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  • Magic Desktop

    The SGI Octane

     General Information


    The Octane series is a really powerful desktop system from SGI. It is very extendable and the entry systems, which already offer a fair amount of performance, are getting really affordable. If you want to buy an Octane, don't forget to check you the Octane Buyer's Guide.


    There are many different processor options available for the Octane, but not all work in all Octanes, because newer processors require a more recent version of the backplane and the mainboard.

    Processor Cache Single Dual
    R10000SC 1MB 175 Mhz
    195 Mhz
    225 Mhz
    250 Mhz
    175 Mhz
    195 Mhz
    250 Mhz
    R12000SC 2MB 270 Mhz
    300 Mhz
    400 Mhz
    270 Mhz
    300 Mhz
    400 Mhz
    R12000SCA 2MB 360 Mhz
    400 Mhz
    360 Mhz
    400 Mhz
    R14000 2MB 550 Mhz
    600 Mhz
    550 Mhz
    600 Mhz

    Unfortunately you cannot upgrade a single CPU Octane simply by plugging in a second CPU; you have to exchange the whole CPU module to a dual CPU module. The CPU modules are boards comparable to the Intel Pentium II slot 1 processors, and the CPU(s) are soldered directly onto the CPU module board.


    There are basically two mainboard revisions available, many of the old Octanes do have one of the first versions (part no 030-0887-00x) which can hold up to 2GB of RAM. Newer Octanes and the Octane2 has a slightly better mainboard (part no 030-1467-xxx) which can hold up to 8GB of RAM. Both mainboard have eight slots for holding DIMMs. You can distinguish the mainboards simply by looking at the handle: The older mainboard has a black handle whereas the newer one has a silver handle.

    Although the memory is just SDRAM memory, you need special 200pin memory modules for the Octane - like with most SGIs. Plus you have to insert the modules in pairs, that means you cannot upgrade memory with a single module, you always need two identical modules. The Octane has a total of 4 banks that is 8 memory slots.

    Graphic Options

    Basically there are two series for the Octane: The Impact graphics and the VPro graphics for the newer systems.

    Solid Impact Series

    This old architecture is almost always in used Octanes. Still there are two revisions, the SI options and the ESI/SE options. The later are a bit faster, but the supported features and architecture are exactly the same. Within the Solid Impact architecture, the four possible options only differ in configuration.

    Option Improved Option GEs REs Texture
    SI ESI / SE 1 1 none
    SI+TRAM ESI+TRAM 1 1 2
    SSI ESSI / SSE 2 2 none
    MXI EMXI / MXE 2 2 4
    RE: Raster Engine  GE: Geometry Engines  Texture: Texture Modules

    Note that only the graphic options with TRAM modules offer hardware accelerated texturing! But you can easily updare a SI to a SI+TRAM by adding a TRAM module or a SSI to an MXI by adding two TRAM modules.

    The improved versions actually are the same architecture, only slightly faster. If you want to upgrade your ESI or ESSI options with texture RAMs be careful that you get the newer TRAM modules which are fast enough!

    The Octane also supports dual-head configurations with two graphics boards plugged in. But not all combinations are supported by SGI or even practical. As a simple rule the second graphics board has to be either a SI or ESI board and should be of the version as the main board. For Example SI+SI or MXI+SI or ESSI+ESI, but not ESI+SI.

    Inofficialy it is even possible to stick up to four graphic boards into your Octane, but one should not install the TRAMs because of the additional heat they produce.

    VPro Series

    They begin to appear on ebay, but still get expensive and only the lowest option has been seen there so far.

    Option Colour RAM
    V6 48bit RGBA 32 MB
    V8 48bit RGBA 128 MB
    V10 48bit RGBA 32 MB
    V12 48bit RGBA 128 MB

    Note that the Vx option have absolutely nothing to do with the graphics cards and chipstes used in the Visual Workstations, although they have similar names.

    System Bus

    The XIO bus is a very high speed bus implemented in the most recent systems. The XIO boards can be single slot, double slot, or may be double wide - like the IO6 BaseIO boards for the Origin2000 and Onyx2. The optional PCI card cages that are available for OCTANE, Origin2000 and Onyx2 are really XIO boards that take one of the wide XIO slots.

    The XIO modules for Origin2000 and Onyx2 differ from the XIO modules for the OCTANE in the latching mechanisms they use. Also, the location of the latching mechanism will determine in which slots a particular board can be installed.

    The Octane also offers up to three PCI slots via the PCI cardcage, and this cage itself is again connected to the XIO bus.

    Power Supply

    There are two ersions of PSUs for the Octane: The old from Lucent (part no 060-0028-xxx and 060-0038-xxx) with a black handle and a newer from Cherokee (part no 060-0035-xxx) with a silver handle. The newer PSU is needed for VPro graphics and is a bit more silent.


    An Octane just needs a standard PS/2 keyboard and mouse (of course there are special gray keyboards and mice from SGI available) and has standard sound input/output connectors (again there are special Octane speakers available) plus a 100MBit fullduplex ethernet connector. The only item you have to care about is the monitor: Octanes do have a 13W3 monitor connector and use "sync-on-green" - although most modern PC Monitors support this method, you should assure that it really does by reading the manual before plugging it to an Octane.

    Video Options

    • Octane Personal Video option
      provides uncompressed Analog S Video/Composite In/Output
    • Octane Digital Video option
      provides serial digital In/Output NOTE: Cannot be used with Dual Heads
    • Octane Compression option
      provides realtime JPEG compression/decompression, with standalone analog I/O jack or in combination with the digital video option

    Other Options

    • XIO Single channel fibrechannel
    • XIO Dual channel fibre channel
    • XIO Ultra SCSI option board (4 differential ports)
    • XIO 4 port fast ethernet and 6 port serial option board
    • PCI RAD audio - digital Audio I/O board
    • PCI fast ethernet
    • PCI fast ethernet + keyboard/mouse (can be used with 2 graphics cards for dual user setup)
    • PCI 1000base-TX
    • PCI single channel fibre channel
    • PCI ISDN board
    • PCI single port differential Ultra SCSI
    • PCI single port single-ended UltraSCSI
    • PCI dual port QLogic Ultra160 SCSI card

    Note: When you want to use PCI cards, you will also need the PCI card cage for the octane.

    My Octane

    Have a look at my own Octane.