Introduction and Design
Although the target market and design emphasis may be different, there is one thing consumer and business-grade laptops have in common: a drift away from processing power and toward portability and efficiency. At the risk of repeating our introduction for the massive MSI GT72 gaming notebook we reviewed last month, it seems that battery life, temperature, and power consumption get all the attention these days. And arguably, it makes sense for most people: it’s true that CPU performance gains have in years past greatly outstripped the improvements in battery life, and that likewise performance gains could be realized far more easily by upgrading storage device speed (such as by replacing conventional hard drives with solid-state drives) than by continuing to focus on raw CPU power and clock rates. As a result, we’ve seen many mobile CPU speeds plateauing or even dropping in exchange for a reduction in power consumption, while simultaneously cases have slimmed and battery life has jumped appreciably across the board.
But what if you’re one of the minority who actually appreciates and needs raw computing power? Fortunately, Lenovo’s ThinkPad W series still has you covered. This $1,500 workstation is the business equivalent of the consumer-grade gaming notebook. It’s one of the few designs where portability takes a backseat to raw power and ridiculous spec. Users shopping for a ThinkPad workstation aren’t looking to go unplugged all day long on an airplane tray table. They’re looking for power, reliability, and premium design, with function over form as a rule. And that’s precisely what they’ll get.
Beyond the fairly-typical (and very powerful) Intel Core i7-4800MQ CPU—often found in gaming PCs and workstations—and just 8 GB of DDR3-1600 MHz RAM (single-channel) is a 256 GB SSD and a unique feature to go along with the WQHD+ display panel: built-in X-Rite Pantone color sensor which can be used to calibrate the panel simply by closing the lid when prompted. How well this functions is another topic entirely, but at the very least, it’s a novel idea.
Subject: Motherboards | August 30, 2014 - 01:10 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xeon, x99 ws, X99, workstation, socket 2011-3, Intel, Haswell-E, asrock
Alongside the X99 Extreme6 for enthusiasts, ASRock has launched the X99 WS (E-ATX) motherboard for professional workstations and servers. The board uses a black PCB, blue aluminum heatsinks on the power phase and PCH areas, and gold colored caps. The E-ATX motherboard uses short screws and a thinner CPU socket backplate to allow it to fit into 1U server cases. You have ample PCI-E slots, DDR4 (and ECC RDIMMs), USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 2 (with an AIC), eSATA, M.2, and SATA III for connectivity. Power is regulated by a 12 power phase "Digi Power" design with high quality Ultra Dual-N MOSFETs, 60A chokes, 12K Nichicon capacitors.
The X99 WS also uses larger heatsinks, especially around the CPU area. The board features an Intel LGA 2011-3 socket that will accept Haswell-E or Xeon E5-1600/2600 v3 processors up to 18 cores and 160W TDPs. Eight memory slots surround the CPU socket and support a maximum of 128GB of DDR4 3200+ memory. Storage is handled by 10 SATA III 6Gbps ports and a single "Ultra M.2" slot that supports SATA III or PCI-E x4 controller equipped drives.
This worskation board takes advantage of the Extended ATX form factor to cram in additional PCI-E 3.0 slots versus the shorter X99 Extreme6. A PCI-E 2.0 x 16 slot sits directly below the CPU socket followed by the (mentioned above) M.2 slot and five PCI-E 3.0 x 16 slots. The five PCI-E 3.0 slots allow for 4-Way CrossFireX and 4-Way SLI multi-GPU setups. To take full advantage of this board, you will want to pair it with the higher end Haswell-E parts (5930K, 5960X, et al) with the full 40 lanes rather than the entry level 5820K with its limited 28 PCI-E lanes.
Using internal headers, the X99 WS supports a TPM module, two COM ports, two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, and a Thunderbolt port (via an extra add-in-card). It features two CPU fan and three chassis fan headers as well.
The X99 WS features the following ports on the rear IO panel.
