Dual-socket LGA1366 motherboards

Although the Xeon W5580 is compatible with some single-socket Intel X58 motherboards, such as the MSI Eclipse, you'll need a motherboard with the Intel 5520 chipset to support two CPUs simultaneously.

Unlike early Xeons, which had a proprietary heatsink retention mechanism, 5500-series Xeons can be cooled by any off-the-shelf LGA1366 processor cooler. The first two dual-socket Intel 5520 motherboards to arrive are the Intel S5520SC and the Supermicro X8DA3-O, pictured below.

Supermicro X8DA3-O

Manufacturer: Supermicro
UK Pricing: £468.83 (inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $542.60 (ex. Tax)

The X8DA3-O is quite a significant departure from earlier dual-processor Xeon motherboards. The most obvious physical difference is the presence of two banks of DIMM sockets, one next to each CPU socket. Intel Xeon W5580: Nehalem EP Dual-socket LGA1366 motherboards

Previous generation Xeons shared a single external memory controller in the Northbridge, so the DIMM sockets could all be bunched together next to this. In contrast, the Nehalem EP-based Xeon 5500-series CPUs each have an integrated memory controller, so the DIMM sockets need to sit nearer the CPU sockets.

Although it is equipped with two 16x PCI-E 2.0 slots, the X8DA3-O does not support SLI - but it is CrossFire compatible, so if you fancy building a workstation that also copes brilliantly with gaming, it's not a bad choice.

The image below on the left shows one of the main highlights of the X8DA3-O: its eight RAID-capable SAS ports. The upper slot in the photo on the right can be fitted with a Supermicro AOC-SIMLC card (sold separately) which acts as an IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface), allowing you to manage the system remotely over a LAN.

Intel Xeon W5580: Nehalem EP Dual-socket LGA1366 motherboards Intel Xeon W5580: Nehalem EP Dual-socket LGA1366 motherboards
Click to enlarge

Intel S5520SC

Manufacturer: IntelIntel Xeon W5580: Nehalem EP Dual-socket LGA1366 motherboards
UK Pricing: TBC
US Pricing: TBC

The S5520SC has two widely-spaced 16x PCI-E 2.0 slots, but it doesn't support SLI. The PCB layout is far from ideal, too. The 24-pin ATX power socket is located at the far side from the two 8-pin EPS12V power sockets, so it's a real challenge to wire neatly as you end up with cables straddling the motherboard.

Unlike Supermicro, Intel has fitted the CPU VRMs with heatsinks. There are still no overclocking options in the BIOS.
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