Introduction and Packaging
Long known for making excellent enthusiast class motherboards, GIGABYTE is now using that knowledge on a dual-socket 2011 workstation class board called the GA-7PESH3.
Workstation class motherboards demand high reliability and excellent performance, which is something GIGABYTE is well known for.
This motherboard has a large amount of features, so let us look what this motherboard has to offer. The latest BIOS version R14 supports the Intel Xeon Processor E5-2600 V2 family. This includes the E5-2697 V2, which has 12 cores/24 threads.
This motherboard supports four-way SLI and CrossFireX, and it can also handle NVIDIA Tesla, Intel Xeon Phi co-processors, NVIDIA Quadro, and AMD FirePro cards. For storage options, the GA-7PESH3 includes eight SAS 6Gb/s ports.
Let us look at what you get in the retail package.
Here we see the front of the retail box, which shows that this motherboard is SLI, VMWare and Red Hat certified.
Looking at the back of the retail box, we see the main attributes of the product, which is reliability, availability, and serviceability.
Opening the box, we see the motherboard in an antistatic bag and foam inserts to protect the motherboard.
After we remove the motherboard and cardboard insert, we find all the motherboard accessories underneath.
The accessories in the retail package include:
- Six SATA connectors
- One USB expansion via header
- One USB 3.0 expansion via header
Additional accessories are the back I/O plate and SLI and Crossfire bridges.
Also included in the accessory package is a quick reference guide and a driver disk.
Specifications and Layout
One of the first things we noticed was the eight SAS 6Gb/s ports, which is a big plus for storage uses.
The GA-7PESH3 has remote management built into the motherboard, which allows use in a server role as well as a workstation.
This board also has a full load out of PCIe slots, which enable the use of four video cards.
Overall layout of the GA-7PESH3 is typical for boards of this type. We see the same issue of RAM slot locations that we see in other boards. The orientation of the RAM slots can block airflow, and depending on the heat sinks used, it can block the use of tall memory sticks.
Even with the large Noctua heat sinks we used, we did not have a RAM cooling problem, but we used an open-air bench setup. Keep this in mind when deciding on a case to use for this motherboard.
The general layout of the board is very clean, and when installed into a case, case fan locations should blow across the motherboard.
One other issue we had with the board was the location of the power connectors and the heat sinks next to them. The left hand 8-pin connector and the main 24-pin connector are very close to heat sinks. Plugging in the power connectors was no problem, but taking them out was another story. We could not get our fingers in between the connector and the heat sink and had to use a screwdriver to push in the release tab.
This is the left side of the motherboard. Here we can see the headers used on this motherboard.
At the very top of the motherboard is the audio header. On the left side, we see two fan (white) headers. Next is the front panel header. Below that is an HDD back plane header. Next is a header for USB 2.0 There are additional jumpers between the PCIe slots. PCIe slot #1 is on the far left.
Between PCIe #1 & PCIe #2:
PCIE_SW1 shares bandwidth switch
1-2 Close: PCIE SLOT1 X16, PCIE SLOT2 X0
2-3 Close: PCIE SLOT1 X8, PCIE SLOT2 X8
Between PCIe #2 & PCIe #3:
The top white connector is IPMB1 IPMB connector
Then below the white connector is:
JP_PLD_DB Power Debug mode
JTAG1 CPLD Debug mode
Between PCIe #4 & PCIe #5:
PMBUS_SEL PMBus Power Select jumper
1-2 Close: PMBus connects to PCH.
2-3 Close: PMBus connects to BMC. (Default setting)
PCIE_SW2 shares bandwidth switch
1-2 Close: PCIE SLOT3 X16, PCIE SLOT4 X0
2-3 Close: PCIE SLOT3 X8, PCIE SLOT4 X8
Starting from where we left off, the next two connectors are two Type A USB 2.0 connectors. Below the USB connectors are two SATA (black) 3Gb/s connectors. Next, we see two SATA (red) 6Gb/s connectors. To the left side of those, we have two SATA (black) 3Gb/s connectors.
Next, we see at the bottom left of the board eight white SAS 6Gb/s connectors. The two black headers just to the right of the SAS connectors are the SAS SGPIO headers #1 and #2. And just below those are two white fan headers.
Seven PCIe slots are on the board, which break down like this.
PCIe slot #1 starts of the left.
PCIe slot 1 (x16 slot/Running at x8; shared bandwidth with PCI-E slot 2)
PCIe slot 2 (x16 slot/Default running at x16; running x8 when PCI-E slot 1 is populated)
PCIe slot 3 (x16 slot/Running at x8; shared bandwidth with PCI-E slot 4)
PCIe slot 4 (x16 slot/Default running at x16; running x8 when PCI-E slot 3 is populated)
PCIe slot 5 (x16 slot/Running at x8; shared bandwidth with PCI-E slot 6)
PCIe slot 6 (x16 slot/Default running at x16; running x8 when PCI-E slot 5 is populated)
PCIe slot 7 (x16 slot/Running at x16)
Here we can see the backside I/O. On the left, we have two USB 2.0 ports with a PS/2 port just below. Next is a COM port with the video port below. The next two stacks have an RJ45 LAN Port with two USB 3.0 ports below. Next is the KVM Server Management 10/100 LAN Port with two USB 2.0 ports below. The last stack contains the audio outputs.
