The Supermicro X11SPA-T Review: An Impressive Cascade Lake Workstation Motherboardby Gavin Bonshor on January 24, 2020 9:00 AM EST
The Supermicro X11SPA-T is an E-ATX sized model which is designed to be used with Intel's Xeon W-3200 and the Xeon Scalable processor family. Based on Intel's C621 chipset, it comes with a variety of core features including seven full-length PCIe 3.0 slots with four operating at x16, and another three at x8. On the storage front is four PCIe 3.0 x4 slots which include support for VROC, and eight SATA ports which allow users to build RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 arrays. Going for a more conventional route in the networking department, the Supermicro X11SPA-T has three Ethernet ports that are controlled by individual controllers. An Aquantia AQC107 10 G Ethernet controller spearheads this, with a secondary Intel I210-AT Gigabit controller, and a Realtek RTL8211E PHY controller which is dedicated to the boards IPMI. There are twelve memory slots that support both LRDIMM and RDIMM ECC DDR4 memory; this particular platform supports hex-channel memory.
|Supermicro X11SPA-T EATX Motherboard|
|Warranty Period||3 Years|
|Memory Slots (DDR4)||Twelve DDR4
Supporting 3TB 3DS ECC LRDIMM/RDIMM
Up to DDR4-2933
|Video Outputs||1 x D-Sub (IPMI)|
|Network Connectivity||Intel I210-AT Gigabit
Aquantia AQC107 10 Gigabit
Realtek RTL8211E PHY (IPMI)
|Onboard Audio||Realtek ALC888|
|PCIe Slots for Graphics (from CPU)||7 x PCIe 3.0 x16
|PCIe Slots for Other (from PCH)||N/A|
|Onboard SATA||Eight, RAID 0/1/5/10|
|Onboard M.2||4 x PCIe 3.0 x4/SATA|
|USB 3.1 (10 Gbps)||1 x Type-A Rear Panel
1 x Type-C Rear Panel
|USB 3.0 (5 Gbps)||4 x Type-A Rear Panel
1 x Header (two ports)
|USB 2.0||1 x Header (two ports)|
|Power Connectors||1 x 24-pin ATX
2 x 8pin CPU
|Fan Headers||2 x CPU (4-pin)
1 x Water Cooler power connector (4-pin
8 x System (4-pin)
|IO Panel||1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A
1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C
4 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A
3 x Network RJ45 (Intel, Aquantia, Realtek)
1 x D-Sub (IPMI)
5 x 3.5mm Audio Jacks (Realtek)
1 x S/PDIF Output (Realtek)
1 x Serial Port
As expected with a premium model on a high-end professional chipset, the single socketed Supermicro X11SPA-T has plenty of cooling options with a total of ten 4-pin headers. To assist the boards ASPEED AST2500 IPMI management controller, the rear panel includes a D-sub video output. Also on the rear panel is a single USB 3.1 G2 Type-A, one USB 3.1 G2 Type-C, and four USB 3.1 G1 Type-A ports. The five 3.5 mm audio jacks and S/PDIF optical output are powered by a Realtek ALC888 HD audio codec, which isn't high-end by any measure, but it's more than the norm for a board aimed at professional use case scenarios.
As per our testing policy, we take a high-end CPU suitable for the motherboard that was released during the socket’s initial launch, and equip the system with a suitable amount of memory running at the processor maximum supported frequency. This is also typically run at JEDEC subtimings where possible. It is noted that some users are not keen on this policy, stating that sometimes the maximum supported frequency is quite low, or faster memory is available at a similar price, or that the JEDEC speeds can be prohibitive for performance. While these comments make sense, ultimately very few users apply memory profiles (either XMP or other) as they require interaction with the BIOS, and most users will fall back on JEDEC supported speeds - this includes home users as well as industry who might want to shave off a cent or two from the cost or stay within the margins set by the manufacturer. Where possible, we will extend out testing to include faster memory modules either at the same time as the review or a later date.
To utilize the C246 chipset and for the Supermicro X11SCA-W review specifically, we used an Intel Xeon E-2186G processor which has similar specifications to the Core i7-8700K; the Xeon E-2186 has a 100 MHz increase on the base frequency, while the turbo clocks remain the same across both processors (4.7 GHz).
|Processor||Intel Xeon W-3235 180W, $1398,
12 Cores, 24 Threads, 3.3 GHz (4.4 GHz Turbo)
|Cooling||Noctua U14S DX-3647|
|Power Supply||Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 1200W Gold PSU|
|Memory||2x16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2400
Ran at DDR4-2666
|Video Card||ASUS GTX 980 STRIX (1178/1279 Boost)|
|Hard Drive||Crucial MX300 1TB|
|Case||Open Test Bed|
|Operating System||Windows 10 RS3 inc. Spectre/Meltdown Patches|
Readers of our motherboard review section will have noted the trend in modern motherboards to implement a form of MultiCore Enhancement / Acceleration / Turbo (read our report here) on their motherboards. This does several things, including better benchmark results at stock settings (not entirely needed if overclocking is an end-user goal) at the expense of heat and temperature. It also gives, in essence, an automatic overclock which may be against what the user wants. Our testing methodology is ‘out-of-the-box’, with the latest public BIOS installed and XMP enabled, and thus subject to the whims of this feature. It is ultimately up to the motherboard manufacturer to take this risk – and manufacturers taking risks in the setup is something they do on every product (think C-state settings, USB priority, DPC Latency / monitoring priority, overriding memory sub-timings at JEDEC). Processor speed change is part of that risk, and ultimately if no overclocking is planned, some motherboards will affect how fast that shiny new processor goes and can be an important factor in the system build.
Many thanks to...
We must thank the following companies for kindly providing hardware for our multiple test beds. Some of this hardware is not in this test bed specifically, but is used in other testing.
|Sapphire RX 460 Nitro||MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X OC||Crucial MX300 +
|Corsair AX860i +