Supermicro X11SAE Workstation (Intel C236) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging


Intel recently released their Greenlow based Skylake series Xeon CPUs and it’s a pleasure to take a look at the first enterprise-grade motherboard built for these processors today. I have Supermicro’s X11SAE motherboard on the test bench which is a standard ATX-sized single CPU board, but one with all the trimmings.

“Supermicro’s new X11 UP workstations, long-life embedded systems and motherboards integrate the latest technologies such as USB 3.1 and M.2 as well as step up performance, density and efficiency to provide a new generation of Green Computing solutions,” said Charles Liang, President and CEO of Supermicro. “Indeed, with Supermicro’s first-to-market integration, advanced engineering and architecture expertise, we deliver the widest range of Skylake-S platforms available to the industry, enabling our customers with exactly the best competitive advantage on the market.”

Supermicro’s X11SAE doesn’t just support the new Greenlow Intel Xeon E3-1200 v5 family CPUs, you can also use 6th Gen Core i7, i5, i3, Pentium, and Celeron series processors. The brain behind the motherboard is the new C236 chipset which comes with a lot of enhancements over the predecessors and Supermicro generally added the newest technologies to this motherboard. Additionally, the motherboard supports up to 64GB DDR4 2133MHz ECC UDIMMs in its 4 sockets. While this motherboard does support ECC and non-ECC modules, it doesn’t support RDIMMS, so make sure you get the right ones.

There are plenty of storage features on this motherboard with the eight native SATA3 6 Gbps ports provided directly by the chipset. The ports support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 for that extra spice in your storage setup and the motherboard also has two SuperDOM ports with built-in power. You’ll also find a next-gen PCIe M.2 slot beside the default SATA3 ports, allowing you to get that extra speed. The M.2 slot doesn’t support AHCI modules, but 2242, 2260, and 2280 PCIe modules will run at a great speed thanks to the x4 slot.

Further expansion can be added through the two PCI-E 3.0 x16 and three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots. The Supermicro X11SAE also features two legacy 5V PCI 32-bit slots for use with older hardware despite the upgrade to the newest platform.

Externally the X11SAE has two Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 LAN ports where one is powered by an Intel i210-AT and the other is powered by an Intel i219LM chip. There’s also a DVI, a DisplayPort, and an HDMI out for use when processors with iGPU are inserted into the motherboard. Further, you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.1 ports on the rear IO area. The USB 3.1 ports sport the increased bandwidth and power which allows it to run with up to 10Gbps.

Internally you can connect an additionally four USB 3.0 and size USB 2.0 ports. The motherboard also features two COM port headers, an ALC 888S 7.1 HD Audio chip, a TPM 1.2 header, and much more.

A workstation motherboard also needs a good set of monitoring abilities. You can connect up to five PWM fans with status monitor for speed control, on/off settings, and tachometer. The temperature monitoring includes the CPU and chassis environment as well as CPU thermal trip support and I2C temperature sensing logic and Thermal Monitor 2 (TM2) support.

As a Supermicro motherboard, we also have the benefits of their SuperDoctor 5 software that monitors system health of hardware and operating system services from the target nodes in real-time and provides alerts to administrators on the availability of systems in data centers.

Specifications

The specifications are taken directly from the manufacturers product page and can as such be subject to changes in future revisions of the product.

Key Features:

  • Single socket H4 (LGA 1151) supports: Intel Xeon processor E3-1200 v5, Intel 6th Gen. Core i7/i5/i3 series, Intel Celeron and Intel Pentium
  • Intel C236 chipset
  • Up to 64GB Unbuffered ECC/non-ECC, UDIMM DDR4 2133MHz; 4x DIMM slots
  • 2 PCI-E 3.0 x16 (run at 16/NA or 8/8), 3 PCI-E 3.0 x1 (in x4), and 2 5V PCI 32-bit slots
  • Single GbE LAN with Intel i210-AT, Single GbE LAN with Intel i219LM
  • 8x SATA3 (6Gbps) via C236; RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 + 1 PCIe M.2 (support PCIe x4 only, 2242/2260/2280)
  • I/O: 2x COM, TPM 1.2 header
  • 2x SuperDOM with built-in power
  • 6x USB 3.0 (2 rear + 4 via header), 8x USB 2.0 (2 rear + 6 via headers), 2x USB 3.1 (10Gbps, rear)

Packaging and Accessories

The Supermicro X11SAE comes in a neutral package and that’s all that’s needed for a board like this. It isn’t one you’ll find on a shelve in the local store while browsing around, it’s one your order because you know it’s the one you want. There’s still a sticker on the side that will tell you what’s inside and what the base specifications are.

The rear of the box explains a little bit about the series of motherboards which this one is part off. You get basic information about the series as well as a quick view of optimized chassis and systems.

Inside the box we find four SATA3 cables and the IO shield next to the motherboard itself.

