If you are looking for something different in the embedded space, the AMD EPYC 3201 is an absolutely fascinating specimen. In our AMD EPYC 3201 review, we are going to show you why it will bring refreshing competition into the market.
Introduction to Our AMD EPYC 3201 Review Journey
Although John has gallantly taken over many of the CPU review pieces for STH, this is one I wanted to do myself as a follow-up to our world first exclusive AMD EPYC 3251 Benchmarks and Review. We attended the AMD EPYC 3000 launch about a year ago in London. In that year, we saw a few boards in the wild, but there has been something missing: retail mITX and ATX platforms that can be used by channel cobblers and embedded suppliers to build a new and engaging class of products. Frankly, this is a space where Arm will eventually play a bigger role, but for years the embedded x86 market has been dominated by Intel.
Since then, I have personally been voicing the STH community’s desire to see the AMD EPYC 3000 series in standard channel form factors. Many times, a small mITX motherboard is really the best option out there to get people to adopt a new platform. Even NVIDIA’s Jetson TX2 developer platform is an mITX motherboard. In the year since its launch, I have been pressing hard because the market needs an alternative to the Intel Xeon D. Competition drives benefits for customers and the entire ecosystem.
Key stats for the AMD EPYC 3201: 8 cores / 8 threads running at a 1.5GHz base clock and up to 3.1GHz turbo. Cache stands at 16MB L3 cache. We are told this chip has a TDP of only 30W, making it only a 5W upgrade over some of the Intel Atom line.
We wanted to note here that the AMD EPYC 3201 is the only model that utilizes only 2133MHz DDR4 speeds. Given the 30W TDP spec, it seems like this was not done to artificially segment specs. Instead, it seems to be an indication that AMD needed to drop memory controller speeds to hit the low 30W TDP. Here AMD has a part with twice the number of active physical cores and cache as the EPYC 3151 but that EPYC 3151 has a 50% higher TDP.
Here is what the lscpu output looks like for the chips:
I have been told not to release details on our exact test configuration just yet, but I expect to be able to soon. The platform is retail-ready. I know we normally go into detail about our test platforms, this one we are going to have to wait on but expect a thorough STH review as we already have testing done for this and several others. [Edit 2019-02-22: Updated with the test platform.]
- CPU: AMD EPYC 3201
- Motherboard: Supermicro M11SDV-8CT-LN4F
- RAM: 2x 32GB DDR4-2133 RDIMMs
- SSD: Intel DC S3710 400GB
A few notes. The platform we are testing on has a few features that our readers will be interested in. These include the ability to bifurcate the PCIe x16 slot into x4 x4 x4 x4 or x8 x8. We also found SRIO-V support and IOMMU support onboard.
Here is an overview of the M11SDV platform, including the Supermicro M11SDV-8CT-LN4F we are using for our review:
We will have a review of the platform, and disclose more when we get the OK to. There are still a few features I want to see in the platform, but I am happy to report that the platform we have worked perfectly out of the box. Ubuntu 18.04.2 installed without issue, recognized all of the devices and just worked out of the box. If you are using a Ubuntu 14.04 LTS era kernel you may run into challenges, but modern kernels handle the architecture fine.
Docker installed and worked. We joined the platforms to our Kubernetes cluster without issue. We enabled and launched KVM virtual machines without issue. We are well beyond the days of the initial Zen launch to where AMD’s cores are as easy to run on modern kernels as Intel’s cores. That is important for the market and the customers and organizations who are looking to buy in the embedded space.
I also wanted to address our previous AMD EPYC 3251 benchmarks. We utilized our Wallaby platforms and got to numbers we felt OK to publish in our September 2018 AMD EPYC 3251 Benchmarks and Review article. We tested two of the same upcoming AMD EPYC 3251 platforms and the new platforms were within +/- 1.5% of our Wallaby platforms. We also double-checked adding even more cooling just to see if that would change performance and it did not. 1.5% is outside what we consider OK for run variances, but are greater than we usually see. At the same time, I made the call that we would utilize our original AMD EPYC 3251 figures as-is. We now have four AMD EPYC 3251 chips in the lab and two different platforms that are within our testing tolerance.
Please note that as with our upcoming Intel Atom C3758 review, we are going to keep our power consumption figures tied to the platform that these embedded chips are found on. We customarily do this since in the embedded space when SoCs can take tens of watts and a NIC plus BMC can add another 20W, the platform itself is a much larger overall proportion of power consumption than in larger systems. Further, these chips are soldered to their motherboards so the CPU plus its motherboard we treat as a distinct offering in terms of power consumption.
Next, let us take a look at the AMD EPYC 3201 performance before we get to our market discussion and final words.