Supermicro X11DAi-N Server Motherboard Review

Supermicro X11DAi-N Server Motherboard Review

Looking for a workstation motherboard with support for two Intel Xeon Scalable Processors? Check out the X11DAi-N from Supermicro.

@StevenBassiriTT
Published Fri, Mar 30 2018 6:00 AM CDT   |   Updated Thu, Jul 30 2020 4:20 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: Supermicro

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

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VIEW GALLERY - 75 IMAGES

Today we are going to take a look at a dual processor server motherboard from Supermicro, which is one of the best-known vendors for top of the line enterprise motherboards. The new motherboard uses the C621 chipset, which is rated at a hefty 15W TPU and looks much different than Intel's consumer chipset.

Intel's new Skylake-SP parts that go into this motherboard are referred to as Intel Xeon Scalable processors so that vendors can easily scale and increase feature count. The C621 chipset is an entry-level chipset for this new platform, but it has much than what we need for a dual processor system.

Specifications

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The X11DAI-N supports up to 2TB of memory in 16 DIMMs, dual 1Gbit LAN, BCM, 10 SATA ports, 7.1 HD Audio, USB 3.0, and even USB 3.1.

Pricing

The Supermicro X11DAI-Nis listed for $749

Packaging and X11DAI-NOverview

Packaging and Overview

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The motherboard's box and packaging are very similar to that of previous Supermicro server motherboards. It's very basic but gets the job done. The white boxes you see are CPU coolers.

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Accessories include six SATA6Gb/s cables, IO shield, quick reference guide, and M.2 mounting hardware.

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The X11DAI-Nhas seven 4-pin PWM fan headers, and by default they are in PWM mode, but they can operate DC mode fans. The motherboard has six blue and two black DIMMs per each CPU. The CPU offers six memory channels; the black DIMM allows you to add one DIMM on to two of those channels per CPU.

Both VRM heat sinks are attached to the motherboard, which is different than official pictures. The back of the motherboard has almost no components.

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The motherboard's IO panel features a VGA port, four USB 3.0 ports, 7.1 HD audio, two 1Gbit NICs, USB 3.1 type-A, and USB 3.1 type-C.

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CPU1 handles two x16 slots and CPU2 handles two x16 slots, so the PCI-E slots are spread among both CPUs.

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Eight SATA6Gb/s ports can be found on this motherboard, the two orange ports support SATA DOM, with the power header located right near the two orange ports. A single USB 3.0 type-A port is located on the inside of the motherboard. We also get two NVMe slot connectors and one of the NVMe I2C2 connectors. We also get three T-SGPIO headers in this area.

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The motherboard power header and two CPU headers sit in front of the front panel headers. The power SMB header also sits near the 8-pin connector. At the bottom of the motherboard, we find disable jumpers, USB 3.0 internal header, TPM header, and replaceable BIOS socket.

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The motherboard also has a COM port and NCSI header. The heat sinks all make good contact with what they cool.

Supermicro X11DAI-NCircuit Analysis

Circuit Analysis

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X11DAI-Nhas a simple block diagram showing what is connected to what.

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Both CPU VRMs are identical and use 6+1 phase VRM using high-quality Texas Instruments parts that are VR13 ready. The CPU VRM uses NexFETs, the 70A CSD95480 for the six phases and 50A CSD95495 for the one phase and memory phases.

We find that the CPU VRM utilizes the 6+1 phase TPS53679 D-CAP+ digital PWM controller. We also find the TPS53622 (2+0 or 2+1) PWM and TPS53659 (4+1 or 3+2) used around the memory area to control memory rails.

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The memory VRMs use TPS53622 and two 50A NexFETs for power. All the Pulse inductors you see are rated for 70A.

Supermicro X11DAI-NCircuit Analysis Continued

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The PCH looks more like the CPU than a typical Intel PCH. An ASPEED AST2500 BMC controller is found on the motherboard along with Hynix RAM to support it.

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Two Marvell 88E1512 PHY transceivers are used along with the PCH to produce the two Gbit NICs on the rear IO. An ASMedia ASM1142 USB 3.1 controller is found on the motherboard even though there isn't one in the block diagram.

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A Realtek ALC888S is used to produce 7.1 HD audio. A 32MB/256Mbit flash module is used for the BMC.

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A Lattice MachXO2 LCMX02 is found on the motherboard as well. The motherboard uses a Winbond 256Mbit/32MB BIOS.

BIOS

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I used the X11DAI-N's console re-direction utility to access the UEFI and get good shots. It's one of the easier ways to access the UEFI, especially if you don't have a graphics card or monitor.

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The BIOS is quite basic when it comes to monitoring the system, in fact, you would be better by sticking with remote detection. The BIOS does have pretty much every setting you will need to configure the system, and by default, it's set to output video through the built-in video connector. However, if you have a discrete GPU, you are best to go into the BIOS remotely and change video to "off-board video".

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Remote Management

IPMI and Console Redirection

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Console redirection is pretty much what we have come to expect from any ASPEED controller, and it offers full remote control over the system. We also find all of our system parameter monitoring, as well as power cycle and firmware update capabilities.

