Motherboard marries Pentium-4 with PCI-X
By Alex Mendleson
05/17/2004 11:00 AM ET
Board maker Supermicro (San Jose, Calif.) has a new motherboard called the P4SCT+II that puts an Intel Pentium-4 processor on the PCI-X high-bandwidth architecture. SuperMicro's P4SCT+II's provides Internet and multimedia functions for applications ranging from gaming to graphics-intensive workstations.
"For workstation users, the P4SCT+II has now become our Pentium-4 platform of choice," Chris Connolly wrote in a recent report in GamePC.
"As if four ports of PCI-X-connected Serial ATA/150 RAID wasn't enough, the SuperMicro board also features two more Serial ATA/150 RAID ports connected directly to the Intel Hence Rapids south-bridge controller. Since these ports are native to the south-bridge, they can run without any special drivers and are wicked fast."
The new motherboard also leverages Intel's latest E7210 chipset. It's first single-processor chipset that boasts 64-bit functions, permitting standard inexpensive Pentium-4 microprocessors to be paired with high-bandwidth PCI-X slots.
"Since the board is based on the 875P architecture, the P4SCT+II also benefits from Intel's CSA (Communications and Streaming Architecture)," adds Connolly. "It provides a dedicated 266-Mbyte/s pipe to the Gigabit Ethernet controller; it doesn't have to travel through the PCI bus." Connolly also describes how SuperMicro used an AGP Pro slot. It enables workstation users with high-voltage graphics cards to benefit from the platform. "The board has five PCI slots, three of them being 64-bit PCI-X slots, and two being standard 32-bit PCI slots," says Connolly.
"Both are connected to the Hence Rapids south-bridge, but the 64-bit PCI-X slots are capable of supporting four times the bandwidth of a conventional 32-bit PCI slot (533-Mbytes/s to 133-Mbytes/s)."
"The Hence Rapids PCI-X implementation isn't as high-end as the dedicated PCI-X chips on Xeon boards---but I don't think anyone will argue that adding higher-speed expansion connectivity to the Pentium 4 platform is a bad thing."
A High-Speed Controller
The Supermicro P4SCT+II also takes advantage of a new high-speed controller. "The fourth PCI-X connection is connected to a Marvell 88SX5040 Serial ATA/150 Serial ATA/150 RAID controller," notes Connolly. "It supports up to four Serial ATA/150 disks supporting RAID-0 and RAID-1."
"To our knowledge, this is the first PCI-X-connected Serial ATA/150 controller to hit the market and be implemented on a motherboard, which high-end workstation users will no doubt like." Connolly's benchmark tests of the P4SCT+II revealed that it performed well against other motherboards using Pentium-4 processors and PCI, too. "Testing the P4SCT+II on an array of storage functions, we saw very little performance differences between the various chipsets in single-disk JBOD and two-disk RAID-1 scenarios. But, we did see some impressive performance gains in a RAID-0 environment."
Connolly also ran tests using game software. "Gaming performance looks good on the SuperMicro board, again putting up numbers on par with other high-end Pentium-4 platforms. This should also translate well for 3D content creation. The E7210 AGP implementation with dual-channel DDR-400 memory interface helps the board perform well in 3D applications."
"While we've seen other Pentium-4 motherboards try to cater to the workstation market," adds Connolly, "the P4SCT+II is the first P4 platform which actually gives us the feeling of a workstation-class motherboard. The board performs great in terms of raw CPU, graphics, and (especially) storage benchmarks."
For more details, contact Super Micro Computer, Inc., 980 Rock Ave., San Jose, Calif. 95131. Phone: (408) 503-8000. Fax: (408) 503-8008.