A powerful niche machine with two 16 core Intel Xeon E5-2698v3 CPUs targeted directly at design viz specialists
One of the most significant advancements in Intel’s New ‘Haswell’ Xeon E5-2600v3 is the number of CPU cores on offer. While the ‘Ivy Bridge’ Xeon E5-2600v2 family peaked at 12 cores, the new Xeons go all the way up to 18.
For most CAD users this will be of little interest but if you’re heavily into design viz and spend a big chunk of your day producing photorealistic ray trace renders then it’s big news.
The problem with packing more cores into a single CPU is that the GHz has to drop. And we all know having a high GHz CPU is essential for system performance, CAD and other single threaded applications.
Finding the right balance can be a challenge, particularly when you factor in cost. Kitting out this InterPro workstation with two 18 core Intel Xeon E5-2699v3 CPUs (2.3GHz up to 3.6GHz) for example would set you back £8,875. However dropping down to two 16 core Intel Xeon E5-2698v3 CPUs (2.3GHz up to 3.6GHz), at the heart of this review machine, brings the price down to a slightly more palatable £7,775.
It might cost a fair packet, but the potential performance benefits of Haswell over Ivy Bridge are huge. In 3ds Max Design 2015 our scene rendered in an incredible 54 secs, streaks ahead of anything we’ve seen before. It’s hard to put an exact figure on the performance improvement due to differences in the mental ray trace renderer, but we reckon there’s around a 20%-25% performance increase when pitting the ‘Haswell’ E5-2698 v3 against the ‘Ivy Bridge’ E5-2697 v2 (12 cores @ 2.7GHz up to 3.5GHz).
Despite hammering all 16 cores, the Xeon E5-2698v3s still manage to maintain a turbo clock speed of 2.8GHz during long term testing. Fan noise in the InterPro E-Series – E200HWE [v3] remained relatively low, despite running both CPUs flat out for over an hour.
The Interpro is no slouch when it comes to graphics. Paired with a high-end Nvidia Quadro K5200 GPU it should delivers good 3D performance in applications like 3ds Max but the lower GHz processor does throttle it a fair bit.
InterPro’s chassis of choice is the Supermicro CSE-732D4-903B, a simple mid-sized tower. It lacks the finesse of a tier one manufacturer, but it’s easy to get access to drives thanks to a 90-degree rotatable HDD cage.
The machine is heavily laden with storage: a fast 480GB Intel 530 Series SSD for operating system and applications and two 3TB enterprise class 7,200RPM Seagate ES.3 SATA3 drives. These are mirrored in a RAID 1 array to keep data safe should one drive fail.
Overall, InterPro has delivered a powerful niche machine targeted directly at design viz specialists. It’s perfectly tuned for incredibly fast ray trace rendering and while the single threaded performance takes a hit it’s not as slow as one might expect.
The good news is InterPro offers the full range of Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3 Series CPUs so you can match it to your workflows and indeed your budget. The processor that we’ve got our eye on is the Intel Xeon E5-2697v3 (14 cores @ 2.6GHz up to 3.6GHz). It should deliver your ray trace renders in roughly the same time but, with the additional 0.3GHz, will make a significant difference to overall system performance. And the best news is that it will take £500 off the cost of your machine bringing it down to £7,275.
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