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Test System Setup and Memory

Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications

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We used the default cooler provided with the CPUs. Putting the CPU and cooler together is a bit difficult, but inserting it into the socket is a bit more cumbersome. Intel's default mechanism to insert the new Xeons into the socket is to align two guides diagonally positioned in two corners of the CPU mount, and then drop the CPU into the socket.

CPU and Memory Performance Metrics

CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks

CINEBENCH 11.5

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wPrime

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HandBrake

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AIDA64 Engineer Edition Mixed CPU/FPU Tests

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SPECwpc v2.0 Mixed Tests

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AIDA64 Engineer Edition Memory Bandwidth

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AIDA64 Engineer Edition Memory Latency

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Supermicro's X11DAi-N paired with two 18 core and 36 thread Xeon Gold 6154 processors, and it's a beast. Memory bandwidth is intense, latency is good, and AIDA64 and SPECwpc results are solid. We see that the motherboard can facilitate both scalable processors with ease.

CINEBENCH results are also very high, but in wPrime, both the EPYC CPU and the older generation Xeon do better, possibly because of maximum threads utilized. HandBrake performance is also very good, and the motherboard seems to facilitate power well for the CPUs.

Network and IO Tests

Network and IO Tests:

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Network testing shows that the Gbit NIC is performing as it should, although it is using a Marvell PHY rather than an Intel one.

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Now the motherboard didn't take out KC1000 Kingston NVMe drive, but it did take our Kingston Predator 240GB drive, and it's performing as it should. We highly recommend using the motherboard's qualified vendor list to find out what M.2 drives are compatible.

Thermal Imagining and Power

Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption

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Power consumption is through the roof, and that is due to the crazy power consumption of the CPUs at 200W TDP each and then the added power consumption of the motherboard and chipset.

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The motherboard's thermals are interesting, and we see that the chipset actually runs pretty cool compared to some other regions.

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VRM of both CPUs under load are pictured above at full load. They seem to operate at decent temperatures, and that is partially due to the quality of components and the fact that the CPU's fan also helps cool down the VRM heat sinks.

What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts

Here are key points about the Supermicro X11DAi-N.

What's Hot

Dual Scalable Xeon: The X11DAI-N fully supports two Xeon Scalable Processors with TDP support up to 205W, with two UPI up to 10.4GT/s. These processors support six-channel memory and up to a whopping 2TB of memory at 2666MHz. We had no problem getting things up and running, and performance was strong.

Consumer/Workstation Fetures: The motherboard is designed for workstations rather than servers, and we see this is the case because of the high level of recent consumer features. We get 3rd party USB 3.1, full 7.1 audio outputs on the rear IO, and a ton of SATA ports instead of SAS or other enterprise connection options.

High-Quality Components: Everything from the VRM to the PCB offer very-high quality and performance. The VRMs worked very well and offered great thermal performance with the default cooler helping to cool them down.

Remote Control: The ASPeed IMPI worked like a charm and is pretty much required for controlling the system if you boot up on a discrete GPU. The good news is that a VGA port is built into the motherboard so that you can get local video output and you won't need a discrete GPU.

What's Not

Single M.2 Slot: Personally, we would have rather seen more M.2 slots, especially because M.2 is becoming the next standard for faster storage form factors. You should also look at the QVL to see what drives are supported, as we had an issue with detection of the Kingston KC1000, and had to use a Kingston Predator drive, neither was listed on the QVL.

Final Thoughts

Supermicro's X11DAI-N is a very consumer/workstation friendly motherboard with plenty of features and expansion possibilities. While it only has a single M.2 slot, you can still use one of those PCI-E x4/x8/x16 expansion cards with multiple M.2 slots, and bypass the PCH and go directly to the CPU.

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The native connectivity options are basically targeting more consumers, and while you do have two SAS ports, most of the others are SATA ports, and that's what most consumers use. There are a good number of PCI-E x16 slots as well as solid rear-IO connectivity options. You get USB 3.1 (10Gbps), 7.1 audio outputs, and your typical VGA (management) and USB ports. If you are looking for a dual Xeon Scalable Processor motherboard with a solid assortment of features and quality, give the Supermicro X11DAi-N a look.

Note: The sample provided to us was an engineering sample that uses an older USB 3.1 controller than what will be available on the market. So the ASM1142 we saw has been replaced by an ASM3142.

TweakTown award
Performance90%
Quality95%
Features95%
Value85%
Overall91%

The Bottom Line: If you are looking for a workstation motherboard with support for two Intel Xeon Scalable Processors, give the X11DAi-N a look if you need the latest in consumer connectivity and tons of SATA ports.

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Steven went from a fledgling forum reader in 2003 to one of the internet's brightest tech stars by 2010. Armed with an information systems degree, a deep understanding of circuitry, and a passion for tech, Steven (handle Sin0822) enjoys sharing his deep knowledge with others. Steven details products down to the component level to highlight seldom explained, and often misunderstood architectures. Steven is also a highly decorated overclocker with several world records.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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