- 1 x PS/2
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 1 x eSATA
- 4 x USB 3.0
- 2 x Gigabit LAN
- 1 x Intel I217LM
- 1 x Intel I210AT
- 7.1 Channel Audio (Realtek ALC1150)
- 5 x Analog audio outputs
- 1 x Optical audio output
The X99 WS is available now with a three year manufaturer warranty for $323.99. The price alone pushes this board well into the professional market, but gamers can get most of the way to the WS feature-wise with the X99 Extreme6. The WS goes up against the boards like the ASUS X99-Deluxe and MSI X99S XPOWER AC.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 9, 2013 - 09:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Xeon Phi, workstation, quadro, micron, LSI, k6000, Ivy Bridge-EP, firepro, dell
Along with the release of new mobile workstations, Dell announced three new desktop workstations. Specifically, Dell is launching the T3610, T5610, and T7610 PC workstations under its Precision series. The new systems reside in redesigned cases with improved cable management, removable power supplies (tool-less, removable by sliding out from rear panel), and in the case of the T7610 removable hard drives. All of the new Precision workstations have been outfitted with Intel's latest Ivy Bridge-EP based Xeon processors, ECC memory, workstation-class graphics cards from AMD and NVIDIA, Xeon Phi accelerator card options, LSI hardware RAID controllers, and updated software solutions from Intel and Dell.
The new Precision workstations side-by-side. From left to right: T3610, T5610, and T7610.
Dell's Precision T3610 is a the mid-tower system of the group powered by single socket Xeon E5-2600 v2 hardware that further supports up to 128GB DDR3 ECC memory, two graphics cards, three 3.5” hard drives, and four 2.5” SSDs.
The Precision T3610, a new single socket, mid-range workstation.
The Precision T5610 ups the ante to a dual socket IVB-EP processor system that can be configured with up to 128GB DDR3 ECC memory, two AMD FirePro or NVIDIA Quadro (e.g. Quadro K5000) graphics cards, a Tesla K20C accelerator card, three 3.5” hard drives, and four 2.5” solid state drives.
Finally, the T7610 workstation supports dual Intel Ivy Bridge-EP Xeon E5-2600 v2 series processors (up to 24 cores per system), up to 512GB DDR3 ECC memory, three graphics cards (including two NVIDIA Quadro K6000 cards), four 3.5” hard drives, and eight 2.5” SSDs.
Dell's Precision T5610 dual socket workstation.
The new Precision workstations can also be configured with an Intel Xeon Phi 3120A accelerator card in lieu of a Tesla card. The choice will mainly depend on the applications being used and the development resources and expertise available. Both options are designed to accelerate highly parallel workloads in applications that have been compiled to support them. Further, users can add an LSI hardware RAID card with 1GB of onboard memory to the systems. Dell further offers a Micron P320h PCI-E SSD that, while not bootable, offers up 350GB of high performance storage that excels at high sequential reads and writes.
On the software front, Dell is including the Dell Precision Performance Optimizer and the Intel Cache Acceleration Software. The former automatically configures and optimizes the workstation for specific applications based on profiles that are reportedly regularly updated. The other bit of software works to optimize systems that use both hard drives and SSDs with the SSDs as a cache for the mechanical storage. The Intel Cache Acceleration Software configures the caching algorithms to favor caching very large files on the solid state storage. It is a different approach to consumer caching strategies, but one that works well with businesses that use these workstations to process large data sets.
The Dell Precision T7610 workstation.
The Dell workstations are aimed at businesses doing scientific analysis, professional engineering, and complex 3D modeling. The T7610 in particular is aimed at the oil and gas industry for use in simulations and modeling as companies search for new oil deposits.
All three systems will be available for purchase worldwide beginning September 12th. Some of the options, such as 512GB of ECC and the NVIDIA Quadro K6000 on the T7610 will not be available until next month, however. The T3610 has a starting price of $1,099 while the T5610 and T7610 have starting prices of $2,729 and $3,059 respectively.
