An overclocked Intel Core i5 3570K CPU and Nvidia’s brand new Kepler Quadro K600 GPU combine to deliver an enviably low cost CAD workstation
Sub £1,000 workstations used to mean a major trade off in most areas — CPU, memory, hard drive and graphics. But, as Scan’s latest entry-level machine demonstrates, the sacrifices do not have to be nearly as big as they used to be.
Scan’s 3XS GW-MT15 is focused squarely on entry-level 3D, but still provides raw CPU performance. Overclocked to 4.4GHz the quad core Intel Core i5 3570K processor packs a huge punch for CAD and BIM software, where clock speed is king.
This ‘Ivy Bridge’ chip is a cool £70 cheaper than the popular Core i7 3770K and there should be very little noticeable difference in day-to-day modelling operations.
The main distinction between the two is that the Intel Core i5 3570K does not support Intel HyperThreading, which should give a welcome 15% boost in most ray trace renderers.
So, unless rendering is an important part of your workflow, consider it money well saved.
Most entry-level workstations ship with 8GB of RAM, but Scan has managed to pack in an impressive 16GB into this machine, populating two of the four DIMM slots with 8GB DDR3-1600 modules.
For those that work with small assemblies much of this will probably go unused, so it could be worth scaling down to 8GB if budget is tight.
To handle 3D models Scan has included Nvidia’s brand new Quadro K600 graphics card. The 1GB card is ideal
for entry-level CAD, but will start to show its limitations when working with large
3D models, particularly when displaying realistic materials, using Nitrous in 3ds Max for example.
In terms of storage, Scan has opted for a dual drive setup: a 120GB PNY XLR8 Solid State Drive (SSD) for operating system and applications and sizeable 2TB Seagate Barracuda SATA drive for data. Considering the price of the machine this is pretty impressive, though I would personally allocate a bit more budget to the SSD.
For an additional £26 you can upgrade to a professional PNY 120GB Prevail Elite, which is not only rated by PNY as being 10x higher in terms of its long term endurance, but our tests confirm that it is significantly faster than the consumer-focused PNY XLR8. £26 well spent I’d say.
For what is positioned as a budget workstation it is good to see Scan has still managed to present the components in a quality chassis. The CoolerMaster Silencio RC-550 is solid in construction, provides easy access to the hard drives inside and also includes some handy top mounted USB ports.
With a substantial CPU heat sink and insulated with acoustic foam, the machine is also incredibly quiet in operation. However, with the CPU rated at 77W and the GPU at 41W there is not a huge amount of heat being generated inside so the fans should not be taxed too much anyway.
Overall, the Scan 3XS GW-MT15 is an impressive entry-level machine, which, thanks to its overclocked CPU, can mix it with the best when it comes to raw performance in CAD and BIM software.
The only real limitation as far as CAD is concerned is with graphics where large models, particularly those presented with realistic materials, could become a little sluggish on screen.
Other than that, even with a few tweaks here and there, perhaps to upgrade the SSD, it is possible to keep it under that all-important £1,000 Threshold. Impressive stuff from the Bolton-based system builder.