At the front of the motherboard, we see the eight white SAS 6Gb/s connectors.
The BIOS for this motherboard is typical for these motherboards, so we will only show key BIOS screens.
This is the main BIOS screen you see when you first enter the BIOS.
The next menu is the advanced tab, which shows the settings you can change here.
Here we see the advanced PCI subsystem settings tab.
Next is the advanced CPU configuration tab.
Here we see the advanced CPU power management configuration.
The controls that can be made for the advanced memory (chipset) tab.
Here we see the server management tab. Entering the BMC LAN configuration tab will show the IP address used for remote access.
Software & Remote Access
The GA-7PESH3 comes with one driver disk.
When using Windows Server 2008, we see this screen when you insert the driver disk. Clicking on each item will install the drivers selected.
This disk seems to only auto run in Windows Server 2008. In other operating systems, we had to manually go into the device manager and select each item to browse the disk to find the correct driver.
It also seemed that not all drivers were included on this disk for different operating systems.
For example, in Windows 7, we installed the LAN drivers so we could access the Internet. We then went to GIGABYTE's website and download the rest of the drivers needed and installed them manually.
Some of the IPMI remote management features of this board do not function if there are video cards installed. In order to remote into the machine and operate the BIOS/desktop, you cannot use extra video cards, and this feature will only work with onboard video. All other features of IPMI will function as normal.
To get remote access up and running, enter the BIOS and head over to the server management tab. Move on down to the BMC LAN configuration tab. This will show the IP address used for remote access.
Enter this IP address into your browser and you will see the login page.
Log in using:
This is the home page for remote access.
With the power control menu, you can cycle the machine or power it on.
Here you can see all the voltage levels that the machine is running.
The temperature menu shows all the different temperatures that the machine is running at.
With the platform event menu, you can select what happens when an event occurs.
The last menu item is vKVM & vMedia and Launch. This allows you to remote into the machine's desktop and operate it just as if you are sitting in front of the machine.
In order to get to this remote management screen, we had to remove the NVIDIA Quadro K5000.
Test System Setup
Special thanks to GIGABYTE, NVIDIA, NZXT, SanDisk, Kingston, and Noctua for their support!
The test setup is typical for a workstation setup. The CPUs used in these tests are two Intel Xeon E5-2697 V2 CPUs. The memory installed is 64GB of Kingston CL11 RAM.
We also used an NVIDIA Quadro K5000 for our graphics tests. This motherboard can handle four GPUs, but we only have one here so that will have to do.
For all tests that we ran, we used optimized BIOS settings for max performance.
This is the CPUz screen showing the various stats of the Xeon E5-2697 V2 CPUs. As you can see, this CPU has a max TDP of 130 watts.
This CPU has 12 cores, and we are running two of them for a total of 24 cores/48 threads.
System and CPU Benchmarks
PassMark performance test runs 32 tests, including CPU, 2D and 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.
In the Passmark tests, we find that higher stock speeds and better graphics score better. The GA-7PESH3 scored very well in this test but came in second place to a machine using E5-2670s.
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 different algorithms to stress all available processor cores. You can also run this test with a single core mode to give a single core rating.
Again, we find the lower stock speeds of the E5-2697 V2s hold this board back in these benches, but it really takes off in the multi-threaded scores as we can see here. Having 48 threads is a real advantage here.
The GA-7PESH3 claimed the number one spot in this test also but only by a small amount.
Just like in the Cinebench 11.5 results, we see a slower single-threaded score and a much higher multi-threaded score.
In this test, the GA-7PESH3 took a strong lead. It really shows the extra performance gain of the E5-2697 V2s with the extra cores they have.
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; it also works as a stress test to see how well the system cooling is performing.
In this test, we see the GA-7PESH3 is again faster and takes the lead in the dual-CPU category.
POV-Ray (Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer) creates three-dimensional, photo-realistic 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 and check memory stability and overclocks to see if the system is stable. The latest version, 3.6, is a free download and has a benchmark utility that we have run for these tests. Results displayed show the average PPS (pixels per second) that the render took.
Single-threaded higher clock speeds will generate higher scores with this bench, so a dual-CPU system does not help this benchmark much.
Here again, we see the GA-7PSH3 takes a strong lead in the dual-CPU category.
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/threaded systems very efficiently and is a good memory stability test.
Results in this test are the average of each pass performed four times.
The GA-7PESH3 came in a good second place in the test.
SPECwpc_v1.0.2 is a workstation benchmark that measures key aspects of workstation applications.
These tests do put a huge load on the system and take about 8 hours to run on this system. SPECwpc puts a heavy load on the GPU, as well.
In everything but general operations, the GA-7PESH3 with the pair of E5-2697 V2s has taken a strong lead.
AIDA64 memory bandwidth benchmarks (Memory Read, Memory Write, and Memory Copy) measure the maximum achievable memory data transfer bandwidth.
