In our Silicom PE310G2I50-T Intel X550 10Gbase-T NIC review, we are going to take a look at a card that we purchased without knowing exactly what it was. The card is a dual-port 10GbE card and that is exactly what we were looking for. Instead of purchasing an Intel branded card, we purchased these. In our review, we are simply going to show-off the card and give a quick check on performance.
Silicom PE310G2I50-T Hardware Overview
The PE310G2I50-T is a low-profile card and comes in a fairly standard form factor. We can see the Intel X550 chipset heatsink that is held in place by metal pins and springs. These metal pins may not seem like a big feature, but STH had a 10Gbase-T card burn up as the Most Spectacular Hardware Failure in the STH/ Lab in 2016 because a plastic pin failed.
While many vendors simply purchase Intel X550-T2 cards and re-brand them, we wanted to note that Silicom is actually doing engineering on these cards. Above one can see the Silicom card with a heatsink that provides a lot of surface area. One can also see the metal shield/ brace that runs along the bottom edge of the card. The only image of the Intel X550-T2 I could find in the STH CMS was a stock photo, but here is what that card looks like that makes it clear Silicom is doing design work not just re-labeling an Intel card.
Silicom, if you are not aware, makes specialty cards for companies such as Dell and other OEMs and has been around for years. If you read STH, you may have a network card made by Silicom and not know it.
One may also notice quickly that the heatsinks on these cards are much smaller than on the X540 generations of cards. The X550 is Intel’s newer generation that is much better on power/ thermals while adding new features. To give some sense, the X540 version of this card is rated at 14.28W with both ports operating at 10Gbase-T speeds. This card is rated at 8.16W. That is around a 43% decrease in power which is a massive generational improvement.
We get two ports since this is a dual 10Gbase-T card.
The back of the card has large stickers and not much else. We will just quickly note here that the stickers have a small but welcome feature, they feature large barcodes. That may seem trivial, but it just makes them faster/ easier to scan for data center technicians. Even the text seems like it is sized for more mature eyes than some of the micro text and barcodes we have seen on NICs.
With this generation, we also get a PCIe Gen3 x4 slot. The Intel X540 was a PCIe Gen2 card so that is another subtle generational difference. We should probably do a full guide of the X540 to X550 differences. There is a lot that was updated such as moving from 32 to 128 transmit queues, VMDq Virtual Device Queues per port moved from 16 to 64, and also 2.5/5GbE support. Perhaps that should be its own reference piece.
We have full-height brackets installed for these photos, but the card can use either full-height or low-profile brackets.
Next, let us take a look at the performance before getting to our final words.
Silicom PE310G2I50-T Performance
Overall, we have a good sense of how this card will perform. It has a well-known controller onboard.
We verified that we were seeing 10GbE speeds on the card.
There is not much to say here. The card performs as we would expect from a modern dual 10Gbase-T solution.
Overall, the Silicom PE310G2I50-T is a solid card. It has dual 10Gbase-T ports and runs at considerably lower power than its predecessors.
We recently reviewed the Intel X710-T4 quad-port 10Gbase-T NIC but there are certainly trade-offs with moving up to a quad-port card. The dual-port X550 solution uses less power and is less expensive which will often make it a better choice.
Overall, this is one of our shortest reviews in recent memory. This card simply worked out-of-box as it is based on a well-supported chipset.