ASRock Rack X470D4U2-2T Review AMD Ryzen Server with 10GbE

16

Is the ASRock Rack X470D4U2-2T a server motherboard?

This is a bit of a funny question but is definitely valid here. The inclusion of the BMC is intended to target this motherboard at the server market, and ASRock Rack has a small line of 1U server options on offer that come equipped with the X470D4U. Plus, it says “Server” right on the box! We wanted to discuss software support, as well as some of the hardware features that help answer that question.

ASRock Rack X470D4U2 2T Name
ASRock Rack X470D4U2 2T Name

If you take a look over on ASRock Rack’s site for the motherboard, they only list three operating systems as being officially supported:

  • Windows 10 x64
  • Ubuntu 16.04.4 x64
  • RedHat Enterprise Linux Server 7.3/7.4 x64

That is a pretty short list of options. Of course, this board will likely work on many operating systems not specifically listed. As you may have seen from our OS testing section earlier in this review, we found many that worked without issues. For some prospective buyers, official support for an OS may be important and so it is worth pointing out. If you are your own support solution, then this may well be acceptable.

Of specific note is VMware, which has been uncooperative in the past about providing any support when their software is running on hardware that is not on their compatibility list. In addition to this motherboard not being on VMware’s HCL, no Ryzen CPUs appear on the VMware HCL. The AMD EPYC CPUs make an appearance on the HCL and are obviously based on the same core design as the Ryzen CPUs. While one can get VMware installed, if you encounter some kind of bug or edge case problem then you might very well be left on your own.

There are also not very many purpose-built mATX server chassis on the market today. The SilverStone CS381 would be a good fit, but most other server options would either be mITX, ATX, or larger; mATX is not the industry’s focus at this point.

On the other hand, it is even harder to make the argument that the X470D4U2-2T is a workstation motherboard. The inclusion of the BMC is likely of little value to professional workstation use, and the I/O options are lacking relative to that market. As an example, the board lacks integrated sound, which many workstation use cases might still require. There is no USB Type-C port which is commonplace on even inexpensive workstations these days. The $360 cost of the motherboard will not do it any favors in the workstation market either, as there are a wide variety of better-equipped motherboards out in the market for less than $360 that only lack the BMC in comparison to the X470D4U2-2T.

Part of that cost is also going to the Intel X550 10Gbase-T NIC which costs more than some of the consumer motherboard 10Gbase-T solutions, albeit with a more server-focused feature set. Integrating that onto the platform eases integration, especially for 1U form factors where PCIe slot connectivity is limited. That is not as big of a factor with larger workstation designs.

ASRock Rack X470D4U2 2T PCIe Slots
ASRock Rack X470D4U2 2T PCIe Slots

While it is correct to say that the X470D4U2-2T is a “server motherboard” the more accurate label may be that it is a “DIY server motherboard.” If you need OS support, the list is slim, and getting vendor support may be difficult. For a small DIY environment, or something like a web hosting environment the platform works, and offers some great cost savings. If you need ISV support for your job this is unlikely the platform you want to buy. Further, since this is effectively the only Ryzen server platform on the market, it does not get the same level of firmware bugfix patch attention that the Xeon E-2200 series gets. Many of our readers know this, but we just want to be clear that there are significant differences for a large portion of the market using this platform.

Final Words

There are a few different angles that one needs to view the X470D4U2-2T through. The first, is likely whether you are comfortable using Ryzen as a server. A second is whether the 2-2T model with 10Gbase-T integrated is worth the incremental price delta over the base ASRock Rack X470D4U model.

On the subject of using Ryzen for servers, personally I believe it represents a potentially untapped market. As a first-generation effort it certainly has some rough edges. In terms of raw performance, Ryzen CPUs are very competitive with Xeon at lower price points. The justification and case for going Ryzen on a pure cost basis can easily be made. However, as has been pointed out in other STH reviews of Intel server processors, Intel has a vibrant ecosystem of platforms and components built around their Xeon E/ Core i3 CPUs, and the complete Ryzen ecosystem is currently represented by only a few motherboards made by a single vendor. That is a huge difference.

Thus far, ASRock Rack has been the only vendor willing to dip their toes into this market as we still have not seen the Tyan Tomcat EX S8015 or Tyan Tomcat SX S8020 in the wild. It says a lot that these are the only platforms available. Having multiple vendors that one can source platforms from is another key requirement for many organizations as they source servers. Only time will tell whether they remain the lone player in the Ryzen server market.

I hope other vendors join them, and that they continue to improve their own product both in terms of smoothing out rough edges and in garnering official support for their system on other popular operating systems. To that end, ASRock Rack has released a second-generation effort, the X570D4I-2T, which is a mITX server board STH hopes to look at in the future. For the moment, until more widespread support materializes for the Ryzen platform, our recommendation for the X470D4U2-2T will come with a huge caveat; we like the platform, but you will have to test it for yourself to make sure the platform works for your organization (or you if this is a lab environment) and your particular set of applications. There is a lot to take in beyond the hardware itself.

ASRock Rack X470D4U2 2T Rear IO
ASRock Rack X470D4U2 2T Rear IO

In comparison with its less expensive sibling the X470D4U, you are essentially paying more for the dual 10GbE networking, and losing some PCIe connectivity in the process. We paid around $110 more for the X470D4U2-2T earlier this year but at the time of this writing, the delta at retailers seems to be closer to $200. At that price point, one could simply purchase the X470D4U and combine it with the network card of your choice including SFP+ 10GbE and 25GbE solutions. For example, the Dell EMC Broadcom BCM 57414 we recently reviewed we bought for the lab at only $125 each. In my eyes, that makes the X470D4U a more flexible solution.

