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16 cores in action: Asus Z9PE-D8 WS and Intel Xeon E5-2687W
by Guillaume Louel
Published on September 26, 2012

BIOS/UEFI

The motherboard’s server origins can be seen in the BIOS interface, which, while a UEFI BIOS, still has a text interface. There are numerous settings and while the interface is coherent overall, we did however note certain details which show an approach that is midway between a server product and a consumer one. Note for information that the boot time of the platform was relatively long. We measured it at 28 seconds between switching it on from cold and launching the operating system (limiting the POST report to 1 second). Most of this time is used detecting the processors and configuring the memory. It would take more than twenty seconds for a full configuration not including getting to a screen image. While this doesn’t compare well to general consumer platforms, it’s quite fast for a motherboard of this type.


As with general consumer cards, there’s a version of the AI Tweaker menu which allows overclocking. It is however rather minimal and using manual mode allows you to change the clock frequency and processor ratio. Note however that although BCLK overclocking is on, you can’t chose the multiplier in the BIOS as you could on the X79 platforms (see our test here). While you will be able to change the processor ratio on an unblocked Core i7 processor, this isn’t the case for a Xeon. This type of platform hasn’t been designed for overclocking by Intel and while we don't disapprove of the efforts made by Asus, in practice you won't want to overclock it.

This doesn’t however mean that the AI Tweaker menu is entirely pointless. Apart from the processor voltages (Vcore and Vuncore), there are four distinct memory voltages. The ABCD channels are the four channels of the first processor and EFGH those of the second. This flexibility is particularly welcome and allowed us to boot some rather esoteric memory configurations. We were thus able to mix these 4 GB bars on each socket at the same time:
  • Two G.Skill bars, XMP 1.65V 2133 MHz, 9-11-9 (SPD 1.5V 1600 MHz, 11-11-11)
  • An AMD Memory/Patriot SPD 1.5V 1600 MHz bar at 9-9-9
  • A Kingston XMP 1.65V 1600 MHz bar at 9-9-9 (SPD 1.5V 1333 MHz, 9-9-9)

Without any particular setting, this set-up starts at 1333 MHz 9-9-9, but we managed to force 1600 MHz 9-9-9 without any problem. The Intel memory controllers are relatively flexible and the fact that there are individual voltage settings helps though it doesn’t guarantee that all configurations are possible! Note that while you do get the timings settings, the memory clock setting isn't in this tab…





You have to go into the advanced menu to find the long (!) list of menus. The memory speed is hidden in the chipset settings and this is also where memory controller modes are chosen (mirroring or independent and whether or not NUMA is on). When it comes to originalities, note an SCU SAS option which can pilot an LSI Megaraid controller, which is available as an option and which transforms the four SCU ports into SAS ports. Note also support for WHEA, a Microsoft error report protocol, as well as being able to restart a ROM on any PCI Express slot (to make it possible to boot a PCI Express SSD or an additional RAID card). Another particularity is the log page showing hardware dysfunctions. They’re most useful in remote management situations to monitor any problems that come up.



Otherwise the options are standard though the BIOS, EZ Update update tool is slightly original with its consumer Asus BIOS skin.

Software

Apart from the drivers, the Asus software offer consists of just two server management utilities: a network monitoring tool and ASWM Enterprise, a suite of tools designed for remote management of the platform and which has numerous prerequisites, even to function locally (the web IIS server and SQL server to mention just two). In spite of installing the prerequisites, the ASWM installation file wouldn’t install on our Windows 7 platform. In itself this isn’t necessarily a problem for general consumer/workstation usage and applications such as hwinfo64 gave us access to monitoring. If Asus had supplied a utility that was a little less constrictive however it wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad thing.

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