Ryzen / AM4 Scalability and value
The X470D4U is built upon the AM4 platform, which has a wide range of CPUs available at different core counts and platforms. Among just the 3rd generation of Ryzen CPUs, options range from the 4C/8T Ryzen 3 3100 to the 16C/32T Ryzen 9 3950X, all of which will work on this motherboard. In contrast, the current-gen 8th/9th gen Pentium Gold / i3 / Xeon E-series CPUs scale all the way down to 2C/2T, but do not make it any higher than 8C/16T at their highest end. This gives the ASRock X470 boards a much wider range of available core counts on a single platform.
In addition to this, at any given core/thread count, the Ryzen 3000 CPUs are less expensive than their Intel counterparts. As an example, the Ryzen 3600 we tested performs roughly in line with a Xeon E-2246G, but at retail, the Ryzen is 50% the cost of the Xeon ($180 vs $380).
ASRock Rack X470D4U Management
The out-of-band management is the standout feature of this motherboard and is handled by the ASPEED AST2500. Full KVM support is included out of the box, along with the ability to perform BIOS and BMC upgrades from within the web GUI. Here we can see a MegaRAC SP-X based solution that ASRock Rack is using.
The KVM is available via HTML5 or Java, and one small perk over the Supermicro HTML5 client is the ability to easily mount CD/DVD ISO media directly from the HTML5 KVM client. Since the inclusion of the BMC is the defining feature of this motherboard, executing this feature well is a must and the solution on the X470D4U mostly works well and does not require any additional licensing for full functionality.
One unfortunate problem observed with the BMC was the extremely slow transfer speeds observed with mounted media on both the HTML5 and Java iKVM clients, despite the BMC itself being linked to the network at gigabit. A standard installation of Windows Server 2019 (an unsupported OS that worked) over the HTML5 client took nearly four hours to complete. The Java client seemed even slower. After the OS was installed, a data copy over the mounted ISO to local disk was performed as a speed test, and the transfer rate never broke 3 MB/s. This behavior was observed on both the ASRock Rack X470D4U and X470D4U2-2T.
Complicating the slow remote media is that attempting to bypass it by using locally attached USB media is more difficult than it should be; connecting to the remote KVM environment seemingly disables booting from local USB. This can be remedied by adjusting some settings in the IPMI interface, but this behavior is not intuitive and is a hurdle you do not have to deal with when compared to BMC implementations from other vendors.
Overall, this is a fairly standard SP-X management solution. Having the ability to utilize remote iKVM on the platform as well as perform tasks such as remote power cycling and use management tools is a key feature of this platform.
ASRock Rack X470D4U Test Configuration
Here is the basic test configuration we used:
- System: ASRock Rack X470D4U
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600, 1600 (AF), 3600
- Memory: 2x Crucial 16GB ECC UDIMMs
- OS SSD: Intel S3610 480 GB
Benchmarking with the X470D4U is going to be a bit different, as we are not exactly sure what systems to pit it against. This is a review of the motherboard and not the Ryzen processors, and the motherboard does not contribute a lot to the bottom line performance of the system. With that said, efforts will be made to compare this setup versus EPYC 3000, Xeon D, and Xeon E series processors. We are using a trio of inexpensive Ryzen 5 CPUs for our testing; a first-generation 1600, a second-generation 1600 AF (12nm), and a third-generation 3600. We normally would only focus on in-socket comparisons, but we are going to expand the set here.
ASRock Rack X470D4U Server OS Testing
With the X470D4U only claiming official support for Windows 10, Ubuntu 16.04.4, and RHEL 7.3/7.4, we felt it necessary to test outside that list of operating systems. This testing is not comprehensive; operating systems were installed and tested for basic functionality but not much more. Potential purchasers would want to verify their particular OS and applications work on this platform before investing in the widespread deployment of this solution. With that said, we were able to install and operate the following list of operating systems seemingly without issue:
- Windows 10 x64 1909
- Windows Server 2019
- Ubuntu 18.04.4
- CentOS 8.1.1911
- VMware ESXi 6.7 Update 3
This article was actually written before Ubuntu 20.04 LTS arrived but got stuck in the publishing queue. We expect that to work as well on this platform given Ubuntu 18.04.4 LTS works and the fact that it is using relatively standard hardware.
Next, we are going to discuss performance and power consumption before getting to our final thoughts on the platform.