EVGA Classified SR-2 Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on June 17, 2010
EVGA Classified SR-2 (the “SR” on the name stands for “Super Record”) is an enormous dual socket LGA1366 motherboard based on Intel 5520 chipset with seven PCI Express x16 for you to build the fastest gaming PC in the world.
You can see this monster in Figure 1. It uses the HPTX (High Performance Technology eXtended) form factor, which measures 13.6” x 15” (34.5 x 38 cm) and therefore somewhat bigger than the Extended ATX (E-ATX) form factor normally used for server motherboards, which measure 12” x 13” (30.5 cm x 33 cm). So the main challenge you will have if you decide to go ahead and buy this beast is finding a case that can hold this product, since it won’t fit E-ATX cases. So far the only company offering a solution for this motherboard is Mountain Mods, which offers a motherboard tray compatible with the Classified SR-2 that will fit six of their cases without any modification. So you have six cases that you can use with this motherboard (you need to buy one of the cases and the motherboard tray).
According to EVGA this motherboard also fits Lian Li PC-P80 with a small modification on the standoffs. EVGA is maintaining a thread in their forums with a list of compatible cases, which will be updated as new cases become available. EVGA says this motherboard must be installed in a case with at least nine expansion slots – ten if you want to install four video cards.
This motherboard fits up to two socket LGA1366 Xeon processors. It is important to note that socket LGA1366 Core i7 CPUs won’t fit this motherboard for two reasons. First, Core i7 CPUs can’t work under SMP (Symmetrical MultiProcessing) mode, and therefore can’t be installed on dual-socket motherboards. Second, the CPU cooler assembly is different. The holes on the motherboard won’t fit CPU coolers for Core i7 processors because they have a nut inside; they only fit Xeon CPU coolers.
Therefore the Classified SR-2 is compatible only with Xeon 55xx and 56xx CPUs. Below you can see a list of CPUs you can install on this motherboard. They are all quad-core parts with Hyper-Theading technology, so the operating system recognizes eight CPUs per physical CPU, for a total of 16 CPUs when two CPUs are installed. Models from the 56xx series have 12 MB L3 memory cache, while models from the 55xx series have 8 MB. So you can go from a CPU like Xeon E5506 that costs only USD 238 a piece all the way up to Xeon X5677, which costs around USD 1,750 each.
Each CPU is fed with an EPS12V connector and a six-pin video card power connector (PEG). You also need to install one six-pin video card power connector to provide more current to the PCI Express x16 slots. Therefore you need three six-pin video card power connectors and two EPS12V power connectors just to install the motherboard, plus connectors you will need to feed your video cards. Therefore you will have to spend some time researching for a power supply that will fulfill your power needs, not only in terms of labeled power, but especially in number of available connectors. You can discover the power supply wattage you will need by using this calculator. EVGA is saying that they will launch a 1,200 W power supply also called SR-2 to match this motherboard.
The highlight of this product is of course the presence of seven PCI Express x16 slots. The Classified SR-2 supports both SLI and CrossFireX modes, and it comes with three SLI bridges – one for installing two video cards, one for installing three video cards, and one for installing four video cards – but with no CrossFireX bridges.
The north bridge of the Intel 5520 chipset provides 36 PCI Express x1 lanes, while the south bridge (ICH10R) provides six more lanes. This is the same configuration used by the Intel X58 chipset. The EVGA Classified SR-2 also comes with two NVIDIA NF200 bridge chips.
The first, the third and the fifth slots are labeled as “16x/8x.” The second, the fourth and the sixth slots always work at 8x. And the last slot is labeled as x16. According to EVGA when the first, the third, the fifth and the seventh slots are used, they all work at x16. Usually motherboards that support four-way SLI or CrossFireX configurations will have at least some of their slots working at lower speed grades when four video cards are installed, which doesn’t happen with this product. When more than four video cards are installed, then all slots work at x8. We had to ask EVGA for this information, as it is not written anywhere.
This motherboard allows you to install up to four dual-slot video cards. If a fourth dual-slot video card is used, it will block the power, reset and clear CMOS buttons, and you will need a case with 10 expansion slots.
As you can see, this motherboard doesn’t have PCI Express x1 or standard PCI slots. The absence of x1 slots isn’t a problem, as PCI Express technology allows you to install x1 expansion cards on any PCI Express slot (i.e., they will work when installed on x16, x8, x4 or x1 slots).
