For a few days, a Canadian shop has been listing an Intel W790 board from Supermicro, a manufacturer specializing in servers and workstations, for the equivalent of just under 900 euros. This fuels CPU rumours, because the single-socket board is designed for the new LGA 4677 socket, which uses Sapphire Rapids CPUs.
The Canadian retailer is already revealing the basics: The Supermicro X13SWA-TF is based on the new Intel W790 chipset, which Intel confirmed through support this summer. Roadmaps from last year had also already named the W790, but at that time it was still assumed that Sapphire Rapids would start in the second quarter of this year – as is well known, nothing has come of it to this day. Officially, Sapphire Rapids is not scheduled to start until January 10, 2023, although large partners are already allowed to equip the first systems.
According to the stepping and spec code, the W790 chipset should be very similar to the Q670 chipset. The Q chipsets are traditionally the best equipped business solutions from Intel. In any case, a Sapphire Rapids CPU would provide many options directly from the processor and not from the chipset, since many PCIe lanes come directly from there. Nevertheless, the small chipset completes the package with many classic ports such as LAN, SATA and USB. A passive cooling of the W790 also speaks for the origin, because the Q670 works with only 6 watts, the W790 would have similar parameters.
The massive Supermicro X13SWA-TF eATX board flanks the LGA 4677 socket with 16 memory slots. It was already announced that Intel Sapphire Rapids supports eight-channel memory. Six PCIe slots are also installed in the x16 version, although the exact lane assignment is not clear. The Canadian shop only speaks of PCIe 4.0, but Sapphire Rapids also officially supports PCIe 5.0. Lane sharing via certain slots and the bottom one possibly with a drive via the chipset is conceivable, because it all happened before.
At least four M.2 slots can be seen in the picture, there are also eight SATA ports and U.2. A VGA connection can be found on the I/O panel, which is typical for the professional environment, which is why a BMC chip like the new Aspeed AST2600 will probably also be found on the board – to the left of the fifth PCIe slot. The structure is similar to predecessor boards from Supermicro – these also cost around 900 euros, by the way. In the end, the equipment is quite similar to these and in many areas has only been updated.
HEDT still primarily a wishful thinking
The board is a confirmation for a workstation solution, where Sapphire Rapids will face off against strong Threadrippers. These are also to receive a successor in 2023, also here on a new platform. Similar to AMD, the HEDT segment is currently also on the sidelines at Intel. The hope lasted that Intel could market a Xeon from the workstation area as a special HEDT solution (High End Desktop), even a new start date for April 2023 appeared. But there are no real facts to support this.
Recently, a native 34-core appeared through Intel itself, but it is the medium-sized version of Sapphire Rapids (MCC-Die). However, this would also be suitable for the board shown here, whether only as a WS or also as a HEDT variant remains open.