GIGABYTE Launches 5 New Greenlow-Based HEDT Motherboards

GIGABYTE launched a complete new series of High-End Desktop (HEDT) motherboards with the new X170 and X150 series motherboards that are based on Intel’s C236 and C232 chipsets and with support for Intel’s Xeon E3-1200 v5 processors as well as ECC memory. Besides the Xeon compatibility, you can also use 6th generation Core, Pentium, and Celeron processors in these new boards.

The Xeon CPUs come with quite a bit more power than the ordinary desktop CPUs and they are perfect for photographers, designers, and video editors where the software can take a real advantage of the underlying architecture. GIGABYTE is so sure of these products that Henry Kao, the Vice President of GIGABYTE’s motherboard business commented it as “the best HEDT experience” [sic]. The new Intel generation brings some great improvements. Not only are the new Skylake based Xeon’s built on the 14nm technology, the new C230 series chipsets bring along support for faster, better, and more memory. The boards support up to 64GB DDR4 memory with 2133MHz compared to the max of 32GB at 1866MHz on the previous generation. There are also the added bonuses of improved manageability, increased I/O bandwidth, and enhanced processor graphics to name a few.

In the new GIGABYTE series are boards with ECC support and some without, depending on what you need. The X170-Extreme ECC, X150-PRO ECC, and X150M-PRO ECC boards all support it and it can be a useful feature as it can eliminate small data discrepancies and prevent data corruption to ensure reliability for critical applications while also helping to reduce system crashes. Another thing that can help your productivity a lot is how GIGABYTE designed the motherboard. The first PCIe lane on these motherboards is a direct x16 Gen.3 lane to the processor that offers 128Gb/s unrestricted bandwidth to your graphics card.

The new boards also come with all other modern features such as USB 3.1, M.2, and PCI-Express connections. U.2 drives can also be used through an M.2 adapter to give you the fastest possible storage solutions available. On the flagship X170-Extreme ECC motherboard, you’ll also find the Killer E2400 Gigabit Ethernet Controller which is classified as the world’s most advanced networking detection and prioritization technology for consumer and enthusiast users. The adapter delivers industry-leading latency performance, offering more powerful network control, improved latency, reduced jitter and virtually eliminates video freezes so users can play, watch and stream games all at the same time. At least on the paper.

At the time of writing, not all product pages have gone online yet, so we can’t provide details on all of the boards. The X170-Extreme ECC and X150-PRO ECC are still missing. The X150-Plus WS, X150M-Plus WS, and X150M-PRO ECC are online and you can find the highlights for those below.

X150-Plus WS

  • Supports the Intel® Xeon® E3-1200 v5 processor and 6th Gen. Intel® Core i3/ Pentium®/ Celeron® Processor
  • Dual Channel DDR4, 4 DIMMs
  • 2-Way Graphics with Premium PCIe Lane
  • PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 Connector with up to 32Gb/s Data Transfer (PCIe & SATA SSD support)
  • SATA Express Connector for up to 16Gb/s Data Transfer
  • 8-channel HD Audio with High-Quality Audio Capacitors
  • Audio Noise Guard with LED Trace Path Lighting
  • Intel® GbE LAN with cFosSpeed Internet Accelerator Software
  • APP Center Including EasyTune and Cloud Station Utilities
  • GIGABYTE UEFI DualBIOS Technology

X150M-PRO ECC

  • Supports Intel® Xeon E3-1200 v5 and 6th Generation Intel® Core i3 Processors
  • Dual Channel DDR4, 4 DIMMs with ECC support
  • 2-Way Graphics with Premium PCIe Lane
  • PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 Connector with up to 32Gb/s Data Transfer (PCIe NVMe & SATA SSD support)
  • SATA Express Connectors for up to 16Gb/s Data Transfer
  • Intel® GbE LAN with cFosSpeed Internet Accelerator Software
  • 8-channel HD Audio with High Quality Audio Capacitors
  • Audio Noise Guard with LED Trace Path Lighting
  • APP Center Including EasyTune and Cloud Station Utilities
  • GIGABYTE UEFI DualBIOS Technology

X150M-PLUS WS

  • Supports the Intel® Xeon® E3-1200 v5 processor and 6th Gen. Intel® Core i3/ Pentium®/ Celeron® Processor
  • Dual Channel DDR4, 2 DIMMs
  • 8-channel HD Audio with High Quality Audio Capacitors
  • Audio Noise Guard with LED Trace Path Lighting
  • Realtek® GbE LAN with cFosSpeed Internet Accelerator Software
  • APP Center Including EasyTune and Cloud Station Utilities
  • Support Intel® Small Business Basics

MSI Announces Two C236 Based WORKSTATION Motherboards

MSI already has a line of mobile workstations and it looks like they would like a bigger piece of the workstation pie as they’ve just introduced two new workstation motherboards based on Intel’s latest Greenlow platform and C230 series chipsets. The two new motherboards are the MSI C236A WORKSTATION and the MSI C236M WORKSTATION where the difference in the two is the size and a PCI Express connector more or less.