What are your thoughts on Dell's new mid-tower workstations?
Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 9, 2013 - 09:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: workstation, quadro, precision series, optimus, mobile workstation, m6800, m4800, haswell, firepro, enduro, dell
Today, Dell announced new mobile workstation systems in 15” and 17” notebook form factors. The Dell Precision M4800 and Precision M6800 are 15” and 17” laptops constructed of magnesium alloy and anodized aluminum cases, pack some impressive portable computing power, and will be available later this week.
The Dell Precision M6800 and M4800. Photo courtesy of Dell Inc.
Both the Dell M4800 and M6800 are ISV certified, MIL-STD-810G tested, and support FIPS fingerprint readers, self encrypting hard drives, and TPM security chips. The workstations are updates to the existing M4700 and M6700 systems and can be configured with Intel Haswell i5 or i7 (including i7 Extreme Edition) processors, AMD FirePro or NVIDIA Quadro GPUs, up to 32GB of DDR3 1600MHz (or 16GB DDR3 at 1866MHz), multiple storage drives, Waves MaxxAudio, and WiGig wireless dock support that allows up to 5 external displays. Users can attach a 9-cell 97Wh slice battery in addition to the 9-cell 97Wh system battery to get extended battery life. Users can add dedicated graphics cards to the systems from AMD (FirePro) or NVIDIA (Quadro), which support Enduro and Optimus technologies respectively. The technology allows the system to turn off the dedicated cards and use the Intel processor graphics when the extra horsepower is not needed to conserve battery life. The M4800 and M6800 workstations each come with 3 year warranties.
The Dell Precision M4800 is a mobile workstation weighing 6.35 pounds. It features a backlit keyboard, trackpad, and high resolution 15.6” QHD+ IGZO display with a resolution of 3200 x 1800. The notebook can be configured with up to an Intel Core i7 “Haswell” Extreme Edition processor, an AMD FirePro M5100 Mobility Pro or NVIDIA Quadro K2100M graphics card, 32GB of DDR3 1600 MHz memory, and 2.5 TB of internal storage (two 1TB plus one 500GB drive) in RAID 0, 1, or 5 modes.
The 15” Dell Precision M4800 workstation will be available on September 12th starting at $1,249.
Stepping up to the larger 17” Precision M6800, users can configure the system with a Haswell Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K5100M with 8GB of GDDR5 memory, 32GB of DDR3 1600 MHz system memory, 3.5TB of storage space in RAID 0, 1, or 5, and a 17” 1080p LED-backlit 10-point multi-touch display. This notebook weighs 7.86 pounds.
The M6800 will be available in black or phoenix red with a starting MSRP of $1,599 on September 12th.
Business customers needing portable computing power have some interesting new options with the two new Dell workstations, which pack some powerful hardware into a laptop form factor. Sure, they are not the lightest or thinnest machines, but you won't find i7 processors, 32GBs of memory, Quadro graphics, and 2+TB of storage in an ultrabook.
Subject: Systems | August 1, 2013 - 05:39 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: workstation, quadro k4000, quadro, haswell, Cyberpower
Cyberpower recently launched a new series of workstation PCs for video editing and 3D professionals called the Power Mega III. The new systems are powered by Intel’s latest processors and either NVIDIA Quadro or AMD FirePro graphics cards. The new series ranges in price from $1,099 to $4,299.
The Cyberpower Power Mega III series includes the following systems:
Power Mega III 1000
Power Mega III 2000
Power Mega III 3000
Power Mega III 1000 Video
Power Mega III 2000 CAD
Power Mega III 3000 3D
Cyberpower allows users to customize the systems by adding additional storage, graphics cards, memory, and business software. The systems will be built in either the NZXT H630 or the Thermaltake Urban S21 chassis. Cyberpower further uses all-in-one liquid coolers to cool the Intel processors.