AIDA64 memory tests show the GA-7PESH3 has a very good memory design and show about the best speeds we have seen yet. The only thing holding this back is memory writes, but it is still faster than some others are.
LinX 0.6.4 is a CPU benchmark that measures floating-point operations per second, and it is used to compare CPU performance; it is also a very good stress test to run.
Just like the AIDA memory tests, this board really is pushing memory fast.
UnixBench 5.1.3 and SPEC CPU2006v1.2
UnixBench has been around for a long time now, and it is a good general-purpose benchmark to test on Linux systems.
This is a system benchmark, and it shows the performance of single-threaded and multi-threaded tasks.
This shows the system indexes after a complete UnixBench run. Here, we get an idea of how much performance gain we get using multi-threaded applications. However, many applications use single threads, so this number is really the base, and a higher clock speed will increase both indexes.
In UnixBench, we get lower scores, and it shows this benchmark is not a strong one for the GA-7PESH3.
SPEC CPU2006v1.2 measures compute intensive performance across the system using realistic benchmarks to rate real performance.
When CPU2006 first came out, many complained about how long this benchmark took to run; it could last up to 12 days for a full run. In our tests here, we are seeing runs take a good two full days to run, which shows how much faster CPU architecture is with modern CPUs.
We break the test down into four parts when running in case there is a problem. This way, we do not waste a lot of time doing a run that has issues.
All of our runs are full CPU2006 qualified and could actually be submitted to the SPEC website.
This benchmark has many different commands to use depending on what the user is looking for. For our tests, we used basic commands that run a full test.
Here, you can see the SPEC scores after full runs for Integer (int) and Floating Point (fp) tests. Single-core runs show how fast (speed) a CPU can perform a given task. In the multi-core runs, we set SPEC CPU2006v1.2 to use all threads, and this is a measure of the throughput of the system.
The additional core/threads of this system has a huge impact on performance in these tests and really show the amount of horsepower that a dual-socket system has over a single-socket board
Single-threaded results are still very important, but when you need lots of those to run, moving to a dual-socket setup is the way to go.
We can see that the GA-7PESH3 with E5-2697 V2s takes a very strong lead in multi-threaded benchmarks.
Looking at the results of single-threaded integer runs, we can get an idea of speed at which the Intel Xeon E5-2697 V2s can crunch through the different integer tests. Not all CPUs are equal here, and ones that have a higher speed will generally perform these tests faster. In this case, this is the stock speed of the Intel Xeon E5-2697 V2s. Naturally, using an overclocked system or CPUs with a higher stock speed will generate higher results.
Now we run the test using all 48 threads of the dual-Intel Xeon E5-2697 V2s to measure the throughput of the system. In this test, more cores/threads will have a greater effect on the outcome.
We can see a big difference here using the dual-socket setup with a three to four times performance boost in many cases.
Just like the integer tests, we now run the floating-point tests in single (speed) mode. The lower clock speeds of the Intel Xeon E5-2697 V2s holds this bench back also.
Here, we see the results of the multi-threaded floating-point run that uses all 48 threads of the dual-Intel Xeon E5-2697 V2s. Like the multi-threaded integer test, more cores/threads will have a greater impact on the test.
We used the WattsUp? Pro meter in these tests. This 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 we run our tests.
To test total system power use, we used the AIDA64 Stability test to load the CPU, and then we recorded the result.
With dual-socket systems, power use can be rather high when fully loaded. The GA-7PESH3 with E5-2697 V2s did peak out at 342watts. This shows that using E5-2697 V2s has a huge impact on how much power a system uses, and there is a about a 100-watt difference between dual-socket systems and single-socket systems.
That is a large amount of power savings that can save the user a lot of money over the long run.
Just like some of the other workstation class motherboards, this one can fill several roles that range from workstations to gaming systems to servers.
With the latest BIOS R14, this board can support the latest Intel E5-2600 family of CPUs. If you manage to get a board with an earlier BIOS, you might have to flash to R14 to be able to use them. We had no issues with our E5-2670 CPUs, but again, we had BIOS R14 installed.
Performance wise, the GA-7PESH3 was strong using the E5-2697 V2s, and we feel these CPUs really bring out its full potential.
By using the latest Intel Ivy Bridge Xeons like the E5-2697 V2s, we also had a much lower power draw. This is a huge plus, and the lower power use on full load can really add up to savings on the power bill. In addition, they also run much cooler.
We also saw several top scores using the E5-2697 V2s, which do show this board has good potential for high performance. It also really handles memory very well and is able to push bandwidth fast.
One other draw back was with how the IPMI worked. It would have been nice if we could remote in when we have video cards installed. However, if you use this as a workstation, then IPMI generally is not necessary, so it is not a real concern.
The last issue we had was with the driver disk; it should come with everything needed for all the different operating systems. We found it strange that it only auto booted in Windows Server 2008 and not others. At least it had LAN drivers for Windows 7, so we could go to the GIGABYTE website and download the rest. If it did not have the LAN drivers, we would have had to burn a disk with the drivers from the website because it did not even have drivers for USB and Windows 7.
PRICING: You can find the GIGABYTE GA-7PESH3 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.
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