SuperMicro Wants to Re-Enter the Gaming Motherboard Market

Discussion in 'HardForum Tech News' started by AlphaAtlas, Feb 11, 2019.

  1. AlphaAtlas

    AlphaAtlas [H]ard|Gawd Staff Member

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    SuperMicro is a huge name in the server motherboard business, and there was a time when they were a go-to manufacturer of consumer and enthusiast motherboards. While the company technically still has a "gaming" lineup that stretches to the Z390 generation, SuperMicro's boards are relatively uncommon here in the US. But the company invited KitGuru to their headquarters in California, and said they intend to change that. Among other things, SuperMicro wants to be on the bleeding edge of the transition to DDR4 and PCI-e Gen 4, and already have plans to bring on more staff as they enter more markets . While the company's consumer-facing lineup is currently Intel only, the company was quick to point out they were first to market with AMD's EPYC platform, though they stopped short of confirming future AM4 based offerings. Check out the interview below.

    Asked if SuperMicro could reclaim its former glories in the gaming/desktop space, Vik explained that they had created market leading products for High Performance Computing (HPC), OEM solutions and InfraStructure as a Service - so he was extremely confident about the consumer market. He told us that in 2016 SuperMicro was thinking about the market and planning. In 2017 they started to bring new products to market and in 2018 they managed to set a new world record for performance. "In 2019, we will put the peddle to the metal," said Vik. "Setting the record itself showed that 'we are here,' but it doesn't mean anything unless we bring the right product to the customer. We're here to make an impact."
     
  2. kirbyrj

    kirbyrj [H]ard as it Gets

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    I had a Z170 Supermicro gaming board I got in a trade. It is ok, but it had jumpers on board for some settings and a terrible bios. I'm old school enough to figure out the jumpers (although it means having a paper manual or cell phone handy), but there really is no excuse for a bad bios layout if you're looking to be in the gaming market. On top of that, Supermicro historically prices them like high end boards, so for the same money I could get a nice Asus or Gigabyte with a familiar bios.

    Might work in the OEM market though for the Dells and Lenovos making gaming computers.
     
  3. Legendary Gamer

    Legendary Gamer Limp Gawd

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    More competition makes me happy.
     
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  4. sephkeene

    sephkeene [H]Lite

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    "SuperMicro wantss to be on the bleeding edge of the transition to DDR4 and PCI-e Gen 4..."
    DDR4?
     
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  5. Dan_D

    Dan_D [H]ardOCP Motherboard Editor

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    The problem with Supermicro is that they have never fully understood the gaming motherboard market. The article is somewhat erroneous as Supermicro was never a top name in the gaming motherboard market so I'm not sure what "glory" they intend to reclaim. They have never had any in the U.S. at least. Like Intel, Supermicro always made good motherboards but their aesthetics and features made them come across as workstation or standard retail motherboards with a simple color change here or there. It takes more than a color change to make a motherboard competitive in a market segment saturated with designs that are wild in comparison to what Supermicro offers.

    upload_2019-2-11_9-12-25.png

    Take this Z390 motherboard for example. This is basically built like your standard green PCB server or workstation motherboard. It just has a dark theme to it. Otherwise, it's nothing like the gaming motherboards on the market today. You have anemic looking MOSFET coolers, an anemic chipset cooler and nothing to indicate this motherboard is built for gamers. This motherboard costs right around $200.

    In contrast, ASUS' Z390-A costs $183 and looks like this:

    upload_2019-2-11_9-16-23.png

    ASUS' offering shows a greater attention to detail and an aesthetic which would appeal to gamers. MSI, ASUS, GIGABYTE, etc. have done tons of research on this and cladding these boards in plastic, marking the PCB like the one pictured above and RGB LED lighting does infact, sell motherboards. While there is some push back on some of those things on our forums, that doesn't seem to be the case market wide. I think its generally the older guys on the forums like me which push back on some of these things. Of course I actually like some of those things although, the LED thing has been pushed too far at times.

    ASUS also gives you a fan extension header, dedicated water pump headers and other things focused on gaming builds. From the specs I've seen on Supermicro's website, I don't see anything like that. I haven't seen Supermicro's UEFI implementation, but I'll wager it isn't as sophisticated as ASUS' is. I don't think the Supermicro motherboard is necessarily a bad board, I just don't think Supermicro knows anything about the gaming motherboard market.
     
