A good all round mobile workstation about to get better with an Ivy Bridge upgrade.
Mobile workstations with powerful GPUs are great if you are seriously into design vizualisation, but the Nvidia Quadro 5010M is wasted on the average CAD user.
The 2GB Quadro 3000M in Workstation Specialists’ (WS) latest mobile workstation offers a much better balance of price / performance. While Nvidia might market it as ‘high-end’ it is probably better matched to mainstream 3D CAD workflows.
Working alongside the Quadro is an Intel Core i7 2760QM (Sandy Bridge). This mainstream CPU runs at 2.4GHz but turbo boosts to 3.5GHz where possible. When all four cores are running flat out — as in our rendering test — it never gets this high, soon settling on 2.7GHz as the chip heats up.
We were a touch disappointed that our test machine did not come kitted out with one of Intel’s new ‘Ivy Bridge’ chips. WS had planned to include a Core i7 3720QM, but was unable to get one in time. The new Ivy Bridge chips will be available by the time you read this article and, the good news is, at no extra charge.
On paper, the Core i7 3720QM runs a bit faster (2.6GHz, turbo boosting to 3.6GHz), so we would expect a small but significant increase in the overall performance of the machine.
Considering this is a mobile workstation, there is no compromise when it comes to memory. 16GB (up to a maximum of 32GB) means it can handle some sizeable datasets.
Storage is not massive — a 120GB Intel 520 series SSD — but, with 550 MB/s (read) and 520 MB/s (write), performance is excellent. Higher capacity SSDs are available but push up the price considerably. Standard SATA drives are also offered and with 3 x USB and an eSATA port for connecting external disks there are plenty of storage options.
The chassis is pretty standard fare. The backlit keyboard features a full numeric keypad, which is great for CAD, and the trackpad’s two finger multi touch scrolling is a welcome inclusion. There is a little too much travel on the trackpad buttons for our liking, but most CAD users will use an external mouse so this should not matter too much. A fingerprint reader sits in between the trackpad buttons to help secure sensitive data. The 15.6-inch HD screen is high-gloss and delivers a quality image. External displays or projectors can be connected via DisplayPort, HDMI or DVI.
The WS-M1550 is a good all-round mobile workstation for mainstream CAD. With the Nvidia Quadro 3000M there is a good balance of price / performance and at 3.1kg it is light enough for everyday use on the road.