SuperMicro Unleashes a Workhorse Dual Xeon Nehalem Workstation

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

The SuperWorkStation 7046A-3 packs a major performance punch, thanks to a pair of quadcore Intel Xeon processors and high-end components. Even better, SuperMicro makes this workstation at a buyer-friendly price.

Designing a high-performance workstation takes more than just throwing the latest components together and hoping for the best. To guarantee high performance, it takes engineering, a careful matching of components and precise assembly to bring forth a quality design.

SuperMicro has not forgotten those elements when it comes to building workstations that even the most demanding of users will come to love. The SuperWorkStation 7046A-3 is a behemoth that screams performance and showcases quality while quietly going about its business.

Some vendors think a workstation is little more than a PC on steroids, while others treat any expensive PC as workstation-class systems. SuperMicro takes a more straightforward approach and builds workstations that are not to be confused with any run-of-the-mill PC or other pretenders.

The company’s SuperWorkstations are large, black rectangular boxes which aren’t designed to fit on the typical desktop. Weighing in at a back-straining 60-plus pounds, no staffer is going to confuse a SuperMicro workstation with the typical desktop PC. Installers will need to plan accordingly for the weight and size of these units, which measure 7-inches x 17.2-inches X 25.5-inches.

Why are these workstations so large? It all comes down to storage, cooling and expansion.

SuperWorkstations ship with eight SAS/SATA externally accessible drive bays, making the units a storage maven’s dream. Large cases provide plenty of pathways for heat exchange and cooling, all without excessively noisy fans. SuperMicro’s Super X8DA3 motherboard also demands a large case; the board’s expansion capabilities are impressive. Those peeking inside the easy-to-open case will find that the Super X8DA3 offers 16 DDR3 memory slots for a maximum of 96 GBs RAM.

Peering deeper into the case reveals a pair of PCI-E (x16) slots, ideal for the latest in high-performance dual SLI graphics cards; an additional PCI-E (x4) slot and three PCI slots round out the board’s expansion options.

The SuperWorkstation 7046A-3’s case has ample power connectors, a disk drive backplane and a massive power supply, which incorporates large, slow moving fans, which move massive amounts of air, while only generating a barely perceivable level of noise.

Taking a page from the days of Henry Ford, SuperMicro offers the 7046A-3 in any color that you would like, as long as it’s black.

Our test unit came equipped with Dual Intel Xeon E5520 (2.26 GHz) Processors, 12 GBs DDR3 RAM, NVidia GeForce 8800 Ultra Video Card and a SAS raid array populated with Maxtor 3036RC SAS hard drives (click here for more detailed specifications).

While SuperWorkstation 7046A-3 uses high-end components, they’re not the bleeding edge. Intel does offer faster Xeon processors and there are more potent video cards on the market. Nevertheless, the workstation as configured offered a Passmark rating of 3249.3 running performance test v6.1 from Passmark Software. A score that readily outpaced our previous performance champ, a $4,500 Hewlett-Packard XW6600 that scored 2892.6.

It’s obvious that SuperMicro was looking to bring as much value as possible to a high-performance system by selecting less-expensive components, yet giving up very little when it came to overall performance. As configured, the SuperWorkstation 7046A-3 should retail for about $3,200, which is both budget- and margin friendly. The workstation should prove a perfect machine for users looking to do CAD/CAM work, high end video editing or any processor and graphics intensive chore. 

The launch of the SuperWorkstation 7046A-3 could not come at a better time for SuperMicro, while doubt surrounds its primary PC workstation competitor, Sun Microsystems, leaving HP and Lenovo as the only big names in the workstation market to contend with. SuperMicro scores additional points with the channel by offering high margins and almost unlimited customizability; two factors the big names are having trouble with at the moment.


Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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