Intel Xeon E3 and C202, C204, C206 Bromolow-Sandy Bridge Platform Review

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Today Intel is launching the Xeon E3 series CPU line as part of the Bromolow platform alongside the C202, C204 and C206 chipsets. This is a much anticipated release where Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture moves to dominate the UP market for the near future. When Intel delayed the Bromolow platform launch due to the Cougar Point flaw, users were left wondering when the next generation UP Xeons would arrive. About a month and a half behind schedule, the Xeon E3 is here, and is the new UP market leader.

Overview

As the UP and DP server markets are ServeTheHome’s primary target markets at this point, today’s launch was preceded by early benchmarks of the Xeon E3-1220, Xeon E3-1230, and Xeon E3-1280 CPUs. While the performance numbers still stand, the power consumption figures were a bit off due to the fact that I was unable to post results with appropriate Bromolow motherboards. On the other hand, I was able to get the performance information disseminated while at the same time put retail parts under load for the past few weeks. Over the next few days, expect to see both the E3-1240 and E3-1270 benchmarks posted as well as reviews of some motherboards.

The line-up of the Xeon E3 series is fairly comprehensive with the 0 or 5 at the end of the model number denoting either no integrated graphics with a 0 (and a lower TDP) or included integrated graphics on part numbers ending in 5’s. Here is an overview of the new Xeon E3 models:

2011 Xeon E3 1200 Series Lineup
2011 Xeon E3 1200 Series Lineup

Accompanying the Xeon E3 launch is the launch of the C200 series chipsets. Since users purchasing server boards tend to favor the inclusion of IPMI 2.0 and KVM-over-IP functionality, the Xeon E3-12×0 series has two chipsets, the C202 and C204 that are targeted at markets where the motherboard vendor will provide the GPU. On the other side, the C206 platform supports the onboard graphics capabilities of the E3-12×5 series. Here is a quick breakdown:

Bromolow Platforms Comparison
Bromolow Platforms Comparison

The new chipsets are similar to the older Intel 3400 series chipsets and so one can expect to see a lot of LGA 1156 boards updated for the LGA 1155 platform.

As for power consumption, something that I was previously unable to discuss, the Xeon E3 with an appropriate board, is really good. Using a PicoPSU 150XT I was able to see power consumption of 107w maximum and 37w minimum on the Xeon E3-1230. Even using a Seasonic X650 (650w 80 PLUS Gold)  PSU the maximum power draw I saw was 110w (40w min) with the Intel Xeon E3-1230 running the Folding@Home client which is very effective at stressing a system’s CPU, but is also quite sensitive to memory speeds. Frankly, that is really good platform power consumption. For a quick comparison of the chips here benchmarks and power consumption in an easy table with some other relevant CPUs:

Intel 2011 Xeon E3-12xx Series Performance Comparison
Intel 2011 Xeon E3-12xx Series Performance Comparison

As one can see, even the Xeon E3-1220 uses about two times as much power as the AMD E-350 Zacate platform at idle and about three times as much using maximum power. That 2-3 times extra power draw adds approximately five to ten times more performance. From there the Xeon E3-1230 for only a few dollars more and a few extra watts starts around ten times the performance of the E3-350. When it comes to low power servers, the AMD Zacate E-350 is not necessarily king. The performance difference between the Lynnfield based Xeon X3440 and X3460 versus the new Xeon E3 series CPUs is present, mainly due to higher clock speeds and AES-NI features. On the other hand, excluding TrueCrypt, the mainstream E3-1230 is 10-30% faster than the previous generation CPUs in general while consuming less power. Overall, great job on this one.

One item I will note is that I do not think that the power consumption differences will make enough of a difference for a small business or home user to swap from a Lynnfield platform. Performance is better on the new Xeon E3 series. Faster processors and lower power consumption provides a win-win scenario for those looking at high-density applications or even general purpose UP servers. AMD does have some competitive offerings in this space but none that can be powered by a 150w PicoPSU under full load.

Conclusion

Overall, this is a big win for Intel. The new processors are faster and offer lower processing power than their Lynnfield counterparts and those are positive developments in the server space. Processors like the Xeon E3-1260L will be very popular in the ultra high density “micro server” architectures that are preferred by cloud purveyors. For the mainstream market, the E3-1230 is really the sweet spot. One gets all of the new features at the lowest cost. With that being said, if there is absolutely no need for Hyper-Threading, the E3-1220 is a compelling option that may allow one to allocate more funds to a motherboard with additional features. Over the coming days, expect more coverage on the Xeon E3 1200 series and Bromolow platform boards.

Feel free to discuss this article on the ServeTheHome.com Forums!

3 COMMENTS

  1. You are the only one covering this market regularly. Great reviews! I look forward to more. Keep up the great work.

  2. Thanks, very usefull information.

    Have you any plans for testing the E3-1220L and the i3-2100 processors in the same setup? I’m really courious about the power consumption of those compared to the “real” E3 processors.

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