Workstation review: Scan 3XS Core i7 Hex Core
Intel updates its Sandy Bridge line to include six-core processors, with impressive results, says James Morris
£1,999 £1,949 (Updated 2/2/12)
- 3.2GHz Intel Core i7 3930K processor running at 4.4GHz
- 32GB PC3-12800 DDR3 RAM
- Nvidia Quadro 4000 graphics with 2GB GDDR5 memory
- 128GB Corsair Performance Pro solid-state disk
- 1TB Seagate
- Barracuda 7200.12 7,200rpm hard disk
- Gigabit Ethernet networking
- Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- 3 years (1st onsite, 2nd and 3rd RTB) parts and labour warranty
Intel’s Sandy Bridge Core i7 processor has taken the budget end of the workstation market by storm. Not only does it offer better performance overall than the previous generation for equivalent clock speed, it can also safely be pushed well beyond its nominal frequency. This has led to a slew of systems running at greater than 4GHz, with great modelling and very good rendering performance for a keen price.
However, up until now, Sandy Bridge has been quad-core only, so it couldn’t quite match the previous six-core generation for raw rendering ability. With the latest Core i7 3000-series, Intel is finally giving Sandy Bridge the extra two cores it needs to reign supreme, and our first look comes in the form of Scan’s 3XS Core i7 Hex Core.
The Scan comes with Intel’s Core i7 3930K, which runs at a nominal 3.2GHz and has 12MB of Level 3 cache, but there’s also a 3960X Extreme Edition available, which has a 3.3GHz nominal frequency and 15MB of Level 3 cache.
Aside from the requisite six cores, there’s Intel Hyper-Threading technology on hand, so each real core is split into two virtual ones, giving a total of 12, which can benefit parallel processing tasks such as rendering. Like its predecessors, the new six-core processor also incorporates Turbo Boost, which raises the frequency of individual cores as required. But Scan has permanently set the processor to 4.4GHz.
The processor has some other tricks up its sleeve, too. The first Sandy Bridge had a dual-channel memory architecture, which was a step down from the triplechannel bus offered by the previous Core i7. The new CPU leapfrogs over both with quad-channel memory, so requires modules to be added in multiples of four. The Scan’s motherboard comes with eight slots, and all are filled with a 4GB module of 1600MHz PC3-12,800 DDR3 memory, for a very healthy total of 32GB. There’s no room for upgrading, but you’re highly unlikely to need to in the lifetime of the machine.
At this point we should also note that this spin of Sandy Bridge doesn’t have graphics acceleration built in, which was rather redundant for a 3D workstation anyway. Scan hasn’t chosen to switch to AMD for this, unlike so many recent workstations we’ve seen, but instead has opted for Nvidia’s Quadro 4000. This offers a healthy 256 CUDA processors and 2GB of GDDR5 memory. Storage is relatively standard, with a 128GB Corsair Performance Pro solid-state disk and 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.1 conventional hard disk. A Samsung SH-S222AL 22x DVD rewriter and a 7-in-1 memory card reader take care of removable storage.
STUNNING RENDERING PERFORMANCE
Unsurprisingly, with its new Intel six-core CPU, the Scan performs extremely well, particularly when it comes to rendering. The score of 12.81 in the rendering portion of Maxon Cinebench R11.5 is the fastest we’ve seen from a single-socket system, although the OpenGL result of 59.45 is merely good, as the Quadro 4000 is behind its 5000 stable mate and AMD’s FirePro V7900. It’s a more impressive story with SPECviewperf 11, with outstanding figures of 71.91 in lightwave-01 and 88.44 in maya-03, plus a very good 55.79 in sw-02, the SolidWorks viewset. So rendering is stunning, and modelling very good. Scan’s 3XS Core i7 Hex Core shows just how much potential Intel’s new processor has for 3D work.
- Unparalleled rendering performance
- Excellent modelling capability
- Plenty of RAM
- Reasonable price
- Good but not outstanding storage
Scan’s 3XS Core i7 Hex Core system showcases Intel’s latest processor well, with incredible rendering and modelling performance for the money
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Morris has tracked the rise of every new development, from OpenGL accelerators to multi-processor workstations, over more than 15 years of testing 3D content creation hardware
on Friday, January 27th, 2012 at 3:51 pm under Hardware, Reviews.
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Tags: 32GB, 3XS Core i7 Hex Core, Sandy Bridge, Scan, workstation review