The C236A is a full-sized ATX motherboard while the C236M is an mATX version instead that naturally lacks one of the PCI Express slots due to the size limitations. Naturally the boards are designed for the use of Nvidia Quadro and AMD FirePro graphics cards in both single and multi-GPU scenarios. The PCI-E slots also got the Steel Armor treatment for better stability.

MSI also added some of their other well-known features such as DDR4 Boost, Military Class 4 components, Audio Boost, Intel Gigabit LAN and Click BIOS 5. There are plenty of storage options too including the newest Turbo M.2, Turbo U.2 and SATA Express connectors. You will also find the new reversible USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port on the IO area.

That is what we know of MSI’s new Workstation motherboards so far. The press release didn’t reveal much and the product pages don’t appear to be online yet. I am however sure that we will find out a lot more coming CES in Vegas January 2016.

ASRock Rack Introduce Three Greenlow Platform Server Motherboards

Intel’s recent release of Skylake Xeon CPUs also sparked the release of a lot of new motherboards and just a few weeks ago we saw ASRock Rack’s new workstation motherboards based on the new C236 chipset. Today, ASRock Rack introduced three new server motherboards for this platform, well suited for high-density web 2.0 and storage servers.

The first of the three new motherboards is micro-ATX sized and called the ASRock Rack E3C236D4U. It can easily fit in a rack or short depth chassis while still providing plenty of features and connectivity. The chipset provides eight SATA3 ports where one of them supports DOMs, and you get one PCIe x16, one PCIe x8, and one PCIe x1 slot along with a PCIe x4 slot that shares the bandwidth with the onboard M.2 connector. Network connectivity is covered by two Intel i210 controllers while it also features dedicated IPMI 2.0 with KVM and RTL8211E LAN. With four DIMM slots at your disposal, you can install up to 64GB DDR4 2133/1866 ECC and UDIMM memory.

ASRock Rack also introduced a lighter version of this board called the E3C232D4U-V1L (not pictured). It has basically the same features but comes with the lighter C232 chipset. That limits the SATA3 ports to six and it only features a single Intel LAN controller and no dedicated IPMI.

The second new motherboard in this series is a full ATX sized motherboard called the E3C236D4M, and it comes with 8 SATA3 ports provided by the Intel C236 chipset just like the Micro-ATX brother. It also supports up to 64GB DDR4 2133MHz dual-channel memory and it has dual Intel i210 Gigabit Ethernet controllers and onboard IPMI 2.0 with dedicated RTL8211E LAN. Expansion port wise you get two PCIe x16, two PCIe x8, and one PCIe x1 connector along with a legacy PCI one. The motherboard also features two mezzanine slots for adding up to 40Gbit extra network connectivity or SAS controllers. An M.2 connector is also present to connect those new and fast NVMe drives.

The last of the three new motherboards is called the E3C236D2I and it is an mITX sized board. The small size makes it easy to deploy as a micro server, mini servers, or tower servers no matter whether you are enterprise NAS users or just a power home users. The board supports two DDR4 ECC DIMMs with a speed up to 2133MHz and also comes with eight SATA3 ports and dual Intel LAN (i210+i219). For expansion, you get a single PCIe x16 slot which should be plenty in such small systems.

ASRock Rack didn’t reveal and pricing or availability at this time, but we can expect them to hit the online and retail shops very shortly.

Intel Releases Xeon E3-1200 V5 Greenlow Processors

The release of Intel’s Greenlow platform has been anticipated for a while and now it is finally upon us. Intel announced the official release of the first Xeon E3-1200 V5 Greenlow processors that support the new C236 chipset. The new CPUs are designed for the low-end workstation area more than the microserver area where its predecessors were targeted.

Intel released a total of 11 new Xeon E3-1200 processors and all of them have four cores, no more dual-cores. Most of these new processors have Hyper Threading and it is only three of them that come without. The base clock ranges from 2GHz to 3.7GHz while the turbo clock ranges from 3.0GHz to 4.0GHz. The TDP is 80W on eight of them, one comes with a 45W TDP, and two with a low 25W TDP. Four of the new CPUs also have an HD P530 iGPU. You can check the summary in the chart below or head over to Intel’s ARK for the complete specifications of all the new chips.

The new processors support both ECC and non-ECC DIMMs with a capacity up to 16GB per modules. When it comes to the iGPU, we get a 4K 60Hz capable output with 350MHz base frequency and a maximum shared memory up to 1.7GB. It is fully DirectX 12 and OpenGL 4.4 compatible while supporting up to three displays simultaneously. The SATA connection count also got upped a bit over the predecessor, the new processors now support up to 8 SATA3 drives on Greenlow, from the previous 6 on the predecessor chips.

Manufacturers of motherboards are naturally ready for this release, so we can expect a lot of new C230 based motherboards to hit the market very soon.