for these tests. Results show the average PPS (Pixels Per Second) taken by the rendering.
There is only a very slight difference in results that show for the POV-Ray test results; there are almost no differences in CPU's.
X264 HD Benchmark measures how fast your computer can encode a 1080p video clip, into a high quality X264 video file. This benchmark uses multi-core, multi-threaded systems very efficiently, and is a good memory stability test.
Results in this test are the average of each pass being performed four times.
Again, we see just a slight difference in results between the two CPU's.
A good benchmark to run to compare CPU's is Fritz Chess.
As far as pure crunching power goes, these two CPU's fall right in line with each other, and again, show no real difference.
Geekbench 3 is a processor benchmark that uses single and multi-core performance, to simulate real-world scenarios.
Geekbench 3 allows us to run this bench, and then compare it to how similar systems perform. After looking at some of these results, we found that this system performs at just under what some of the more expensive systems are able to perform at.
AIDA64 memory bandwidth benchmarks (Memory Read, Memory Write, and Memory Copy), measure the maximum achievable memory data transfer bandwidth.
AIDA64 memory tests show the Kingston CL11 1600MHz SO-DIMM kits perform very well.
Stream is a memory test that measures sustainable memory bandwidth, and the corresponding computational rate for vector operations.
LinX 0.6.4 is a CPU benchmark that measures FLoating-point Operations Per Second, and is used to compare CPU performance. It also it is a very good stress test to run.
A score of 77.5 GFLOPS is very good for a system like this, and shows that even in a number crunching setup, this board stands up to full-size systems using the same CPU.
Total System Power Use
We used the Watts Up? Pro meter in the following tests, which allowed us to measure power use directly from the wall. This meter also uses a USB cable to connect to a computer, and Logger Pro software to graph the readings while running tests.
To test total system power use, we used AIDA64 System Stability Test to load the CPU, and then recorded the results.
A good feature of both the i7 4771, and E3-1285v3, is the low power use of these CPU's. The chart shows no real difference between the two at idle or max loads, which is to be expected.
We sent the system over to Chris to run some tests with his custom multi-client NAS test software. Since the X10SLV has four SATA ports (2x SATA3 and 2x SATA2), and a PCIe slot for an add-on card, Chris chose to use all four SATA ports for HDDs, and use the PCIe slot for 10GbE, from an Intel X520-SR2 NIC.
Given the X10SLV's size and capabilities, the board fits well in a number of Supermicro 1U server cases; some with four or more HDD bays. End users building a high-performance NAS can choose from any number of free software options. This includes options such as FreeNAS, or Open Indiana.
The X10SLV is a versatile platform, and works well with Windows Server. In this test, we used Windows Server 2012 R2, and ran the operating system on the same array as the test.
Using the 10GbE on the X10SLV was the right choice. The additional bandwidth allowed the high performance processor to stretch its legs, and deliver performance four to five times faster than the dedicated NAS devices on the chart. At 1GbE on the Supermicro X10SLV, we achieved just over 800 Mbps, which is around 200 Mbps more than the LaCie 5big NAS Pro.
10GbE also reduces latency to the NAS. Here, we see the Supermicro X10SLV staying under 1ms latency, even with 120 clients reading and writing data to the unit.
After running this motherboard in the lab, we found that we really liked all the things this board is capable of; the sky is really the limit.
If you install this motherboard into the Supermicro SC101i case, you will have what we started calling a "NUC on steroids". We have seen some companies selling systems like this for home users that do light office work, and gaming. Really, this system has more power than some towers that are more expensive.
We even went a little crazy setting this up as a NAS station, and found it out performs many off-the-shelf systems by a wide margin, and again, costs a lot less. However, you do have to build it yourself.
Where this motherboard will really shine is in industrial applications. This is due to all of the COM ports it comes equipped with, and the ability to use three displays at the same time.
At this time, we find this motherboard sells in the range of $170 to $200, which is a tad bit high for a board like this. There might be other motherboards which are better suited for some applications, and some even overclock (which we wish this board would do). If you were looking at system that overclocked using an Intel 4770K, you would also need a bigger case, and better cooling solution.
Some of the other NUC systems that come with lower-end CPU's cost about $370. Using the X10SLV, Supermicro SC101i case, and an Intel 4771, will cost you a little more, but you end up with a much more powerful system.
This motherboard also works in a Supermicro CSE-504-203B mini 1U chassis for rack mount server applications, or even a rack mount NAS setup using a case that can support a number of hard drives.
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