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Notes and observations on X99 Taichi build

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    Posted: 31 Jan 2017 at 5:38pm
Hello,

I just upgraded my primary desktop system running Windows 10 to an ASRock X99 Taichi from an ASUS P9X79 PRO and wanted to share some feedback about the process, in case it's of use to anyone planning a similar configuration.

I purchased the following parts:

I had originally planned on using two 256GB Intel 600p M.2 NVMe drives running in RAID0 (stripe) to host the operating system and applications, but it turns out the X99 chipset doesn't support NVMe RAID, so I went with:

This NVMe SSD is based on the Phison E7 (PS5007-E7) controller, which is the same controller used on the Corsair Force MP500, Patriot Hellfire, PNY CS2030 and ZOTAC Sonix NVMe SSDs.

Additionally, I replaced the on-board Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 (1?1 antenna arrangement, 433Mbps max) M.2 2230 WLAN card with an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 (2?2 antenna arrangement, 867Mbps max) M.2 2230 WLAN card I had lying around from a laptop upgrade project.

The good news is, everything worked just right out of the box. 

I removed the old parts from my system, installed the ASRock motherboard in the chassis, got everything wired up and the system POSTed right away.  I tweaked a few settings in the UEFI firmware (disabled CSM, Legacy OpROM, enabled Secure Boot, etc.) and was able to install Windows 10 Enterprise v1607 (x64) via USB flash drive without any problems.  I just wanted to mention this, since the CPU and Storage QVLs didn't mention these parts, specifically.

Phison does not provide an NVMe driver like some other NVMe SSD manufacturers, however, there was inbox support on the install media and that seems to work just fine.  Windows 10 was able to identify both wired and wireless network interfaces during the initial load of the operating system, and downloaded all other operating system updates and new device drivers without issue.

Since everything's up and running, I didn't really come across any major problems requiring major effort to workaround, but there are a few things which would have made the process go smoother:

  • The silk-screening for the M.2 Ultra Socket connectors on the motherboard could be larger/more prominent.

  • The manual had no table of contents or index.  While 35 pages for the English language section was manageable, the lack of a table of contents or index meant I spent a lot of time thumbing through pages for information.

  • The manual did not explain how to boot the system with just one or two DIMMs, which I had planned to do initially for testing during burn-in.  I found this information in the forum, but it would have been nice if this were included in the manual.

  • The motherboard only has eight USB connectors on the ATX shield (3xUSB 2.0, 3xUSB 3.0, 2xUSB 3.1).  While this may seem like a lot, after plugging in some low speed USB 2.0 peripherals (keyboard, trackball, headset, etc.) and supplemental USB power cables, I found myself beginning to fill the USB 3.0 ports for low speed devices or providing supplemental power to USB-based devices)

    The inclusion of additional USB ports on the ATX shield, or at least including some USB brackets with the motherboard for connecting to the six additional USB headers on the motherboard (2xUSB 3.0, 4xUSB 2.0) would have been most welcome.  I realize, though, that this motherboard is built for a certain budget, but I'd assume such things don't add much to the BOM and could be covered with a modest increase in price to the end user of a couple of dollars.

  • I did note a small error in the manual's illustrations:  In the section explaining how to install memory modules, DIMM slots with a single locking latch at one end are used.  My motherboard had DIMM slots with locking latches at both ends.

Overall, I'm very happy with the speed and performance so far, and have not seen anything which causes me to question the reliability of my upgraded system.  If anyone has any specific questions, please let me know.


UPDATE: 2017-FEB-01

Today the 2-port USB 2.0 port bracket and RS-232C serial port bracket I ordered arrived, and I installed them in the chassis and plugged them into the connectors on the motherboard.  It was difficult to see the silk-screening for the COM1 and USB5_6 headers due to a combination of their small size and orientation of the motherboard (I had installed it in a mid-tower case sitting on a low table next to my work desk) but since I had looked at the manual and these were the only free connectors in that area (and they had different numbers of pins) they were installed without issue.  

I moved my USB headset and fingerprint reader from USB ports on the ATX shield to the USB 2.0 bracket and both devices worked without any issues.  I do not have anything plugged into the RS-232C serial port (I'm guessing it's primarily used for controlling AV equipment, embedded systems development and the like, neither of which I use right now), but it will be good to have if I need one in the future.

