Supermicro A1SAM-2750F Review – A mATX Avoton solution with 2 PCIe Slots

12
Posted June 27, 2014 by in Supermicro
Supermicro A1SAM-2750F Airflow Alignment

Rating

Design & Aesthetics
9.5


Performance
9.5


Feature Set
9.0


Value for the Application
9.5


Total Score
9.4

9.4/ 10

Year: 2014
 
Vendor:
 
Server Class:
 

:

Intel i354 quad Ethernet onboard. mATX form factor with two PCIe slots. An open ended x8 slot which allows for adding larger x16 cards. Cool PCIe expansion area optimizes cooling for add-in cards. Stable platform.
 

:

Lower onboard device integration opting instead for exposing PCIe lanes to slots
 

The Supermicro A1SAM-2750F is the first Intel Avoton C2750 solution we have seen in a mATX form factor. Supermicro gives us a great, low power processor with its four Intel i354 NICs, IPMI management, full size DIMM slots and two PCIe slots. This makes the A1SAM-2750F perhaps one of the most expandable Intel Atom C2000 platforms.

by Patrick Kennedy
Full Article

Today we are looking at a very unique solution based on Intel’s low power Avoton SoC: the Supermicro A1SAM-2750F. The platform features a mATX Supermicro motherboard with an embedded Intel Atom C2750 SoC. The SoC is an 8 core design which we have a dedicated performance thread in the forums on. We also published power consumption and Intel Atom C2750 performance numbers using Supermicro platforms. To date, all of the Intel Atom C2000 series platforms we have reviewed have either been in a mITX form factor or in custom form factors for high-density applications. Practically, that limits designs to a maximum of one expansion slot. Supermicro saw the need for a larger form factor with a greater ability to customize and released the A1SAM-2750F to address this market.

Test Configurations

Due to the SoC design, the Intel Atom C2750 platform is very compact and requires very little to get up and running. STH has more Intel Atom C2000 reviews live than other sites at this point so we do have quite a bit of experience with the platforms in general. We are keeping this platform as much in-line with previous configurations as we can.

  • Motherboard/ CPU: Supermicro A1SAM-2750F with Intel C2750 Avoton 8C/ 8T SoC
  • SSD: Intel S3700 100GB SSD
  • Memory: 32GB (4x 8GB) 1600MHz 1.35v DDR3 DIMMs, 16GB (4x4GB) 1600MHz 1.35v DDR3 DIMMs by SK.Hynix
  • OS: Ubuntu 13.10, CentOS 6.5, Hyper-V Server 2012 R2
  • Power supply: 1U 200w 80+ Gold PWS-203-1H

We also utilized our standard array of PCIe add-on cards along with Seagate and Western Digital spindle drives to text maximum configurations, but those were our two main test beds. We only used PCIe x1 and x4 add-in cards with the x4 slot due to physical size limitations.

The Supermicro A1SAM-2750F

Looking at the Supermicro A1SAM-2750F we see a motherboard that is in many ways similar to the Supermicro A1SAi-2750F but that has some stark contrasts. The biggest one is perhaps the physical size at 9.6″ x 7.5″ it is a mATX form factor.

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F Overview

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F Overview

Perhaps the most exciting feature are the two PCIe expansion slots. The Supermicro A1SAM-2750F has both a PCIe 2.0 x8 and x4 slots. One excellent design feature is the PCIe x8 slot is open ended. That means that one can install PCIe x16 physical cards into the motherboard even if they run at x8 electrically. Supermicro also keeps the area behind the PCIe x8 slot clear so there is clearance to fit another card.

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F PCIe slots

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F PCIe slots

In terms of overall layout and airflow, the 20w TDP part requires very little cooling. The DDR3 DIMM slots are aligned with proper front to back server airflow considerations in mind. As we will see in our thermal imaging results, the impact of combining solid airflow and very cool running system components on a motherboard is excellent.

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F Airflow Alignment

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F Airflow Alignment

One major feature of the platform is the use of full-length standard DDR3 SODIMMs. In this shot we have SK.Hynix 1.35v DIMMs. In a low power platform such as this one, low voltage memory has a large overall percentage impact on the platform power.

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F ATX Power Connector

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F ATX Power Connector

There is also another change from the Supermicro A1SAi-2750F we reviewed previously. There is no 4-pin power connector atop the motherboard. Nor is there a USB 3.0 front panel header. Instead there is a USB 2.0 internal port which is excellent for VMware ESXi boot devices as an example.

Along with the internal USB header, one can see two SATA III ports and four SATA II ports. There is even a SATADOM power connector for embedded applications. These SATA ports emanate from the Intel Atom C2750 onboard.

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F SATA and USB Port

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F SATA and USB Port

The rear panel of the A1SAM-2750F also differs from Supermicro’s other offerings in that there are four USB 2.0 ports. This design trade-off is easy to understand as Supermicro used the PCIe lanes from an added USB 3.0 controller to instead drive an extra PCIe slot. Legacy VGA and serial connectors round out the standard I/O functionality

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F Rear IO Ports

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F Rear IO Ports

One can also see five RJ-45 ports on the rear of the motherboard. One is a dedicated IPMI network port driven by the ASPEED AST2400 chip seen just above the VGA connector. The other four ports are gigabit Ethernet ports. Supermicro utilized the onboard Intel i354 and a Marvell PHY to provide the platform with quad LAN capabilities. While other vendors have used NICs with lower costs and fewer features, this design choice by Supermicro is excellent. For those wondering, in OSes such as Microsoft Windows, RHEL, CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, Mint, VMware EXSi, FreeBSD 10 and etc. the NICs appear as Intel i354 NICs. Most operating systems have supported these NICs out of the box since the beginning of 2014.