Socket LGA1366 CPUs, like socket LGA1156 and AMD processors, have an embedded memory controller. All other Intel CPUs use an external memory controller, which is located on the north bridge chip (a.k.a. MCH or Memory Controller Hub) from the chipset. This means that with other Intel CPUs the chipset (and thus the motherboard) is the component that says what memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have on your PC.
Since now the memory controller is inside the CPU, it is the processor, and not the chipset, that defines the memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller embedded in socket LGA1366 CPUs accepts only DDR3 memory (up to 1.65 V; memories that require more than that won’t work and may even damage the CPU) and supports the new triple-channel memory architecture.
The triple-channel architecture allows the CPU to access three memory modules at the same time to store or retrieve data, increasing the number of bits that are transferred per clock cycle from 128 (on dual-channel architecture) to 192. Thus this makes a 50% improvement on the maximum theoretical memory bandwidth compared to dual-channel architecture, if both are running at the same clock rate. For example, DDR3-1333 memories running on dual-channel have a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 21 GB/s while on triple-channel they have a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 32 GB/s.
This motherboard has six memory sockets for each CPU, for a total of 12 memory sockets. The presence of six memory sockets for each CPU is a plus, because this allows you to make future memory upgrades without having to remove your current memory modules and, at the same time, to keep the maximum performance possible.
Just to clarify, in order to achieve the maximum performance you have to install three or six memory modules on each bank. If you install three memory modules you have to use sockets with the same color (on SR-2 three sockets are black and three are red). If you install a different number of memory modules the system won’t achieve its maximum possible performance.
On motherboards with only four memory sockets you have a problem: if you add a fourth memory module this module will be accessed at single-channel performance (1/3 of the maximum transfer rate) so for you to add more memory keeping the maximum performance you have to remove your old three modules and install new ones. This upgrade is more expensive than using a motherboard with six sockets, where you can simply add three more modules and keep your old modules installed.
Since today each memory module can have up to 4 GB, you can have up to 48 GB with this motherboard.
In summary, you will need to install at least six identical DDR3-1333 memory modules (three for each CPU) on this motherboard.
The Intel 5520 chipset is a two-chip solution and the motherboard manufacturer can chose between ICH9, ICH9R, ICH10 and ICH10R south bridge chips. The models ending with an “R” support RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 configuration. ICH9 only supports four SATA-300 ports, while all other chips (including ICH9R) support six ports.
The EVGA Classified SR-2 provides all six SATA-300 ports with support by the Intel Matrix Storage (i.e., RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10). These ports are black. Two SATA-600 ports (the red ones) are available, controlled by a Marvell 88SE9128 chip. These two ports support RAID 0 and 1. And two eSATA-300 ports are available on the rear panel controlled by a JMicron JMB362 chip.
The internal SATA ports are not rotated 90°, but due to the extreme length of this motherboard video cards won’t block them.
An ATA-133 port is also available, but no floppy disk drive controller is present.
From the 12 USB 2.0 ports supported by the chipset, EVGA Classified SR-2 offers 10 of them, six soldered on the rear panel and four available through two motherboard headers. The motherboard comes with an I/O bracket containing four USB ports.
One of the highlights of this motherboard is the presence of two USB 3.0 ports, controlled by a NEC μPD720200 chip. These ports are available on the rear panel of the product and painted blue (USB 2.0 ports are black).
No FireWire ports are available.
Audio is generated by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC889 codec, which provides professional-grade audio to this motherboard, with eight channels, 24-bit resolution, sampling rate of up to 192 kHz for both inputs and outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs and 108 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the outputs. With a high signal-to-noise ratio like this you can work professionally converting, mixing and editing audio from an analog source (e.g., converting VHS tapes and vinyl records to the digital format) with no background noise (white noise).
This motherboard doesn’t have on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs, which we think is a flaw for a motherboard that is probably the most high-end product available for Intel CPUs in the desktop market today. You can add these connectors by installing an adapter (that doesn’t come with the product) on the “SPDIF” header available.
It provides independent analog outputs, meaning that you don’t need to “kill” the mic in or the line in jack if you install an analog 7.1 speaker set.
EVGA Classified SR-2 has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, controlled by two Marvell 88E8057 chips, which are connected to the system using PCI Express x1 lanes, and thus not presenting any potential performance issues.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with PS/2 keyboard connector, clear CMOS button, header for the EVGA EVBot overclocking panel (which doesn’t come with the product), two USB 3.0 ports (blue), six USB 2.0 ports (black), two eSATA-300 ports (red), two Gigabit Ethernet ports and independent 7.1 analog audio jacks.