Upon powering up the computer, I went into the Device Manager (filename: DEVMGMT.MSC) and found I had an Unknown Device listed in it.  Searching on its PCI vendor code revealed this was for an Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 (TBMT) processor feature.  I downloaded and installed the driver from Intel's web site, but found out that the Xeon processor supports an older (and slightly different-named) technology called Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 (TBT).  Both TBMT and TBT are controlled in the BIOS/UEFI firmware, so I disabled TBMT in the firmware, then disabled the service and the application's scheduled task to launch it in Windows through the Services Control Manager (filename: SERVICES.MSC) and Task Scheduler (filename: TASKSCHD.MSC), respectively.  I did this instead of uninstalling the TBMT software as I might one day install a processor that makes use of it.  One thing that was interesting to me was that the TBMT and TBT settings in the X99 Taichi's BIOS/UEFI firmware were located in the overclocking section, rather than the CPU section where I first looked.



UPDATE: 2017-JUN-09

I wanted to share some small updates:

  • The system updated from Windows 10 Enterprise 1607 Build 14939 (Anniversary Update) to Windows 10 Enterprise 1703 Build 15063 (Creators Update) without issue.  All motherboard features and previously mentioned hardware continue to work as implemented.

  • I added a Broadcom (formerly Avago Technology and even more formerly LSI Logic) MegaRAID SAS9260-8i 8-port internal SAS/SATA RAID PCIe adapter card, L5-25121-28 [PDF FILE], with firmware revision 12.15.0-0248 and device driver 6.713.06.00 and attached to four Seagate FireCuda 2TB 2.5" SATA-3 SSHD drives, ST2000LX001.  I have been using MegaRAID Storage Manager software 16.11.00.03 to try various RAID levels and stripe sizes.  The controller and drives have worked flawlessly with my ASRock X99 Taichi motherboard.

Normally, I try to stick with expansion cards from the motherboard manufacturer to reduce the likelihood of potential compatibility issues, however, I was unable to locate anything similar to this card.  I've used them them before in server builds from other vendors, so felt comfortable using one in this computer.

Almost one-half year later, I remain happy with my choice of the X99 Taichi motherboard and a satisfied ASRock customer.


UPDATE: 2018-MAY-19

Fixed some broken links in my original post, as some of them have changed over time.


Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky




Edited by goretsky - 20 May 2018 at 7:26am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote wardog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Jan 2017 at 6:31pm
Superb Review Aryeh. You received a Thanks from me for it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Aristoc Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2017 at 12:28am
whats a TPM and how does it work?  does it affect system speed/performance? does it work in the background?

where did you buy the V 2.0?

Thank you for your info!


Edited by Aristoc - 01 Feb 2017 at 1:14am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Xaltar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2017 at 12:42am
Its an added layer of security, TPM Trusted Platform Module.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trusted_Platform_Module

Thanks for the feedback Goretsky Thumbs Up
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Why did you choose the Intel Xeon E5-2620 V4 CPU..? And,what are you using for graphics?
Nice job and Thankyou for reading  Star
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote goretsky Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2017 at 3:56pm
Hello,

TPM is short for Trusted Platform Module, which is a special kind of microprocessor used to create and store secure cryptographic keys, a random number generator (RNG) and provide a level of trust attestation to the computer as it's booted (i.e., it allow the operating system to perform anti-tamper checks of the computer from the time it boots onwards).

I suppose there's some overhead associated with its use versus not using one, however, doing the things the TPM chip does in software would be even slower, and less secure.  Think of it as the equivalent of using your CPU to draw things on screen using the basic VGA driver versus using the video card device driver optimized for your GPU.

My particular cases for using the TPM chip are for researching security features in the Windows operating system (BitLocker, Measured Boot, Windows Hello, etc.), as well as testing any of my employer's software which makes use of it as well.

There are two "current" versions of TPM available right now, TPM v1.2 and TPM v2.0.  While they perform many similar actions, they are not compatible with each other, and only one can be used at a time.  Some computers implement both in order to support both old and new software.   For Windows 10, Microsoft supports BitLocker and Secure Boot with both TPM v1.2 and v2.0, but new security features which rely on a TPM chip will only support v2.0.  At least, that's what Microsoft currently states.

As far as I can tell ASRock TPM-S Modules come in both v1.2 and v2.0 versions (with the latter supporting both specs) so I just did a search for "ASRock TPM-S Module" and purchased one from an online vendor that specifically listed theirs as being the V2.0 version of the module (it had the Nuvoton NPCT650 chip on it).

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky


Originally posted by Aristoc Aristoc wrote:

whats a TPM and how does it work?  does it affect system speed/performance? does it work in the background?

where did you buy the V 2.0?

Thank you for your info!