On the high end is the Cyberpower Power Mega III 3000 3D. Hardware includes dual Intel Xeon E5-2630 processors (both fitted with AIO coolers), a NVIDIA K4000 GPU (768 CUDA cores, 3GB GDDR5), 32GB of ECC RAM, a 3TB mechanical hard drive, and dual 120GB SSDs. This system starts at $4,249.
Cyberpower is aiming the new workstation systems at graphics and visual computing professionals that use 3D design, composition, and simulation applications.
More information can be found on the Cyberpower PC website.
Subject: Graphics Cards | July 23, 2013 - 09:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: workstation, simulation, quadro k6000, quadro, nvidia, k6000, gk110
Today, NVIDIA announced its flagship Quadro graphics card called the K6000. Back in March of this year, NVIDIA launched a new like of Quadro graphics cards for workstations. Those cards replaced the Fermi-based predecessors with new models based on NVIDIA’s GK-104 “Kepler” GPUs. Notably missing from that new lineup was NVIDIA Quadro K6000, which is the successor to the Quadro 6000.
Contrary to previous rumors, the Quadro K6000 will be based on the full GK110 chip. In fact, it will be the fastest single-GPU graphics card that NVIDIA has to offer.
The Quadro K6000 features a full GK110 GPU, 12GB of GDDR5 memory on a 384-bit bus, and a 225W TDP. The full GK110-based GPU has 2,880 CUDA cores, 256 TMUs, and 48 ROPs. Unfortunately, NVIDIA has not yet revealed clockspeeds for the GPU or memory.
Thanks to the GPU not having any SMX units disabled, the NVIDIA Quadro K6000 is rated for approximately 1.4 TFLOPS of peak double precision floating point performance of and 5.2 TFLOPS of single precision floating point performance.
The chart below illustrates the differences between the new flagship Quadro K6000 with full GK110 GPU and the highest tier Tesla and consumer graphics cards which have at least one SMX unit disabled.
NVIDIA GK110-Based Graphics Cards
|Quadro K6000||Tesla K20X||GTX TITAN|
|Memory Bandwidth||288 GB/s||250 GB/s||288 GB/s|
|Single Precision FP||5.2 TFLOPS||3.95 TFLOPS||4.5 TFLOPS|
|Double Precision FP||~1.4 TFLOPS||1.31 TFLOPS||1.31 TFLOPS|
The NVIDIA GTX TITAN gaming graphics card has 2,688 CUDA cores, 224 TMUs, and 48 ROPs and is rated for peak double and single precision of 1.31 TFLOPS and 4.5 TFLOPS respectively. On the other hand, the lower-clocked Tesla K20X compute accelerator card has 2,688 CUDA cores, 224 TMUs, and 48 ROPs along with lower clockspeeds on the memory and GPU. Because of the lower clockspeeds, the K20X is rated for double and single precision floating point performance of 1.31 TFLOPS and 3.95 TFLOPS and memory bandwidth of 250GB/s versus the 288GB/s bandwidth on the TITAN and K6000.
NVIDIA® Quadro® K6000 GPU
In all, the new K6000 is an impressive card for professional users, and the GK110 chip should perform well in the workstation environment where GK104 was the only option before. NVIDIA claims that the GK110 is up to 3-times the performance of the Quadro 6000 (non K) predecessor. It is also the first Quadro GPU with 12GB of GDDR5 memory, which should lend itself well to high resolutions and artists working with highly detailed models and simulations.
Specifically, NVIDIA is aiming this graphics card at the visual computing market, which includes 3D designers, visual effects artists, 3d animation, and simulations. The company provided several examples in the press release, including using the GK110-based card to render nearly complete photorealistic vehicle models in RTT Deltagen that can run real time during design reviews.