EVGA Classified SR-2 has a POST diagnostics display, where you can see through a two-digit code which component is malfunctioning if your computer doesn’t turn on. This display will show CPU 0 temperature after the system has loaded the operating system. The CPU sockets are clearly labeled CPU0 and CPU1 on the motherboard and CPU 0 is the one farther from the rear panel and is the primary CPU.
You probably have seen motherboards with two BIOS chips, but this is the first time we’ve seen a motherboard with three BIOS chips! The additional BIOS chips are useful if the motherboard main BIOS gets corrupted (which usually happens in three different ways: forcing the BIOS upgrade utility to flash the wrong BIOS file, when power goes down during a BIOS upgrade process, or when a virus like Chernobyl/CIH attacks). In such a situation the computer won’t turn on anymore, as if the motherboard was “burned.” If this happens you just need to move a switch to select which backup BIOS you want to use.
Another debugging feature available on the SR-2 is the presence of individual jumpers to disable each one of the PCI Express x16 slots. Since on an extreme system with several video cards, removing and reinstalling video cards can be troublesome, you can simply move the jumper and disable the video cards in order to check whether each one is working properly.
The Classified SR-2 also comes with jumpers for you to individually disable each CPU (see Figure 9). This tool allows you to check if a CPU is defective or is presenting bad contact without needing to remove it from its socket.
This motherboard should have come with an ECP V3 (EVGA Control Panel version 3), but the sample we received came without this peripheral but with a small flyer explaining that you need to register the motherboard on EVGA’s website and they will ship the panel to you once it becomes available.
This panel has the following functions:
The EVGA Classified SR-2 comes with pads for you to measure voltages with a multimeter, see Figure 10. Thru these pads you can monitor the following voltages:
Another two jumpers are available and both are not documented in the product manual: X-Cool and I-Limit. The X-Cool jumper must be changed if you use liquid nitrogen and the temperature drops below -50° C, while the I-Limit is reserved for future use.
In Figure 12, you can see all accessories that come with EVGA Classified SR-2.
The EVGA Classified SR-2 uses two separate voltage regulator circuits for each CPU, each one with eight phases for the main CPU voltage (Vcc, a.k.a. Vcore) and two for the CPU VTT voltage (used by the integrated memory controller, L3 memory cache and QPI bus controller). Thus each CPU has an “8+2” voltage regulator.
This number seems “low,” but that is not the whole story, because the voltage regulators use high-end components to generate the main CPU voltage. Instead of using discrete MOSFET transistors, EVGA opted to use a Volterra VT1185SF integrated circuit on each phase that has necessary transistors embedded in the same fashion that MSI uses “DrMOS” integrated circuits on their high-end motherboard. Unfortunately Volterra doesn’t post details of this integrated circuit on their website. Each phase also uses solid chokes and SMD (surface mount device) electrolytic capacitors, also known as highly-conductive polymerized or simply Hi-c (these components are soldered on the solder side of the motherboard). The voltage regulator for the VTT voltage uses standard ferrite chokes and solid capacitors (all other capacitors used on this motherboard are solid).
This motherboard also has a three-phase voltage regulator for each memory bank (usually high-end motherboards use a two-phase regulator for the memories).
The EVGA Classified SR-2 motherboard main features are:
* Researched at Buy.com on the day we published this First Look article.
Wow. With so many features and an impressive size, it is really difficult not to be impressed by this motherboard.
Of course it is targeted to that small niche of super enthusiasts who want to build the fastest PC on Earth. With two Xeon 55xx or 56xx CPUs you will have eight physical cores, but the operating system will recognize your system as having 16 processors due to the Hyper-Threading technology. The motherboard supports up to 48 GB of RAM. And you can install up to four dual-slot video cards to build a four-way SLI or CrossFireX system with all slots working at x16 – usually motherboards that accept three- or four-way SLI/CrossFireX configurations at least one of the slots reduces its speed. That doesn’t happen with this motherboard.
The motherboard itself costs USD 600 and gives us a wide range of CPU selection. You can go "budget" and put two Xeon E5506 at USD 238 each or really go ultra high-end by installing two Xeon X5677 at USD 1,750 each. Plus the price of the video cards, case, power supply, a huge video monitor, and so on. If you are rich and crazy about gaming and overclocking this motherboard may be your opportunity to build the fastest PC in your whole state, just to impress your friends. Normal people like us can only sigh and dream.
As a final note, we think EVGA should improve their manual and website. Lots of information is missing from the manual (e.g., the real PCI Express configuration, a few undocumented jumpers, info about the triple-BIOS feature, info on the EVBot panel) plus the pictures are very low-quality. We think users paying USD 600 on a motherboard deserve better.