Review: Armari Magnetar M32-AW750R workstation
Armari showcases the latest FirePro W9000 graphics from AMD, with huge OpenCL rendering power on tap, says James Morris
▲ This Armari system includes a selection of powerful components
- 2 x 2.6GHz Intel Xeon E5-2670 processors
- 32GB PC3-1600 DDR3 RAM
- AMD FirePro W9000 graphics with 6GB GDDR5 memory
- 180GB Intel 520 series SSD
- 2TB Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 hard disk
- Gigabit Ethernet networking
- Windows 7 64-bit
- Warranty: 3 years (1st year onsite, 2nd and 3rd RTB)
The professional graphics card market has been relatively uneventful for the last year or so, with Nvidia’s Fermi Quadros slugging it out against AMD’s V-series FirePros. But a new Quadro range is imminent, while AMD has just launched its FirePro W series. Showcasing the latest top-end FirePro W9000 card from AMD, but with many other strengths of its own, is Armari’s Magnetar M32-AW750R.
The Magnetar is based around a pair of Intel Xeon E5 2670 processors. These are eight-core chips, running nominally at 2.6GHz. But Intel’s Turbo Boost is on hand so that a single core can run at 3.3GHz, or all at once at 3GHz, and Intel Hyper-Threading splits each core into two physical ones for enhanced performance with parallel tasks such as rendering. The processors are allied with 32GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory.
The graphics acceleration is, of course, the headline act. AMD’s new FirePro W9000 sports a whopping 1,792 stream processors and an equally massive 6GB of GDDR5 frame buffer. AMD is calling it the most powerful workstation graphics card ever created – although the number of stream processors is only 12 per cent more than the previous-generation FirePro V9800 and V8800.
However, the memory path has increased from 256- to 384‑bit, providing 264GB/sec bandwidth. There are also six Mini DisplayPort connections, allowing immense EyeFinity screen arrays, with each one supporting a resolution up to 4,096×2,160 using DisplayPort 1.2.
Storage comes in the format of a 180GB Intel 520 series solid-state disk (SSD) for operating system and applications, allied with a conventional mechanical hard disk – a 2TB Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 with a 7,200rpm rotational speed – for general data. Alongside the DVD rewriter there’s also a multi-format memory card reader. This wouldn’t cost much to add yourself but it’s handy to have it built into the chassis out of the box.
ADDED TEST RESULTS
With such a strong selection of powerful components, the Magnetar promises to do well in our benchmark tests. The Maxon Cinebench R11.5 rendering score of 22.99 isn’t quite as fast as the top Xeon E5s, but it’s pretty close and way ahead of non-Xeon E5 workstations we’ve reviewed, and the Cinebench OpenGL score of 74.19 is the second-fastest we’ve seen.
The Magnetar’s SPECviewperf 11 results are a mixed bag, as usual with AMD graphics: the scores of 51.97 in lightwave-01 and 53.19 in maya-03 are nothing to write home about, nor is 44.43 in the SolidWorks sw-02 viewset; but the score of 55.11 in ensight-04 is way ahead of anything we’ve previously tested.
None of this does the FirePro W9000 justice, though. An increasingly important factor for a graphics card is how much computing power it can provide beyond real-time 3D rendering. The new AMD FirePros support OpenCL 1.2, so we ran the LuxMark 2.0 OpenCL render test, and the system CPUs achieved a score of 10,332, but the FirePro managed 16,074. So the FirePro W9000 has nearly 60 per cent more OpenCL grunt than 16 Intel Xeon E5 cores.
At £6,445, the Magnetar M32-AW750R isn’t cheap. However, with the lower‑end AMD FirePro W8000 instead, the price drops by £1,450 to a more competitive £4,995. Either way this is an incredibly powerful workstation, with a superb custom chassis design incorporating dual redundant power supplies. For more general content creation, we’d recommend the W8000-based model, but if you’re using OpenCL-based rendering in your workflow there’s a huge amount of power on offer with this particular specification.
- Offers a huge rendering boost for
- OpenCL-enabled software
- Good modelling performance
- Powerful base specification for the money
- Pricey with AMD FirePro W9000 option
Armari’s Magnetar M32-AW750R provides a commendable debut for AMD’s FirePro W series, although the top W9000 is best suited to OpenCL-powered rendering
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 Monday, October 22nd, 2012 at 11:49 am under Hardware, Reviews.
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Tags: AMD, Armari, FirePro, graphics, workstation