Thermal Imaging

For our thermal imaging tests we use our new FLIR Ex series thermal imaging camera with FLIR’s new MSX software to show details overlaid on the 320×240 thermal image.

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F Thermal Imaging

Supermicro A1SAM-2750F Thermal Imaging

As mentioned earlier, the platform is extremely low power. We managed to get excellent results with all ICs running well below rated temperatures. Furthermore, for those considering adding hot PCIe cards, the A1SAM-2750F’s bottom runs extremely cool.

Software and Management

Supermicro’s IPMI and KVM-over-IP as described a few times on this site, allows for a lot of deployment flexibility. Things such as fan speeds, chassis intrusion sensors, thermal sensors, and etc. can be monitored remotely. Alerts can be setup to notify the admins of issues. Beyond this, the functionality also allows for remote power control. You can do remote power up, power down, and reset of the server in the event that it becomes unresponsive. In fact, the test system has never had a keyboard, mouse, CD/DVD ROM, or monitor hooked up to it, even after multiple BIOS tweaks and operating system/ hypervisor installations.

Supermicro Mount Images on IPMI 2.0

Supermicro Mount Images on IPMI 2.0

Another important feature is the ability to remotely mount CD images and floppy images to the machine over the dedicated management Ethernet controller. This keeps maintenance traffic off of the primary Intel NICs. At the same time it removes the need for an optical disk to be connected to the Supermicro motherboard. Combined with the onboard Type-A USB 2.0 header, mounting OS installation or recovery images remotely is a very simple affair.

Conclusion

Overall the trade-off of removing USB 3.0 and increase in size benefit those who want to further customize Intel Atom C2750 platforms. The decision to use the Intel i354 as a great one as it is a relatively high-quality onboard quad port NIC. The ability to utilize industry standard DDR3 UDIMMs in the platform lowers the overall cost of the platform slightly. There are a variety of use cases where the A1SAM-2750F makes a lot of sense including network appliances and cold storage servers. As a result of this innovation, along with the platform’s stability, the A1SAM-2750F receives very high marks in our testing.


About the Author

Patrick Kennedy

Patrick has been running ServeTheHome since 2009 and covers a wide variety of home and small business IT topics. For his day job, Patrick is a management consultant focused in the technology industry and has worked with numerous large hardware and storage vendors in the Silicon Valley. The goal of STH is simply to help users find some information about basic server building blocks. If you have any helpful information please feel free to post on the forums.

12 Comments


  1.  
    Pantagruel

    Nice review.

    The IPMI/KVM is definitely a nice feature. To this day I haven’t regretted shelling out the addition dosh for a X9SMC-F. Even for an enthusiast/home user it can be very useful if you have a headless box some where in a cupboard/basement corner.

    “Instead there is a USB 2.0 internal port which is excellent for VMware ESXi boot devices as an example.” The only downside is the lack of Vt-d support from the C2750, otherwise it would have made a great ESXi platform to host vm’s with each a dedicated nic.




  2.  
    kriewald

    Too bad: With a larger heatsink the 60mm fan wouldn’t be necessary.

    As you can see in the pictures: The fan is screwed from below through the heatsink, not simply from the top. If the fan fails, you can’t unscrew it from above, you have to disassemble the heatsink.

    Aside from this, I liked the board very much. I’m using it without any problems as ESX 5.5 host since two months!

    Would be nice to have another version of the board with a 10GbE port, it’s a feature of the Atom C2000 (4x 2.5GbE on the CPU, here used as 4x 1GbE only).




  3.  
    Lost-Benji

    Not a bad option. The price is still on the higher side like a lot of these newer all-in-ones. The 2.5GbE doesn’t phase me as I find it just a gimmick, 1GbE or 10GbE, there are a couple of PCI-e slots now. The crappy looking and poorly thought-out idea of the HSF is a lemon idea though. A bigger passive sink or even with a serviceable fan would have been better welcomed.




  4.  
    Malakai

    Finally an Avoton that looks interesting to me. Not that I’ll be replacing my freenas setup anytime soon.

    Theres a silkscreen for an additional 4x slot, wonder if they’ll release another model.

    It’s never going to happen but something like this, with ECC and 8 ram slots instead of four would be perfect.




  5.  
    Simon

    Excuse the (probably) silly question, but how viable are these as a “basic” virtualization server? I’m currently running a PowerEdge T610, with an E5520 in it. It’s doing windows file sharing for my home, plus 2 or 3 low spec VM’s (Windows 7, just for isolation) off of 24GB RAM. It’s been a great box but is very loud and feasts on power. The noise and the size are my primary concern, Efficiency is a bonus.

    Most of my storage is in a Norco chassis so drive space isn’t much of an issue. I’m wondering if something like this would be viable as a replacement performance wise when specced with 32GB.

    http://cpuboss.com/cpus/Intel-Xeon-E5520-vs-Intel-Atom-C2750

    Suggests there’s not all that much in it – particularly given that the box rarely runs >20% busy.

    I’m really not at all familiar with the new Atoms so any thoughts kindly received.

    Simon




    •  

      Versus a single E5520 a C2750 will be roughly equivalent. Not a speed upgrade but major power upgrade. Also, you will get more LAN ports which is nice. The one thing you may miss is VT-d if you use that.




      •  
        Simon

        Bit of a delay in my reply, but thank you. A single 5520 has been more than sufficient to meet my needs these last years so this is looking quite promising.




  6.  
    Peter

    Any possibility to review the A1SA7-2750F and compare the power consumptions between the different Supermicro boards.





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