The Quadro K6000 allows for larger and fully populated virtual sets with realistic lighting and scene detail when 3D animators and VFX artists are working with models and movie scenes in real time. Simulation work also takes advantage of the beefy double precision horsepower to support up to 3-times faster simulation run times in Terraspark's InsightEarth simulation. Users can run simulations with wider areas in less time than the previous generation Quardo cards, and is being used by oil companies to determine the best places to drill.
Pixar's Vice President of Software and R&D Guido Quaroni had the following to say regarding the K6000.
"The Kepler features are key to our next generation of real-time lighting and geometryhandling. The added memory and other features allow our artists to see much more of thefinal scene in a real-time, interactive form, which allows many more artistic iterations."
The K6000 is the final piece to the traditional NVIDIA Quadro lineup and is likely to be well recieved by workstation users that need the increased double precision performance that GK110 offers over the existing GK104 chips. Specific pricing and availability are still unknown, but the K6000 will be available from workstation providers, system integrators, and authorized distribution partners beginning this fall.
Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2013 - 05:06 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: sales, workstation
The Tech Report put up an editorial which discusses the recent reports on the shrinkage of PC sales and point out that it is not necessarily Personal Computer sales which are slowing but only the workstation sales. You may feel that a PC is a desktop and only a desktop but the market has changed to the point where a watch can qualify as a personal computer and your smartphone definitely does. The term post-PC may be applicable but at the same time limiting your definition of a PC to a desktop and possibly laptops is not as accurate as it once was. The term workstation is accurate for those of us who actually do work which requires the power of a multicore system with dedicated daughterboards, but the vast majority of users do not need the power of a full system. Enthusiasts and professionals will always need the power of a full workstation but perhaps it is time to realize we may be in the minority, which is why sales of traditional workstations have declined. Ask makers of ARM devices if their sales are declining; the main stream market is shifting to devices that many of us would not consider a "real PC".
"PC shipments suffered their greatest decline ever last quarter, in spite of Windows 8 and all those tablet-notebook hybrids. Some say there's no hope, but I disagree. Because the PC is booming—just not the PC we know."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Google smashes analyst expectations with 31 percent revenue climb @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft CFO quits as quarterly results fail to sparkle @ The Register
- AMD posts mediocre numbers, cites 'difficult market environment' @ The Register
- Cupertino funk, part II: No joy in iVille @ The Tech Report
- Java 8 Delayed To Fix Security @ Slashdot
- Rosewill Ultra-Slim HDMI RedMere Cable Review @ Legit Reviews
- Intel Chipset Codenames Cross-Reference Table @ Hardware Secrets
- Bad Microsoft patch trapped you in a boot loop? Here's your fix @ The Register
- Win Tt eSPORTS Gaming Gear @ eTeknix
Subject: Motherboards | April 2, 2013 - 11:27 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: asus, p9x79-e, workstation, Sandy Bridge E, quad sli, quad crossfire, lga 2011
Earlier this year at CES, ASUS showed off a high-end workstation board called the P9X79-E WS. The board is meant for Sandy Bridge-E processors, but will likely be compatible with Ivy Bridge-E as well. Unlike Wolverine and Zeus, the P9X79-E WS is a motherboard that will actually see the light of day and has been officially launched. It will be available sometime in May at an as-yet-unannounced price.
The P9X79-E hosts a single LGA 2011 processor, up to 64GB of 2400MHz DDR3, the Intel X79 PCH, and support for 4-Way SLI or CrossFire on four of its seven total PCI-E 3.0 slots. The workstation board uses a 10-layer PCB, ASUS DIGI+ with 10+2 power phases, DR Power PSU monitoring, ASUS SSD Caching II, solid capacitors, and fanless heatsinks connected via copper heatpipes.
