A few months ago we covered the Intel Xeon W-3400 Xeon W-2400 and W790 launch. That set about perhaps the most ambitious project in STH history. We built THREE different systems all based around the ASUS Pro WS W790E SAGE SE motherboard, and somewhat unintentionally. We built a system that can act as a workstation or server with fewer CPU cores but plenty of ECC memory capacity and PCIe Gen5 connectivity, a DIY high-end workstation, and then we had a Falcon Northwest RAK system that was a higher-performance, lower-noise, short-depth 4U system fully in the spirit of STH. With that, let us get started here.
For this one, we had to do a video because we put so much into this. If you want to see the video, check it out here:
We always suggest watching this in its own tab, window, or app for a better viewing experience.
As a crazy ambitious project, requiring a massive amount of hardware, the following companies let us use products to do this. We ended up using a common motherboard, the ASUS Pro WS W790E SAGE SE because that is what we had available. Since this took a long time to put together, we also had chips from Intel, we used the PNY RTX 6000 Ada when we still had the review unit in the lab. We used a Micron SSD along with a Kioxia CM5 PCIe Gen5 NVMe SSD which we have used in these systems since, but it arrived after we were in the production pipeline. We also received coolers mid-build from Noctua. To say that this took a massive amount of hardware to put together is an understatement. Also, the STH YouTube members helped get us a lower-cost Xeon W for the first build so a thank you to them is in order.
Build #1: Lower-Cost Higher-Connectivity
Often when folks look at the Intel Xeon W-3400 series, they immediately go to the top-end. The Intel Xeon W-3400 series has a number of lower-cost SKUs that are not the $4000 Intel Xeon w9-3495X. We are using the Intel Xeon w5-3425 which is costly at around $1190, but it has a few major features. Namely, while it is a mundane 12 cores, it has 112 lanes of PCIe Gen5, plus PCH IO, and 8 channels of DDR5 ECC RDIMM support.
That connectivity is what we are exploiting for this build. Many of our readers are frustrated that to get PCIe Gen5 one had to run a new Xeon or EPYC platform or a consumer platform with limited memory capacity and PCIe connectivity. The lower-end Intel Xeon W-3400 series processors fix those challenges. We will quickly note that we had an EPYC Genoa workstation build that our team thought was too cumbersome to really recommend as it was a bear to get working. The advantage of what we are doing here is we get all of the features with an easy consumer-like setup experience.
Intel also sent an Intel Xeon w7-2495X for this build. That offers lower PCIe Gen5 and DDR5 connectivity but is a lower cost. If you saw our piece yesterday, Intel LGA4677 112L E1A and 64L E1B Brackets for Intel Xeon W-3400 and W-2400 Series they actually use a different bracket from the W-3400 series. Our motherboard had both.
Bryan took this photo, which we thought looked cool of all the slots. 15 slots and one socket down the board.
On the memory side, one gets plenty of DDR5 ECC RDIMM slots so one can easily pick between 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB at fairly reasonable costs. One can go larger or smaller, but that provides a lot of flexibility.
For the build, we are using the Noctua D9 4U cooler for this build.
This is a solid cooler and worked great on the 12-core Xeon. It also kept airflow flowing front-to-back in our chassis.
We had a reasonable Crucial P5 Plus as a boot drive using the onboard M.2. That kept the PCIe Gen5 slots open.
On the PCIe connectivity side, there are seven PCIe Gen5 slots. This is simply a ton of connectivity along with the PCH SATA and SSD connectivity options.
While the above would be the configuration for a high-connectivity server one can add a GPU (likely not this one) to make this a workstation as well, especially with dual 10Gbase-T onboard.
Something fun is that this motherboard can run on one high-end PSU but can use two PSUs for higher-power configurations.
The negative of this setup is that it is not as fast as our baseline Supermicro platform (review soon) or the Lenovo Thinkstation P7 with the 56-core Xeons. We also put the Xeon w7-2495X on here just to provide another option in the middle.
Here is a quick shot of the onboard PCie Gen4 SSD.
Here is a look at a workstation where we added the 32TB Micron 9400 Pro is a Beast PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD as we were transforming the build into a DIY workstation.
With that in mind, let us discuss the DIY workstation.