A dual CPU powerhouse that boasts exceptional compute performance, but with a price tag more at home on a small car it is likely to play a niche role in the AEC market says Greg Corke.
Workstations do not come much more powerful than this dual processor machine from Derby-based Workstation Specialists. Featuring two of Intel’s highest performing Xeon chips, the X5680, the machine boasts a total of twelve CPU cores running at 3.33GHz. This means exceptional amounts of power for rendering and multi-tasking, credentials that were proven out in our benchmarks.
Under our rendering test we barely had time to put the kettle on as the machine ripped through our HD scene in a mere 123 secs. Here, Intel’s HyperThreading technology plays a significant role and the mental ray rendering engine at the heart of 3ds Max Design 2011 means that the 12 virtual cores are also used to maximum effect.
Performance is one thing, but the WS2610 was also able to set the pace without breaking into a sweat. With each Xeon X5680 CPU featuring a maximum thermal design power (TDP) of 130W, this was no mean feat. Fan noise became more apparent with repeated testing, but was still relatively quiet for such a powerful machine.
The WS2610’s low duty fans are also tasked with keeping PNY’s new Nvidia Quadro 4000 graphics card running cool – though for what is arguably the hottest running graphics card we have ever touched, cool is maybe not the best word to use here. The Quadro 4000 is one of three new Fermi-based professional graphics cards recently launched by Nvidia and under our 3D CAD graphics test delivered exceptional performance. Workstation Specialists also offers the 2.5GB Quadro 5000 for an additional £840, but we would not expect much additional benefit for most 3D CAD users.
The rest of the WS2600’s spec is as you would expect from an ultra high-end workstation. 12GB of 1,333MHz ECC DDR-3 memory is included in 2GB modules, leaving six slots free for future upgrades. There is also plenty of space for additional hard drives as there is only one ‘traditional’ drive in the form of a 1TB 7,200 RPM Seagate Barracuda. While this is reserved for ‘data’, for the main system drive a new generation solid state drive (SSD) technology slots directly into the PCI Express Bus, instead of using the more common SATA-II interface. Boasting a maximum read speed of
540MB/sec and a write speed of 480MB/sec, the 120GB OCZ RevoDrive is a serious piece of kit. To put it in perspective, typical SSDs claim maximum read / write speeds in the region of 200MB/sec.
From CPUs and memory to hard drive and graphics, the WS2610 is an incredibly high-spec workstation, specifically targeted at those serious about rendering or multitasking. As a result it comes with an equally serious price tag, which at £5,055, is likely it make it a one off purchase for most architecture or design visualisation firms.