Supermicro S2DGU GX Xeon Boardby Anand Lal Shimpi on October 2, 1998 12:52 PM EST
- Posted in
In the past, Supermicro has been known for producing, obviously large motherboards. However, rather than being crowned the bloatware king of the motherboard world, Supermicro packs much more than empty space onto their high quality PCB's. Their motherboards have always been top notch in terms of performance, expandability and definitely stability in do-or-die workstation or server situations. With the rate of Supermicro's growth surpassing the offerings of Intel's Pentium II/BX chipset combination, it was time for a change, and walking hand in hand with Intel's latest "monsterpiece," the Xeon, Supermicro managed to bring it to the public once again with their Supermicro S2DGU; but with the competitive nature of the market increasing, can Supermicro stand up to the demands of the community they once dominated? There's only one way to find out...
New AnandTech Report Card Rating 80/C+
Do not compare newer scores to older ones, the newer scores are much more aggressive
|66 / 75
100 / 103 / 112
|3.0x - 6.0x
|4 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
5 PCI Slots (1 RAID Port)
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)
|Size is definitely noticeable, especially in the case of the S2DGU, whose ATX layout can often be mistaken for a monster AT style motherboard. The board itself features 5 PCI slots, accompanied by its 2 ISA and single AGP slot, in addition to the RAID extension to the second PCI slot. Running parallel to the AGP slot are the four SDRAM DIMM slots which allow for up to 2GB of SDRAM to be installed when taking advantage of the S2DGU's Dual Processor capabilities.
Before journeying to the realm of the multiprocessing environment the S2DGU makes sure that it has all other ends covered. Starting off with the standard Super I/O on-board with your basic Ultra ATA IDE ports and your FDD controller, the S2DGU expands on the "average Joe" motherboard by adding a dedicated 68-pin UltraWide SCSI-3 channel as well as a dedicated 68-pin Ultra2 SCSI channel for high performance storage solutions. At the heart of its SCSI support (not to mention its 50-pin 8/16-bit connector for backwards compatibility) resides an Adaptec 7890 integrated controller which allows for the performance and the compatibility that you'll see with the on-board SCSI of the S2DGU. While many critics of on-board SCSI will argue that having such a feature limits the future expandability of your system, with Ultra3 SCSI due out much later in 1999 or 2000, and Ultra2 SCSI being the current cream of the crop when it comes to high speed storage interfaces for most users, the on-board 7890 should be more than adequate for the useful life of such a high-end motherboard. Luckily, Supermicro had the foresight to bundle the S2DGU with, not only the standard set of HDD/FDD cables, but an internal 68-pin LVD/SE SCSI cable with an active terminator on it for use with either your new Ultra2 devices in LVD mode or your older UWSCSI-3 devices in SE mode. This little cable/terminator can be a lifesaver as most newer hard drives such as the Seagate Cheetah 2 (Ultra2 SCSI) by default don't ship with these $40+ additions. Coming from a user with experience in being stuck with an awesome hard drive without the proper cables for a night, you'll definitely appreciate Supermicro's decision to include such a cable.
Tightly packaged next to the memory banks on the motherboard is the core of the solution, Intel's 440GX chipset. The 440GX chipset is what allows for memory expansion up to the 2GB mark, and if you've ever experienced working with a high-trafficked web server you'll definitely begin to appreciate the beauty of that memory allowance. While the 440BX chipset is hardly any different from the GX chipset in a performance sense, once the need for greater than 512MB of SDRAM arises, you're going to have to ditch that limitation along with the BX chipset in order to make the jump to 768MB or more.
Naturally, such a motherboard wouldn't be complete without dual processor capability as lightly alluded to above. The S2DGU features dual Slot-2 support and is bundled with a processor terminator card, the Supermicro TRMS2, just in case you aren't going to be taking advantage of the second CPU slot just yet. The performance increase a dual processor system provides over a single processor system is often directly dependent on the type of application the system will be put to use on. As a web server, there is a definite improvement in performance with two CPU's running in conjunction with one another as opposed to a single processor, however as a high-end graphics workstation, the performance increase is often negligible when compared to the price of adding a second CPU. With an operating system such as Windows NT (Windows 9x doesn't support multiprocessor systems, the second processor will remain un-used), adding a second processor almost never means doubling your overall performance. Once again depending on the type of application the upgraded system will be running the overall effect of a second processor varies. This can be greatly attributed to two main factors: 1) A multiprocessor system must have a method of dividing the tasks among its processors in an efficient manner, a process which often removes some of the performance benefit of having more than one processor, and 2) An operating system must be specifically written for multiprocessor systems in order to gain the most benefit from such configurations.
The key point to keep in mind is statement #2, and case in point would be the BeOS from Be Inc. If you will recall, when AnandTech reviewed the BeOS back when R2 was the currently available product, the performance increase experienced with a dual processor system over a single processor system was significant. In actuality, adding a second processor to a system running the BeOS almost doubles the system's overall performance, simply because of the manner in which the BeOS was written. So there are good implementations of multiprocessor configurations, you just need to search for them.
Installing and configuring the S2DGU wasn't too big of an ordeal, a simple jumper setup and a quick installation of AnandTech's test processor, an Intel Pentium II Xeon 400 (1MB) allowed the system to boot up fairly quickly and without any troubles. For compatibility testing a PCI sound card and a PCI Ethernet adapter were both installed, both without a hitch. Following in the standard Supermicro tradition, the AMI BIOS setup on the board (not WinBIOS this time) allows for just about every possible configuration setting to be manipulated, and both the board and BIOS are aided by two separate manuals (the other is for the Adaptec SCSI) both are well written and provided directly by Supermicro. Supermicro tops the cake off with average stability for a motherboard of this class, and a drivers/utilities CD-ROM.
The performance of the S2DGU can't really be compared to any other motherboards reviewed on AnandTech as it is the first of the batch of Xeon boards to be featured on the site, however don't expect many motherboards to deviate from the performance pattern you'll see with the S2DGU. With the final question on everyone's mind being, can you overclock the S2DGU? The shocking answer...yes. Under the chipset features setting of the AMI BIOS setup, an option for Manufacture setting is present with a default setting of Mode 0. Mode 0 corresponds to a 100MHz FSB setting, with Mode 1 also corresponding to that setting. Mode 2 is the turbo frequency of the 100MHz FSB (103MHz), and Mode 3 is the 112MHz FSB option. There are no options in the BIOS for any other FSB settings higher than 112MHz. Not too bad for a high-end server motherboard...