Hardware review: Armari Magnetar X32-AW1275D4 (3DW)
Armari provides another finely designed example of the awesome power available from Intel’s eight-core workstation processors, says James Morris
- 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
- 2TB Hitachi 7K3000 hard disk
- Gigabit Ethernet networking
- Windows 7 64-bit
- 3 years’ parts and labour warranty
Intel’s latest generation of Xeon processors has caused a big splash in the workstation market – so much so that manufacturer of high‑performance computer systems Armari has designed its own custom chassis for it, which we see for the first time in the Magnetar X32-AW1275D4.
One reason for the custom design is the slightly increased maximum thermal output of the new processors, but there are a few other secrets in store.
The Armari Magnetar system boasts a stylish custom chassis to hold its two eight-core Xeon E5-2687W processors
Armari has chosen to populate its new case design with a pair of the top eight-core Xeon E5-2687W processors. These run nominally at 3.1GHz, but Intel’s Turbo Boost technology ups the ante, allowing all eight cores to run at 3.4GHz for extended periods.
At times of heavy processing load, two of the cores can run at 3.8GHz if the remainder are not under heavy load. The processors also benefit from Hyper-Threading, which divides each physical core into two virtual ones, giving a total of 32 parallel threads, with the end result of major processing potency. The processors are partnered with 32GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory, supplied as two banks of four 4GB DIMMs to take full advantage of the Xeon’s quad-channel architecture. This also leaves eight slots free for upgrade.
Graphics acceleration is a little more pedestrian, with Nvidia’s Quadro 4000 taking care of 3D. This may offer 256 Cuda processors and 2GB of GDDR5 frame buffer, but it seems slightly overwhelmed alongside such high-end processors.
Storage comes in the usual form of a solid-state disk for the operating system and apps, with a conventional hard disk supplied for more general data. The former is a 120GB Intel 520 Series drive, while the latter is a 2TB Hitachi Deskstar 3000. Aside from the optical drive there’s also a memory card reader. This wouldn’t be an expensive addition to a system, but it’s useful to have as standard if you need to import assets.
All of these components are integrated into Armari’s custom chassis, which is designed specially for workstation specifications. The water-cooling system means the fans are quiet, even under heavy rendering workloads. There are 12 drive bays as standard but this is expandable to 20, with hot-swapping also an option, so you can create a massive hard disk array if required.
The chassis has modifiable front lighting, which might seem more appropriate for gamers, but can also give your studio environment an extra layer of style. There’s a button on the rear of the chassis to cycle through the colour options. The one downside of Armari’s custom chassis is that it’s significantly heavier than regular off-the-shelf units.
TOP BENCHMARK RESULTS
Performance is, as expected, phenomenal. With its 32 virtual cores, the Armari provides the best rendering performance we’ve ever seen in a workstation.
The Cinebench R11.5 rendering score of 25.31 beats Workstation Specialists’ WS 2850 by a fraction. Modelling is excellent, too, although not quite as unbeatable.
The OpenGL score in Cinebench R11.5 is 58.79, which is good but shows there are faster graphics options than Nvidia’s Quadro 4000.
SPECviewperf 11 highlights tell a similar story, with 59.19 in lightwave-01, 79.05 in maya-03, and 49.74 in sw-02, all of which imply fluid viewport performance but are surpassed by higher-end graphics options.
The X32 has another surprise in store, though. Despite the custom chassis and no-holds-barred processors, this workstation still squeaks in under £5,000 – that’s noticeably better value than the WS 2850, providing a huge amount of 3D content creation power for the money.
- Fastest rendering we’ve ever tested
- Reasonable modelling performance
- Custom-designed workstation chassis
- Ultra-high-end graphics would have matched processors better
Armari’s Magnetar X32 combines twin superfast eight-core processors with decent graphics and a feature-rich bespoke workstation chassis
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Morris has tracked the rise of every new development, from OpenGL accelerators to multiprocessor workstations, over more than 15 years of testing 3D content creation hardware
on Friday, April 20th, 2012 at 4:45 pm under Hardware, Reviews.
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Tags: Armari, Armari Magnetar X32-AW1275D4, computer review, Hardware review, workstation review, X32