We received numerous emails and forum messages after our last X58 articles requesting that we take a different look at this platform. One that is not consumer/gaming oriented and instead focuses on the workstation capabilities of Intel's latest platform featuring the i7/X58. With that in mind we have been working diligently on a new test suite oriented towards the workstation crowd. The problem we discovered is that one could end trying to procure and test so many various programs that the review never gets done.

Believe me, that is one bad habit of mine after reviewing my initial rough draft for our first user experience article. After melding a few spreadsheets, pasting together all of the test notes, and looking at the results, it hit me that we had tested 83 different components, 22 games, and 37 different applications, not too mention a dizzying combination of hardware combinations for the memory and overclock results. The outcome is that this article is now under the editor's knife for obvious reasons. Probably the primary reason is to keep the reader awake and focused on the actual motherboard being reviewed, which happens to be the Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P before we move on the 790GX/GF9300 products.

So, for those readers who are passionate about viewing workstation results, we would like to hear from you again. Mainly, what are your top three to five programs that you would like to see tested on this platform. While we have procured several video/audio content creation applications along with other business centric programs, we fully realize there is diversity in the workstation market. With that in mind, we want to focus our efforts on providing relevant coverage and results for the top applications where possible. We use the word possible, as procuring a $40K seat license for a particular CAD/CAM package will probably be outside our current scope as one example. Also, we want to tailor the test suite to the hardware received for review.

That said, the wizards over at Super Micro Computer, Inc. sent us their new 5046A-XB bare bones workstation. This kit features the C7X58 motherboard, a high quality 865W power supply, custom designed cooling system, pre-configured Hot-Swappable drive setup, and a Tower case that feels as if it were built out of granite. The base bare bone 5046A-XB MSRP is around $900 and will vary depending upon the options chosen. Based on current test results, this Supermicro solution is a bargain to us.

We are still wrestling with our first 24GB memory kits (not a board problem), but all of our initial tests indicate that Supermicro has done a wonderful job with this platform. We have not needed or required multiple BIOS releases for stable operation, the custom cooling system is very quiet, the case is easy to work with and the internal wiring is impeccable. As an added bonus, the hot-swappable bays are a breeze to use, especially considering the number of times we installed and removed some firmware challenged Seagate drives. We are still working on 24GB memory results and some additional digital content creation tests, but performance has been flawless so far.

To say we are pleased at this point would be a serious understatement. Besides a meticulous design, customer service and technical support has been superb to date. We will be back with a full review, but this product already has our blessing. In the meantime, drop us a note and let us know your opinions on workstation benchmarks.

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  • GhostWriter - Thursday, January 22, 2009 - link

    Yes, there is another version of this board, the X8SAX, that populates the two PCI-X slots.

    The primary difference between X8SAX and C7X58 is that C7X58 has the nVidia SLI technology supported, and the PCI-X slots de-populated to reduce costs.

    nVidia charges a license fee for SLI support on X58, and many vendors assume the customer usage of SLI will not be 100%, so they don't want to pass on the extra cost to customers.
    Reply
  • Jorgisven - Thursday, January 22, 2009 - link

    I think a pervasively meaningful test might be to time how long it takes to open Word 2007. I know it's not computer intensive, and might require honing to thousandths of seconds, but it's probably one of the most frequently used programs in any given work place. Reply
  • Demon-Xanth - Thursday, January 22, 2009 - link

    We built about a dozen systems using the CSE-733T chassis and I found them quite easy to work with. Doing HALT testing the systems ran well upto 80C, at 90C things like the face plate started melting, but if your room is that hot you got other issues. Placing things inside was easy, the drive bays worked well, and everything fit together nicely. This was with the X6DAL-XG motherboard and dual Xeons. We did end up going into production with a Chenbro chassis however because they fit our application better. Reply
  • BrightCandle - Thursday, January 22, 2009 - link

    Some compilation tests would be nice, Java and C++ are probably the most widely wanted (although C# is another possibility here which is likely more often used than C++ by professionals).

    For C++ most reviews do a compile of the Linux kernel.

    For Java the compilation of a moderate sized open source package like Maven or Geronimo from Apache.org would likely serve well.

    In particular I am would be interested in the variations of CPUs and especially additional cores and differing hard drives.
    Reply
  • RagingDragon - Thursday, January 22, 2009 - link

    Nitpick: the Linux kernel is C, not C++.

    Compiler tests would be of interest to me too, especially the Sun Java compiler.
    Reply
  • brausekopf - Thursday, January 22, 2009 - link

    Nowadays these compilation tests are more of a harddrive test, aren't they? Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Thursday, January 22, 2009 - link

    I'm not sure if this is what you had in mind, but I'd really like to see Virtualization tested. A lot of us IT types who are living in a VMWare world are using VMWare Workstation for a lot of different purposes. Some examples: When I create a new server I often build and test it on my workstation first then migrate it to ESX server. We also use VMWare Workstation for isolated test environments where we need to run several virtual servers at the same time. I also have virtual machine copies of our several different end user workstations available on my workstation so that I can run an environment that looks like what the end user has (I'm on 64 bit Vista while my end users are still on XP 32 bit). The list goes on and on but for one reason or another I've pretty much always got one or more virtual machines running while I'm also doing my other work. Reply
  • brausekopf - Thursday, January 22, 2009 - link

    I would like to see numbers for the STREAM benchmark, especially the scaling from 1 to 4 cores w/o HT and from 1 to 8 cores with HT. That's where the integrated memory controller should have a big impact.

    DGEMM (doouble precision matrix multiplication) numbers using Intel's latest MKL library, sequential and parallel might also help many people working in science in their procurement decisions.
    Reply
  • James5mith - Thursday, January 22, 2009 - link

    I've been a fanboy of Supermicro since I used my first 2U rackmount server from them about 12 years ago. Back then they were one of the only options for something that compact that wasn't from a major brandname that sold preconfigured solutions.

    Excellent build quality, attention to detail, and the ability to continue to provide excellent stable solutions that appear to market shortly after the technology is released is the reason I keep coming back.

    To this day, they are one of only a handful of companies that offer hotswap backplanes that incorporate SAS expander chips. Running a single cable to a controller vs 24 can considerably ease airflow issues. (Check out an SC846E1-R900B)

    Better yet, want a robust blade enclosure and solution? They've got you covered. How many non-Dell, HP, IBM, etc. companies can say that?

    As I said in the beginning, I'm a fanboy. But I'm a fanboy because Supermicro is a company that continues to impress. There is no other company out there that matches their ability to offer whitebox solutions that rival the custom, and often proprietary ones that are offered by the brand names.
    Reply
  • nnunn - Thursday, January 22, 2009 - link

    Could you try a pair of GTX 295 boards in those 2 (x16) PCI-Express 2.0 slots? How does CUDA handle the 4 devices on the two slots. The interesting comparison would be these two games cards vs. a Tesla S1070. Reply

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