Edited by goretsky - 02 Feb 2017 at 3:57pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote goretsky Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2017 at 4:29pm
Hello,

I had originally built and used what are now called HEDT or enthusiast-level desktop PCs for personal use (never any Intel Extreme Edition CPUs, but usually just 1-2 bins below that), but as of late I have been using some octo-core Xeon-based systems at work and was really impressed by how well they handled running lots of programs simultaneously, so for my next primary desktop system for personal use I decided on getting an Intel Xeon CPU.

The ASRock system that I built was actually an out-of-cycle upgrade for me.  I had not planned on updating my primary desktop PC for another 1-2 years, but was having problems with my old system.  After ruling out easy things like the power supply and video card, I figured it must be either the motherboard, CPU or RAM that were causing the problems.  Since those can take a long time to test, I just decided to replace them with newer technology, and then troubleshoot the old parts at my leisure.

As for the Intel Xeon E5-2620 V4 CPU, it was largely chosen on price.  I knew that I wanted an Intel Xeon processor with at least eight cores and a motherboard with an X99 (or C60x) chipset, so I went to one of those meta-shopping sites which allow you to spec out your own PC build and looked through the Xeon listing until I found one which was at the budget allocated for the new system build.

For graphics, I am using an ASUS ROG Strix GeForce GTX1060 6GB (STRIX-GTX1060-O6G-GAMING) video adapter, which is actually quite sad since I spend very little gaming these days.  It does, however, do an excellent job of driving two WQHD (2560?1440) displays, and if I ever get around to playing more PC games I am sure it will be a quite nice experience.

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky


Originally posted by TroyR TroyR wrote:

Why did you choose the Intel Xeon E5-2620 V4 CPU..? And,what are you using for graphics?
Nice job and Thankyou for reading  Star
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote wardog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2017 at 6:12pm
Aryeh, I was thrust into a time machine reading your "Twenty years before the mouse" article.

Thank you!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote parsec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2017 at 11:54pm
goretsky, a few comments about your comments and observations about your ASRock X99 Taichi board.

The paper manual provided with ASRock boards are actually not the full manuals, but called a Quick Installation Guide on the cover. I don't have a paper copy of your board's manual/guide, but that is what the paper manual of a current ASRock board I have is titled. The paper manual is multi-lingual, and would be rather thick if it was the full manual for each language.

You can download the complete manual in pdf format from your board's information page, the Manual section, the User Manual file, here:

http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/X99%20Taichi/index.asp#Manual

The User Manual has an index and contains more information than the Quick Installation Guide, that you can also find on that page in pdf format.

The Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 feature is new, and unique to the Broadwell E HEDT processor models. It is not a replacement or improvement of the standard Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 feature. TBMT's purpose is to identify the best performing processor core, and operates it at an even higher frequency than the standard Turbo 2.0 boost frequency. That is only possible with processors that have "unlocked" core multipliers that supports over clocking, as all the Broadwell E 'K' processors do. That is why the TBMT option is in the over clocking section of the UEFI/BIOS.

Since your Xeon v4 processor cannot be over clocked, the TBMT feature is not supported. I believe the Intel Mangement Engine software for the X99 platform adds the TBMT feature (without driver) to the PC, although it could be said it should not do so when a processor that does not support it is being used. I imagine you installed the INF driver ver:10.1.2.10 files on your PC? I don't know if the IME software version should be different when a Xeon v4 processor is used, so the question remains if this is an Intel or ASRock oversight.

I found your Xeon E5 2620 v4 processor in the CPU Support List, but given all the entries it could be easy to miss:

http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/X99%20Taichi/index.asp#CPU

The Storage QVL is really unable to be all inclusive of every drive available. Any drive that uses a storage protocol supported by a mother board, such as SATA or NVMe, should work fine as long as the appropriate driver is installed. Windows 10 includes an "inbox" NVMe driver, and you will find an entry under Storage Controllers in Device Manager for the NVMe controller in your MyDigitalSSD drive. Since NVMe support is provided in all UEFI/BIOS versions for your board, it works as the OS drive.

RAID support for NVMe SSDs was introduced by Intel with their 100 series chipsets that support IRST RAID, and won't work with earlier chipset models.

X99 boards can be rather covered with components, although the X99 Taichi is much cleaner than most X99 boards. Including text labels for each connector is as much of a challenge as reading them, in the limited space available.

Thank you for posting your positive experience with the X99 Taichi board, a refreshing read for the forum moderators.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote goretsky Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Feb 2017 at 8:12pm
Hello,

First off, thank you for the detailed response!

The ASRock X99 Taichi I received came with printed versions of both the Quick Installation Guide and a Software Setup Guide.  Is the latter available in PDF format?  I did not see it when looking through the http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/X99%20Taichi/index.asp#Manual page, but it's certainly possible I missed it.