Storage options include six SATA 6Gbps ports, four SATA II 3Gbps ports, and two eSATA ports coming from the front panel header. The rear IO has changed a bit since the board seen at CES, however. The now-official ASUS P9X79-E WS includes the following rear IO options:
- 1 x PS/2 combo port
- 10 x USB 2.0 ports (one can be used for BIOS flashing)
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- 2 x eSATA ports
- 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports backed by Intel i210 GbE controller
- 6 x Analog audio ports
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF port
The board can accommodate up to four dual slot graphics cards or seven single slot expansion cards (like PCI-E SSDs and RAID controllers). As a workstation board, it is likely to be pricey, but for those that need 4-way SLI and LGA 2011 (possibly for Ivy Bridge-E though its hard to say for sure if that will work yet) it is shaping up to be a good option. As mentioned above, the P9X79-E WS will reportedly be available for purchase in about a month. Sometime in early May or late April, according to Slash Gear.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 26, 2013 - 06:18 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: workstation, nvidia, GTC 2013, BOXX, 3dboxx 8950
Boxx Technologies recently launched a new multi-GPU workstation called the 3DBoxx 8950. It is aimed at professionals that need a fast system with beefy GPU accelerator cards that they can design and render at the same time. The 8950 is intended to be used with applications like Autodesk, Dassault, NVIDIA iray, and V-Ray (et al).
The Boxx 3DBoxx 8950 features two liquid cooled Intel Xeon Ed-2600 processors (2GHz, 16 cores, 32 threads), up to 512GB of system memory (16 DIMM slots), and seven PCI-E slots (four of which accept dual slot GPUs, the remaining three are spaced for single slot cards). A 1250W power suppy (80 PLUS Gold) powers the workstation. An example configuration would include three Tesla K20 cards and one Quadro K5000. The Tesla cards would handle the computation while the Quadro can power the multi-display ouput. The chassis has room for eight 3.5" hard drives and a single externally-accessible 5.25" drive. The 8950 workstation can be loaded with either the Windows or Linux operating system.
Rear IO on the 8950 workstation includes:
- 5 x audio jacks
- 1 x optical in/out
- 4 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x serial port
- 2 x RJ45 jacks, backed by Intel Gigabit NICs
The system is available now, with pricing available upon request. You can find the full list of specifications and supported hardware configurations in this spec sheet (PDF).
Subject: Motherboards | January 9, 2013 - 12:01 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: workstation, usb 3.0, socket 2011, sandy bridge-e, p9x79-e, ces 2013, CES, asus
ASUS is showing off a new flagship X79 motherboard at CES called the P9X79-E WS. The workstation-class board is packed with hardware and ready to take Intel’s socket 2011-based Sandy Bridge-E processors to the extreme. The P9X79-E WS is of the E-ATX variety and features a LGA 2011 socket nestled between eight DDR3 DIMM slots. The board can support a maximum of 64GB clocked at 2400 MHz. An eight-pin CPU power and standard 24-pin ATX connector supplies power to the board while ASUS’ 10+2 phase DIGI+ VRM delivers clean power to the processor and memory.
The P9X79-E WS uses the X79 PCH and features six SATA 6 Gbps ports and four SATA 3 Gbps ports. With seven total PCI-E 3.0 x16 expansion slots, the P9X79-E WS can support quad SLI or CrossfireX multi-GPU solutions.
Rear IO on the ASUS motherboard includes the following ports:
- 1 x combo PS/2 port
- 7 x USB 2.0 ports
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports (plus two additional USB 3.0 headers on the motherboard)
- 1 x USB BIOS flash port and button
- 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports
- 2 x eSATA ports
- 6 x Analog audio ports
- 1 x S/PDIF port
- 1 x FireWire port
While not quite as outlandish as the Zeus and Wolverine prototype motherboards ASUS showed off at Computex, the P9X79-E WS is a high-end board that should actually see the light of day. Unfortunately, ASUS has not released any official pricing or availability for its new flagship X79 motherboard yet. WCCF Tech has several close up photos of the ASUS board worth looking at as well.
PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.
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