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  6. tunatime

    tunatime 2[H]4U

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    IDK that is way way to blingy/busy/colorful. The top one has a very clean look that I like. Not everything needs RGB lights lol. Also I would rather my $$$ go into better components then all the useless lights and things.

    I see a good test for Kyle and his fancy thermal imaging gun. Check to see how good theses MBs keep cool. For all we know the clean to the point heatsinks might cool better then the full shroud things.

    Also I don't think your choice of motherboard matters nearly as much as the old days when some of them where God awful. Now most seem to at least work on the low end and on the high end not much difference in overclocks
     
  7. vegeta535

    vegeta535 2[H]4U

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    Do we really need more competition in MB market? There are already a couple dozen. Also a dozen different sku for easy chipset from each vendor.
     
  8. Legendary Gamer

    Legendary Gamer Limp Gawd

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    More consumer choice is always better than less consumer choice. If they want to get into the MB market, works for me. The MB market is supposed to be slowing down, so, the more the merrier. Honestly, I don't really care who makes what so long as it works and has a good, responsive, warranty if it doesn't/fails. I'm interested to see what happens here.
     
  9. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Huh,

    I don't remember them having former glory in the gaming marketplace.

    In fact, I don't even recall them having gaming products at all on their webpage until ~ early 2017 or so.
     
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  10. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Personally I prefer the less racy aesthetic, and would shop for Supermicro boards for that reason, and because I have been impressed with the stability of their server boards I own.

    The only concern I would have is if they get what it takes to make a good overclocking board. This isn't really done much or at all in the server space. If they can make a less racy consumer board, with good overclocking features/power and none of the superfluous non-functional gaming heatsinks, racing stripes, LED's or spoilers, they'd vault to the top of my list for my next build.
     
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  11. Legendary Gamer

    Legendary Gamer Limp Gawd

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    All that extra bling on a mother board doesn't really mean a damn thing to me. I will go for a functional design over a, gaudy, bling loaded whatever... LEDs are cool, however, if I wanted it that badly I would add my own. It's a mother board... Does it have to look sexy? Not in my opinion. It has to work, it needs to be stable, do what I want it to do (like OC). I totally agree, I would pick one up for my next build as well for the reasons you listed.
     
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  12. BlueFireIce

    BlueFireIce [H]ardness Supreme

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    New "gaming" mobos remind me of all the new cars today, open the hood and you don't even see the engine/battery/ECU/Fuses etc etc anymore, all you see are plastic covers with "cool" designs and logos on them....Pass.

    Give me a mobo with simple yet over built heatsinks, quality components and a well put together BIOS and I am game. I want to SEE whats on the mobo and how it's built, I don't want to see plastic shrouds unless they are ducting for cooling fans.
     
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  13. Dan_D

    Dan_D [H]ardOCP Motherboard Editor

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    That's just one example in a similar price point I pulled out of my ass in about 10 seconds. I agree on the RGB LED lighting, although I do enjoy some slight accent lighting. The shrouds themselves do not lend to cooling, which is why they are generally designed to have a minimal impact and cover things that don't need cooling to speak of. The earlier shrouds like those employed on the TUF series used to need cooling fans just to hit equilibrium with a board that didn't have that stuff on it. As for the choice of motherboard not mattering, I agree and disagree at the same time. I think it depends on the price points we are talking about and from which brand.

    Even if a $99 motherboard makes it through our testing, if its got anemic cooling and a ton of corners that have been cut I'd worry about it over a prolonged period of time. Unfortunately, that's conjecture which is why I don't add statements like that to review. Perceived quality is just that and it means very little if there are other issues that detract from it like a shitty UEFI. That said, generally speaking you still get what you pay for when it comes to motherboards up to a point. After that break over point it becomes fluff. Of course this has no impact on performance anymore as everything that drives system performance is no longer part of the motherboard.

    Absolutely. It drives innovation and competition can lead to lower prices. We used to have far more brand options in the market than we do now. Basically there are four companies I review boards from and occasionally a BioStar gets thrown into the mix from time to time. We used to have motherboard reviews from ABIT, DFI, BioStar, ASUS, Foxconn, AMD, Intel, ASUS, GIGABYTE, MSI, EVGA, BFG, Soyo, FIC, IWill, ECS and so on. Today, most of those companies are gone or at the very least, they no longer compete in the motherboard market in the US. Today, there are more offerings than we generally cover, but the big names are basically MSI, ASUS, GIGABYTE and ASRock. Sure, EVGA is still around but they aren't really a threat to the other four I just mentioned. More importantly, they don't seem to be the innovators they once were.

