Workstation Specialists WS2880

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A top-end workstation that literally cuts through ray trace rendering calculations. By Greg Corke.

  • 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2697 v2 CPUs (2.70GHz) (12 cores, 24 threads)
  • 64GB (8 x 8GB) 1,600MHz DDR3 memory
  • Nvidia Quadro K4000 GPU (3GB GDDR5)
  • 512GB Toshiba SSD + 2 x 500GB Western Digital VelociRaptor WD5000HHTZ (RAID 0) + 2TB Seagate Barracuda
  • WS motherboard (Intel C600 Series Chipset)
  • 220 x 500 x 500mm
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  • 3 year standard hardware warranty with NBD Engineer Response
  • £6,460
  • workstationspecialists.com

Workstation Specialists has gone all out with Intel’s new ‘Ivy Bridge’ Xeons presenting two twelve core E5-2697 v2 chips in this high-end design viz machine.

With the most cores possible in a Xeon workstation it’s no surprise it absolutely blitzed our render test, even with Hyper-Threading turned off (see InterPro review above). But this isn’t just about numbers in a spreadsheet, it’s about benefiting from new workflows.

With such power under the hood the design, render, tweak process can become absolutely seamless. Yes, it will still take time to create final high res stills and animations, but users can get exceedingly quick feedback on test renders, meaning more iterations and, hopefully, better designs.

Even when hammering both CPUs the WS2880 is impressively quiet. We rendered a 100-frame animation and had to pay close attention to hear the fans.

The downside of the E5-2697 v2 is that it only runs at 2.7GHz. Some may notice an overall performance hit, particularly when compared to the eight-core 3.4GHz Intel Xeon E5-2687W v2, but there’s no beating two of these chips in a render race and they’re great for multi-tasking. The good news is with 18 different Xeon models on offer it’s easy to find the right balance.

The WS2880 is kitted out with a mid-range Quadro K4000 GPU. It’s a good solid graphics option, though hardcore design viz users might prefer an upgrade to a K5000. The combination of mid-range GPU and 2.7GHz CPUs contribute to slightly lower performance we experienced in our 3D CAD tests.

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WS has invested heavily in storage, including a total of four drives. Windows is installed on a high quality 512GB Toshiba SSD, which not only gives ample room for applications, but plenty in reserve for virtual memory and hibernation. This could be important considering the WS2880 has 64GB RAM and 8 slots free for the future.

There’s also a RAID 0 array for data consisting of two 500GB 10,000RPM drives, delivering impressive read / write speeds and a standard 2TB HDD for local backup or archived datasets.

Overall, the WS2880 is an excellent machine for high-end design viz, balancing top-end CPUs with fast storage and delivering unrivalled performance for ray trace rendering.

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