If you are enticed by the dollar per core and core count prospects of Ryzen, you are OK with the relatively small Ryzen server ecosystem, and you think the 10Gbase-T upgrade is justified, then the X470D4U2-2T is going to be a great solution. If you want to use anything other than the Intel X550 10Gbase-T solution, the X470D4U is a lower-cost platform with more expansion capabilities. The decision is more nuanced than with the original platform we reviewed, but both have worked well for us.

1
2
3
4
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Aesthetics
8.5
Performance
9.3
Feature Set
9.0
Value
8.4
Previous articleSTH Turns 11 in a Very Different Year
Next articleOur SwitchNAServer or QNAP QGD-1600P Review
Will has worked in both big enterprise and small business IT since 2001. As a perpetual dabbler, he is always open to new solutions for old problems. That said, his personal IT motto has to be "if it's not broke, don't fix it" so sometimes the old ways are best

16 COMMENTS

  1. Will – thanks for this review. I have waited three years to see a uATX board with x8/x8 slots. Good points about the low transfer speeds over the BMC, and the DIMM s
    ots. Those are real problems. I have been keeping my eye on this board but it looks like it still needs some polish.

  2. Is it normal for the serial port to be male like that? I would have thought 9-pin female was standard for onboard serial.

  3. HedRat,
    DB9 serial ports are male, the cables are female.

    emerth,
    Despite the problems, they’re not insurmountable and I still think that both the X470D4U boards have merit. A taller cooler easily mitigates the DIMM issue, and while the BMC is slow that only really comes into effect during installation of an OS. For day-to-day access like rebooting the system over the IPKVM, it has no effect.

  4. I wonder if STH has actual measurements (dimensions) of the DIMMs they used that made contact with the AMD cooler? Even the exact manufactuer, model, and part number info of the DRAM used in this test would be helpful; some manufacturers might vary their product over time. Any detailed info might help buyers considering their DRAM selection when using that cooler.

  5. StiggyB,
    I hope so as well!

    Sleepy,
    For all the benchmarks and testing, I was running some low profile ECC memory. It didn’t much matter when running two sticks though, since ASRR’s recommended memory installation is in slots 2 and 4 to start with. When I first received the board, however, I plugged in some standard desktop memory (Corsair Vengeance LPX CMK32GX4MA2666C16) just for testing. This stuff does have a heatsink on it, but it’s not extraordinarily tall or anything and is barely taller than a naked DIMM. Here is a picture of one of those sticks, next to a naked stick so you can see they are essentially the same size. https://i.imgur.com/IV6pMI8.png

    With the low profile memory and the stock heatsink, you *may* be able to run a stick in the first slot, but it would be tight and you definitely would not be able to add or remove that memory without first taking off the heatsink & fan. With the Corsair memory, or anything shaped like, they are fundamentally incompatible and a cooler with more clearance is necessary.

  6. Hello,
    sorry for my english, I’m not native speaker. I’ve been using ASRR X470D4U-2T for ten months without any problem. My CPU cooler been changed to NH-C12P SE14, which have no contact with memory slot. My config is X470 + R7 3700x + 4 x 16 GB Micron 18ASF2G72AZ-2G6D1 + SAS 2008 controller and Proxmox 6.2

    Some pictures > https://imgur.com/gallery/2ihlrMM

  7. To bad that with a DIY home server setup you’re mostly forced into using UDIMMs (not counting old second hand server hardware) which are stupidly pricey.
    Really wish those prices went down, or the CPU’s support Registered ECC DIMMs.

  8. i have a threadripper for home server : main feature like double wifi rgblight control fan speed is only with windows ,iommu group is very large , no remote control like ipmi
    no more amd ryzen o TR maybe now i’m thinking to sell TR to buy a xeon or epyc entry level

  9. I like these boards other than just being the only real alternative to intel for x86 small servers.
    Having all the pcie slots coming off the cpu means is good for the add in cards and the non-2t version gives an option on the x4 for networking that I prefered and the pch contains all the onboard storage by default. It’s limited to x4 pcie so having half speeds on the double nvme drives can saturate that bus even before anything is attached to the sata array. It feels pretty well balanced in those terms considering the obvious limits of thse boards when derived from mainstream parts.

    @sleepy
    I’ve also had one of these boards using 4 corsair vengeance LPX modules and an r5 3600.
    Using all four modules had a significant impact on the fins of the stealth cooler so this board probably doesn’t obey the am4 guidelines.
    Using some destructive interferance it was possible to get it to work though. Dismantling the fan on top of the stealth was necessary and then bending the fins out of the way it was able to fit in tightly, and like Will found, there is still some contact between the ram and cpu heatsinks. (also cable tied a 120mm fan on top that got in the way of the usb3 header.

    Our long term solution was an artic alpine 64gt cooler. Dirt cheap, uses the default bracket so it’s easy to install but it’s only rated to 70w so high end cpus will need to run in eco mode. We’re running our 3600 at 45w eco mode for the extra headroom in our poor enviroment.

  10. I wonder if this motherboard will work with the NH-9Lx65, I’m going to put this in a 2U case so I need a low profile fan. Did anyone try it out?

  11. I am looking at the 1u servers based on this board as an option for game servers. A 3950x with 128gb of ram would be ideal for running my IL-2 Great battles and DCS World game servers while taking very little rack space

  12. I have the x470d4u board and use the Bequiet Dark rock 4. Since it’s my enthusiast “home server” in a FD R5 case i obtained the shorter mounting brackets to change the cooler orientation 90°. That creates clearance for all the memory slots. With original mounting brackets the first slot is blocked.
    I equipped 2xkingston 2666MHz ECC dimms in my system.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here