A powerful mobile workstation, with many of the hallmarks of a desktop machine.
Regular readers of AEC Magazine will no doubt be familiar with Workstation Specialists’ desktop machines, but may not be aware that the company also does a line in mobile workstations.
The WS-M1510 is the firm’s latest mobile offering and, with a high-end CPU and GPU, looks to deliver ‘desktop’ workstation class performance in a portable package. The compact 3.1kg chassis features a 15.6” W-UXGA (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit display and is certainly light enough to carry around for the day, but with power-hungry components, battery life is short and you can never venture too far from a mains socket.
The biggest culprit when it comes to power consumption is Nvidia’s ultra high-end Quadro 5010M Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), which draws 100W at peak. But what this GPU lacks in power efficiency it more than makes up for in performance, delivering excellent results in our 3D graphics tests. But there is more to the Quadro 5010M than just 3D frame rates. With 4GB GDDR5 memory and 384 CUDA GPU cores the Quadro 5010M can be used to accelerate render times in iRay-enabled applications, such as Autodesk 3ds Max. Users of simulation software, including DS Simulia Abaqus and Ansys can also make use of this powerful GPU compute chip.
At the heart of the WS-M1510 is Intel’s new Core i7 2960XM Extreme Edition, currently the fastest mobile CPU out there. This quad core chip runs at 2.70GHz as standard, but automatically clocks up to 3.70GHz whenever it can. Support for Intel HyperThreading means a total of eight cores (four physical and four virtual) can accelerate render times in applications such as 3ds Max. However, with all CPU cores running flat out, the Turbo Boost speed up will be limited. This helps explain why the WS-M1500 was a little off the pace in our multi-threaded 3ds Max Design test. However, it compared much more favourably to a desktop quad core Core i7 workstation under our standard CAD test, which does not push all four CPU cores to the limit.
Elsewhere, the WS-M1510 has other hallmarks of an entry-level desktop workstation. It boasts a sizeable 16GB of PC3-1600MHz high speed DDR-3 memory and a 250GB high performance Intel 510 Series SATA3 Solid State Drive (SSD). There is no support for a second drive, but larger capacity drives are available.
Looking beyond the key components, the WS-M1510 is a sleek laptop. The matt grey chassis is well built, with grills at the back to expel excess heat. It features good connectivity options including 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, mini FireWire 400, eSATA (USB Combo) Intel 5300 Wireless LAN and Bluetooth. It also has a Mini PCI-E card slot for extras such as mobile broadband. In use, the full sized keyboard is solid and responsive and the numerical keypad a welcome inclusion for precise input.
Overall, the WS-M1510 is a capable machine for designers and engineers that require ‘desktop’ workstation performance wherever they go — providing there is a power supply, of course.
The one downside is price. At £3,595, the WS-M1510 is certainly not cheap, but much of this cost is made up of the premium CPU and GPU. Stepping the CPU down a 0.2GHz to a Core i7 2920XM Extreme Edition will shave a significant amount off the price tag. For those that do not require such a powerful GPU, there are some more cost effective options, specifically targeted at CAD users, coming soon.Greg Corke