    We also used to have far more options in the chipset market. While Intel offered fewer chipset SKU's, we had a lot more to choose from as there were chipsets from VIA, AMD, ALI, SIS and NVIDIA. These days you have Intel and AMD. That's it. I will say, in today's climate I think we could do with less motherboards using the same chipset. Sometimes you'll have a model with a different color scheme and a different NIC and that's it. Otherwise, they are the same board. (I'm talking about you GIGABYTE.) There is little reason for it.

    Absolutely.

    I think the Supermicro doesn't look good because of its anemic cooling and for no other reason. That particular ASUS is gaudy, I'll grant you that but this isn't really about my taste or your taste necessarily. The fact is, building all this red and black shit and slapping RGB LEDs actually helped to sell more motherboards. Its been wildly successful and that's why these companies continue to do it.

    The bling is secondary to me. However, I do like a motherboard to look good all things being equal. The ASUS Z390-A has its 1980's style lighting and I don't much care for that one, but some other motherboards like the Maximus XI Formula are sexy as hell. My issue with Supermicro here is that its cooling looks anemic. Granted, without having one to test I have no idea how it performs. That's what's important but understand that these preferences you or I may have do not necessarily represent the whole of the gaming industry. The fact is, all this shiny stuff sells.

    That's just it. These are not simple, yet overbuilt heat sinks. They are anemic looking and are probably at best adequate. As for the UEFI, that's where I really have my doubts about Supermicro. Having a decent BIOS much less a decent UEFI doesn't seem like it would be the companies strong suit. I don't know if I'll ever see one of Supermicro's boards on my test bench, so we'll see.
     
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  14. sleepeeg3

    sleepeeg3 [H]ardness Supreme

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    I think you are right, Dan, but it is interesting that the Supermicro board has larger heatsinks and more caps than the ASUS board.
     
  15. BlueFireIce

    BlueFireIce [H]ardness Supreme

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    My post was more about the newer "gaming" mobos than it was about SuperMicro. I have seen a few of their boards that were more targeted to this market and well....They looked like their server boards with little to no HS on anything, 2 fan headers, 1/10th the feature sets of other brands, yet upper-mid range priced, I didn't understand it. My post is more of what I would like to see them do, as everyone else is all about looks, not saying they don't perform, just that 90% of them are all marketing now on buzz words with almost no variance in OC ability etc.

    For some reason I am expected them to come out with a mobo thats about ASUS Prime level, but with a $450 price tag.
     
  16. Xpl1c1t

    Xpl1c1t Limp Gawd

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    Thought I'd add some relevant points based on my experience with a supermicro z170 board.

    BIOS updates pushed for 2017, 2018 and 2019.
    High quality VRM components.
    OC options are all there... just buried after a series of pages.
    BIOS options are insane - you better have an intel microcode manual to explain everything they have granted you access to - I rank this high on my enthusiast meter.
    Jumper-based configuration options so you dont have to go through the fucking BIOS next time you flash it. These can hard-disable USB-wake, onboard audio and lan, etc.

    The hardware is high quality, but this board's BIOS and configuration options is it's strong point in my opinion.
     
  17. Dan_D

    Dan_D [H]ardOCP Motherboard Editor

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    Supermicro always makes high quality hardware. But again, I don't think they fully understand the gaming market. They need to understand that many gamers who build their own PC's are interested in aesthetics. PC hardware is not only functional, but some of these machines are show pieces as much as anything. This is why ASUS has actually made its Thermal Armor optional on some older models and even sold it separately should you want to install it later. I have no idea how well that did, but I suspect few ever bothered since they don't seem to do it anymore. To this day you have some models which have it and ones which are stripped versions of that higher end board that lacks the Thermal Armor. The Maximus XI Hero is an example of this. VRM wise its identical to the Maximus XI Formula, but all the extra stuff that makes the latter motherboard special is stripped away.

