Workstation Specialists

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An overclocked workstation with phenomenal performance for CAD, but with four CPU cores running at 4.0GHz, it’s no slouch under rendering applications either. By Greg Corke.

Specifications

Intel Core i7 950 ‘Workstation Enhanced’ to 4.0GHz
12GB (6 x 2GB) DDR3 memory
WSX motherboard (Intel X58 Express chipset)
300GB WD VelociRaptor hard drive (10,000RPM)
Nvidia Quadro FX 1800 graphics card (768MB)
Windows XP x64 (with free Windows Vista Business and Windows 7 Upgrade)
36 months full parts and labour warranty

Benchmarks (XP)
Graphics (bigger is better)
SolidWorks 2009 — 35.8
3ds Max Design 2010 — 4.9
Inventor 2010 — 4.6
CPU (secs — smaller is better)
3ds Max Design 2010 — 265

Price: £1,855
www.workstationspecialists.com

Workstations Specialists, the company formerly known as CAD 2, has gone for optimum performance in its latest WSX114 workstation. To do this it has done a little tinkering and overclocked a Core i7 950 processor (which usually runs at 3.06GHz) to a whopping 4.0GHz. The result is the fastest workstation we have ever seen at AEC, backed up, of course, by some of the fastest benchmark scores.

The machine is perfect for CAD in particular, but with four CPU cores running at 4.0GHz, it is no slouch under rendering applications either. This makes it an interesting proposition to budget conscious users who need excellent performance under multi-threaded applications, such as 3ds Max, but don’t want to compromise on general application and graphics performance by only being able to afford a low GHz dual processor system.

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In terms of memory the WSX114 is maxed out with 12GB with all six DIMM slots filled with 2GB memory modules. This is a huge capacity for pure CAD and only those working with giant BIM models are likely to get close to filling this. Still, there is plenty of room to grow for the future. The 300GB hard drive may be a little under capacity for some users, but it is 300GB of very fast storage in the form of a 10,000 RPM Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drive. Those looking for additional storage could always supplement this with a secondary SATA drive.

So what are the downsides of the WSX114? If I had to find any fault it would be that the chassis could be a little smaller and it would have better acoustics. It is not noisy by any stretch of the imagination, but when put alongside some of the other machines we have seen recently, there is noticeable fan noise. This was probably down to ensuring the overclocked CPU stays within its thermal limits, something that Workstation Specialists takes very seriously. It gives every machine a full 15 day ‘burn-in’ running flat out and backs it up with a 36-month full parts and labour warranty.

In summary, the WSX114 is a phenomenal machine. It delivers levels of performance that simply cannot be achieved with mainstream systems that are not overclocked.

If you are looking for the ultimate mid-range CAD machine then you may have just found it.

A note about overclocking

Overclocking is the process of making the CPU run at a faster speed than it was originally designed for. It used to be the reserve of the 3D gaming community, but is now being seen more and more in professional workstations.

Workstation manufacturers that don’t overclock often dismiss the practice, saying it makes machines unstable and prone to overheating.

Those that do overclock their machines refute this, test every machine to destruction prior to shipping to customers and back it all up with full warranties. While we haven’t experienced any problems with overclocked machines it is impossible for us to comment on their long-term stability. If you have any experiences, good or bad, on any workstations you have purchased, then we would be interested to hear from you. 

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