Hardware review: Workstation Specialists WS 2850
James Morris puts Intel’s latest eight-core Xeon processor through its paces… Do we have a new rendering maestro?
- 2 x 3.1GHz Intel Xeon E5-2687W processors
- 32GB PC3-1600 DDR3 RAM
- Nvidia Quadro 4000 graphics with 2GB GDDR5 memory
- 120GB Intel 520 Series solid-state disk
- 2 x 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 hard disks
- Gigabit Ethernet networking
- Windows 7 64-bit
- 3 years’ parts and labour warranty
MANUFACTURER: Workstation Specialists
Intel’s Sandy Bridge processor generation has provided the main workstation news over the last year or so, but its effect has primarily been to drive down the cost of a decent level of performance.
Essentially a quad-core desktop range, there was only a single-socket Xeon Sandy Bridge version – until now, that is.
Intel has finally released a Xeon range based on Sandy Bridge: Romley is aimed at dual-socket systems, and has huge potential for the 3D workstation market. Our first look comes in the form of Workstation Specialists’ WS 2850.
The WS 2850 we were sent incorporates a pair of the highest-performance Xeon E5-2687W CPUs.
Each has eight physical cores, and Hyper-Threading is supported, so there are a whopping 32 virtual cores across the two processors.
Although the E5-2687W nominally runs at 3.1GHz, it also includes Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, which operates a bit more aggressively than previous generations. All eight cores can be increased to 3.4GHz for extended periods, and two cores can run at up to 3.8GHz, so there are benefits for both single- and multi-threaded software.
The new processor has another trick up its sleeve. It accesses main memory through four channels simultaneously for increased bandwidth. Workstation Specialists has populated each of the two memory banks with 16GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM arranged across four DIMMs in each bank.
This leaves eight slots free for upgrade, although the 32GB total should be enough for a few years to come. The graphics aren’t quite as high-end as the processor specification, however.
The Nvidia Quadro 4000 is an excellent 3D accelerator, with 256 CUDA cores and 2GB of GDDR5 memory, but considering that this system includes the best processors available for a dual-socket Xeon, it’s a little more mid-range in focus.
The storage is appropriately potent, though. The Intel 520 Series solid-state disk may be a little small at 120GB, but it’s fast, with read and write speeds a few times faster than a hard disk and almost instantaneous access times.
The two 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 hard disks supplied for main data storage won’t be as fast, but they have been striped together as a RAID 0 array which will improve their throughput. Apart from the 22x DVD rewriter, however, no other storage provisions have been included.
The WS 2850 aced our benchmarks, particularly in rendering. The score of 25.26 in Cinebench R11.5’s render test was the highest we’d ever seen – until we tested the Armari Magnetar X32, that is, which pips it to the top spot with a render test score of 25.31.
The Cinebench OpenGL score of 58.97 is not quite so dominant, although it’s still a reasonable result.
The same story carries through to SPECviewperf 11. The maya-03 score of 81.91 is one of the best we’ve seen, but still a few places behind the top results. The lightwave-01 score of 59.77 is a little further off the top contenders, but still implies that LightWave modelling will be extremely fluid.
The Workstation Specialists WS 2850 blends blistering fast rendering performance with very capable modelling. If you’re looking for a system that can take a project all the way from visualisation to final output, this workstation offers unparalleled capabilities.
- Extremely fast rendering
- Decent modelling performance
- Storage configured for speed
- Modelling performance doesn’t quite match class-leading rendering
The Workstation Specialists WS 2850 shows the huge promise of Intel’s new Xeon processors, with scorchingly fast rendering performance
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 Thursday, April 19th, 2012 at 5:21 pm under Hardware, Reviews.
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Tags: 3D computer, 3D workstation, Hardware review, review, Workstation Specialists, Workstation Specialists WS 2850