    As far as OC variability, you won't see that because the motherboard has very little to do with it when it comes to achieving the average overclock one can expect on air or water cooling in a short period of time. The more advanced motherboards have settings that could potentially gain you another 3-5% with that same cooling, but achieving that could take many hours of tuning and testing that most aren't willing to do. You still might not even get that much out of it for all that work. It isn't until you get into more radical forms of cooling like phase change and LN2 cooling that you will really see differences in motherboards from one model or brand to the next.

    That said, your cheaper and more anemic boards may not be able to sustain that moderate or higher end overclock on air or water 24/7 the way another more expensive board might. All this assumes of course that your CPU isn't the limiting factor. It more often than not is the limiting factor making your motherboard choice less important beyond its basic feature set. Typically, in a sample size of 100 CPU's you'll get a break down like this. 30% can hit 4.7GHz, 30% can hit 4.8GHz, 20% can hit 4.9GHz, 15% can hit 5.0GHz and 5% can do more than 5.0GHz. I'm not citing any particular CPU, I'm just using this as an example of the types of ranges you can expect. In this example, you can probably hit 4.9GHz on almost any motherboard. The ones you can't will be the bargain basement variety with very limited BIOS options and less than idea VRMs.

    On the other hand, if you have an expensive motherboard that's built to overclock, then most of the CPU's in this example will hit their maximum potential easily. It isn't until you get in that last 15% or 5% of CPUs in this example that having that high end motherboard can pay off and again, that's only if the cooling and environment are up to the challenge.

    I'd have to see the interface to know if its any good. I haven't ever seen it on a modern Supermicro board so I can't speak to that. However, it annoys me when enthusiast settings are buried too deep or when there is an excessive use of sub-menus.
     
  18. DNMock

    DNMock Limp Gawd

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    Nobody is gonna say it? Fine, I will.

    I don't want a motherboard with a Chinese espionage chip embedded into it.

    Not stealing my WoW gold-farming secrets today, China!
     
  19. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    I see what you are saying, and this may not apply to Supermicro's historical consumer boards, but I would like to see more functional heatsinks designs that work, something like this:

    Pin-Fin-Heatsinks.jpg

    Rather than something like this, which sure is pretty, but is not a very effective heatsink.

    506165_757559_01_front_zoom.jpg

    There is something g to be said for the simple, rugged effective look :p
     
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  20. Dan_D

    Dan_D [H]ardOCP Motherboard Editor

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    Jesus. You are aware that almost every motherboard on Earth is manufactured in Taipei Taiwan right? Taiwan is its own country (Republic of China) and isn't the same as the People's Republic of China.

    You are incorrect. The materials and design of the newer MOSFET coolers are far more efficient and effective than you realize. Some of the ones I've seen on this latest crop of Z390 chipset based motherboards are among the most effective I've ever seen and I've been building PC's for over 20 years.

    Here is a diagram of a newer design from ASUS' PRIME X299 DELUXE II.

    upload_2019-2-11_14-36-55.png

    There is far more surface area and better conductivity in the above design than you would ever get on something like your 1990's chipset heat sink example.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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  21. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    I think he is referring to the news story a while back about spy chips in some of Supermicro Enterprise boards.

    I can't remember what happened to that. Was it debunked?

    Edit:
    When I am.on my phone, I am the king of typos.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  22. Dan_D

    Dan_D [H]ardOCP Motherboard Editor

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    Oh, that. I completely forgot about that. I believe that was something with their enterprise servers. I don't know if it was motherboard specific. Nor do I know if that was ever debunked.
     
  23. DNMock

    DNMock Limp Gawd

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    yup, that's what I was referring to, and afaik it was debunked.

    also, I don't really think this is an attempt by China to steal WoW gold mining secrets to be perfectly clear...
     
  24. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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  25. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Interesting. I guess I haven't looked at the latest designs. I haven't bought a high end motherboard since 2011.

    I do remember that for a period there, boards were coming with these crazy angular "cool" looking heatsink designs, that looked awesome (if you are in to that sort of thing) but weren't all that good at cooling stuff. I didn't realize they were actually sticking heat pipes in there these days.
     
  26. pillagenburn

    pillagenburn Gawd

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    haha Maybe we'll get an IPMI-enabled gaming motherboard?
     
  27. Dan_D

    Dan_D [H]ardOCP Motherboard Editor

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    Heat pipes have been used in various designs for the last ten years or more. The 680i SLI reference boards are an example of this.

