Xeon Phi in a desktop

So Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors have become relatively cheap these days. You can find a PCIe coprocessor for 100€ or less on eBay. But can this little gem be ran in an ordinary desktop? (Or should we start calling it a workstation now?)

Browsing the internet, you’ll find that the Xeon Phi a rather picky component to install in your computer. It seems to need expensive workstation or server grade hardware. But times have changed, hardware has evolved. Is this still true?
Doing some research you’ll inevitably stumble upon Puget Systems, and their various articles about the Xeon Phi. They are a great source of knowledge, these guys truly seem to know what they are doing. But the info is not really up to date.

The Phi requires a full size PCIe slot, however this slot can be an 8x slot. So a motherboard that supports dual gpu’s these days, could be sufficient. The Intel Xeon Phi PCIe coprocessor needs above 4G decoding to work, most motherboards have this feature nowadays (maybe a bios update is required). So the odds are looking good… time to get started.

I got an old Intel Xeon Phi 5110P co-processor from eBay. Yup, the passively cooled version (why make it easy?). I then proceeded to order a 3D printed fan adapter and a powerful fan.
Next step was to fit it all in the case. To be honest, first time I had to cut out a part of the old trusty case, but the drive cage was in the way. This thing is lengthy with the fan mounted. (And it is heavy, a support has already been ordered.)
Do not try to boot without additional cooling, the card will overheat terribly fast, you won’t even get to see if it was working.
To be honest I kind of like the looks of the big blue card in my desktop, but it makes the computer sound like a jet engine. This had to be fixed, as my beloved wife was not pleased with the noise. In comes the old trusty fan controller, the fan speed has been lowered to 2000-2200 rpm, which makes it OK as far as noise goes. The Xeon Phi now idles at 70 degrees Celsius without touching it (acceptable to me).

So what components are in the desktop that was used?
Nothing fancy to be honest:

  • MSI X470 Gaming Pro (latest bios)
  • AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
  • 16GB RAM
  • AMD RX 570 GPU
  • Windows 10 Pro

So there you have it, an AMD CPU paired with an Intel Xeon Phi 5510, all while running Windows 10.