I appreciate your explaining the intricacies of the core-boosting technology.  I do not use many intensive single-core, single-threaded processes that often so cannot imagine it having much effect on my workload.  My real interest here was in getting rid of the Unknown Device in Device Manager, which has been done.

The Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility downloaded was v10.1.2.10, but I believe some additional updates were downloaded from the Windows Update Catalog for a few processor-specific features as well as some of the USB 2.0 controllers (v10.1.2.19).  No problems noted, or any changes in behavior after the updated drivers were installed.

From a brief stint in the telecom hardware world, I know it can take a very long time to qualify components, and I certainly wasn't expecting there to be any problems with commodity hardware that uses industry-standard interfaces and protocols.  It occurred to me that since none of the NVMe drives listed in the QVL used a Phison E7 controller, it might be nice to post that I got one working, so in case someone else stumbled into the forum they could be pointed at a post and told "it's not on the QVL, but someone used it without problems."

Since NVMe RAID is not available now, I guess I shall have to wait for an X299-based motherboard (or whatever the chipset is) in a few years.

I realize that ASRock has a very, very broad product portfolio, all the way from value-oriented up into workstation range, as well as a few aspirational products like the X99 Taichi, which I'm guessing are designed for a certain market segment (case-modders? over-clockers? gamers?) that I'm probably not a part of.  I'm certainly not expecting anyone to go ahead and re-do the layout for the screening on the boards, but rather to provide some feedback for consideration in future designs.  Given the wide range of motherboards I've found that ASRock offers, there's probably a product manager somewhere to whom it's applicable.  I just wanted to provide some feedback since I couldn't imagine a product designer building a bunch of systems on desks at different heights, angles, etc., to determine what is and is not readable on the motherboard (at least, the one's I used to work with never did).  It is extremely rare for most end-users to open a chassis up once the system is assembled, so in the greater scheme of things, it's probably not that important, but it is nice to mention how products are a little easier to assemble or service in such a competitive marketplace.

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky

Originally posted by parsec parsec wrote:

goretsky, a few comments about your comments and observations about your ASRock X99 Taichi board.

The paper manual provided with ASRock boards are actually not the full manuals, but called a Quick Installation Guide on the cover. I don't have a paper copy of your board's manual/guide, but that is what the paper manual of a current ASRock board I have is titled. The paper manual is multi-lingual, and would be rather thick if it was the full manual for each language.

You can download the complete manual in pdf format from your board's information page, the Manual section, the User Manual file, here:

http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/X99%20Taichi/index.asp#Manual

The User Manual has an index and contains more information than the Quick Installation Guide, that you can also find on that page in pdf format.

The Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 feature is new, and unique to the Broadwell E HEDT processor models. It is not a replacement or improvement of the standard Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 feature. TBMT's purpose is to identify the best performing processor core, and operates it at an even higher frequency than the standard Turbo 2.0 boost frequency. That is only possible with processors that have "unlocked" core multipliers that supports over clocking, as all the Broadwell E 'K' processors do. That is why the TBMT option is in the over clocking section of the UEFI/BIOS.

Since your Xeon v4 processor cannot be over clocked, the TBMT feature is not supported. I believe the Intel Mangement Engine software for the X99 platform adds the TBMT feature (without driver) to the PC, although it could be said it should not do so when a processor that does not support it is being used. I imagine you installed the INF driver ver:10.1.2.10 files on your PC? I don't know if the IME software version should be different when a Xeon v4 processor is used, so the question remains if this is an Intel or ASRock oversight.

I found your Xeon E5 2620 v4 processor in the CPU Support List, but given all the entries it could be easy to miss:

http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/X99%20Taichi/index.asp#CPU

The Storage QVL is really unable to be all inclusive of every drive available. Any drive that uses a storage protocol supported by a mother board, such as SATA or NVMe, should work fine as long as the appropriate driver is installed. Windows 10 includes an "inbox" NVMe driver, and you will find an entry under Storage Controllers in Device Manager for the NVMe controller in your MyDigitalSSD drive. Since NVMe support is provided in all UEFI/BIOS versions for your board, it works as the OS drive.

RAID support for NVMe SSDs was introduced by Intel with their 100 series chipsets that support IRST RAID, and won't work with earlier chipset models.

X99 boards can be rather covered with components, although the X99 Taichi is much cleaner than most X99 boards. Including text labels for each connector is as much of a challenge as reading them, in the limited space available.

Thank you for posting your positive experience with the X99 Taichi board, a refreshing read for the forum moderators.
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