    Hell no. There is a significant cost in management solutions like that. Most gamers wouldn't make use of it. That said, I would like to see it on something like GIGABYTE's X399 Designaire or ASUS' PRIME X299 DELUXE II. Those motherboards are for professionals and content creators and overlap with the gaming market somewhat. I would love to have that feature and would be willing to pay extra for it, but the average gamer wouldn't and shouldn't have to.
     
  28. pillagenburn

    pillagenburn Gawd

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    Yeah it was a bad joke I know :)
     
  29. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    I'll second this.

    My current motherboard is the venerable Asus P9X79 WS (the original version).

    I find it sad that I can't find no-nonsense boards like this anymore.
     
  30. BitMaster

    BitMaster Limp Gawd

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    I wouldnt buy into Asus IPMI again. I have it on a X99 WS/IPMI board for a server and it is on no way comparable to an iDRAC Enterprise or HP equivalent. It is the most unreliable IPMI I have come across.

    The cost for proper IPMI hardware is that high, that a 500€ board cannot have it both, quality in itself and proper IPMI, that alone is 300€.
     
  31. Dan_D

    Dan_D [H]ardOCP Motherboard Editor

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    iDRAC and ILO are embedded hardware solutions in servers costing upwards of several thousand dollars or even tens of thousands of dollars. Even if those solutions were $100, the cost of some of those $500 motherboards isn't as low as you'd imagine. Certainly, the cost isn't low enough to be able to absorb the cost of a decent IPMI solution and still achieve a reasonable profit margin. That's why they use a second rate IPMI solution that's no where near the level of Dell's iDRAC and HP's ILO. There is also considerable money tied up in those features for each company. You have integration into things like HP SIM and the ability to execute scripts against them and a range of features beyond what any gamer would probably do with it even if they did have it.
     
  32. dgz

    dgz [H]ardness Supreme

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    Dead Dead Redemption 4
     
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  33. Rizen

    Rizen [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Not to be flippant and I understand that the market reality probably doesn't reflect my preferences, but the focus on aesthetics over substance is - IMO - one of the bigger annoyances with the current enthusiast market. I don't give a shit about RGB. I just want excellent performing products. If they can nail that down, more power to them.
     
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  34. Dan_D

    Dan_D [H]ardOCP Motherboard Editor

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    Added aesthetics are cheap. It isn't necessarily an either or thing. All I'm saying, is that if Supermicro wants to compete they need to be at least as good as anyone else. It has to prove itself in this market. It also has to provide an attractive option to people with different purchase criteria than you or I might have.

    To further the point, Intel itself has utterly failed in the enthusiast motherboard market. This is because they never understood it. Intel kept building OEM style and entry level workstation boards with skulls on them and thought that was what made a gaming motherboard.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
  35. Darkbreeze

    Darkbreeze n00b

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    That's exactly what I was about to point out as well. Almost comes off as humorous.
     
  36. VanFanel89

    VanFanel89 2[H]4U

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    I think SuperMicro should probably worry more about restoring its server board reputation after the whole chinese-chip-on-board fiasco. I spec'd two high end production servers - one from SM for $24K and one from HP for $38K.

    Guess which one I had to buy my executive decree...
     
  37. Dan_D

    Dan_D [H]ardOCP Motherboard Editor

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    Except we've already covered how this was nonsense and it never happened. The stock prices fell, but no one has ever proved such chips existed on its motherboards.
     
  38. VanFanel89

    VanFanel89 2[H]4U

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    And perhaps it is nonsense but the sentiment remains and with it paranoia and with it the fear of security audits and the desire to not deal with that nonsense as well.
     
  39. M76

    M76 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    What appeals to me as a gamer/enthusiast are the features. Not flashy garbage like plastic attachments. In fact if I had the option between two boards with the exact same features, one plain, clean, the other like ASUS, I'd prefer the clean one.

    Supermicro was pretty popular in the nineties early 2000s here in Central Europe. They were the most sought after MBs. The plebs only dreamed of having a supermicro board. I don't think I've seen a non-server supermicro for over a decade tho. Didn't even know they made z170 and z370 boards.
     
  40. mvmiller12

    mvmiller12 Gawd

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    I remember when Tyan Super Soket 7 mainboards were a thing. In an era of unreliable mainboards for your Intel-Alternative needs, these things were rock-solid stable and mazing. I sold a ton of them at my shop back in the day....