GameBoxx FX
Issue: Volume: 27 Issue: 3 (March 2004)

GameBoxx FX

Boxx Technologies has made a solid name for itself in the production community by creating reliable servers and high-end workstations at an affordable price. The GameBoxx series is no different. The GameBoxx is a fast and powerful machine targeted at people who perform high-end tasks, such as intense gameplay, game development, and digital media creation.

Like other Boxx machines, the Game-Boxx is wonderfully built. The case is made of metal, including the front panel, which is bright red (blue, orange, black, and silver also are available). The system is lightweight, yet solid. The front of the machine contains two USB, one FireWire, and audio connectors. On the back is another Fire-Wire connector, along with audio, four more USB slots, and a 10/100 Ethernet port. Boxx used the new Superbright LEDs for the front panel power and drive lights. While these certainly look cool, I found the LEDs so bright as to be distracting.

The GameBoxx, offered in various eye-catching colors, is a robust workstation targeted at the game-development and game-enthusiast communities.

The case is held together by thumbscrews, enabling tool-free maintenance. The machine opens by sliding off the side panel. The first thing I noticed is that Boxx has taken the effort to tie down and properly route all the internal cables, making the guts of the machine very tidy indeed. The machine has a hefty 530-watt power supply, which should allow for a lot of expansion. There are plenty of fans to keep the interior cool, but the machine still manages to remain whisper quiet.

Boxx's GameBoxx FX model sports the AMD Athlon 64 FX-51 CPU with an Nvidia Nforce3-based motherboard. Memory is 1gb of fast DDR memory with ECC error correction. Memory speed clocked in at a lightning fast 5660mb/sec. Like the Opteron, the Athlon 64 FX is a 64-bit chip with full support for 32-bit applications. A quick 32-bit Sandra test of the CPU gave a speed of 9099 MIPs and a floating-point score of 4486 Mflops. The integer score is equivalent to a high-end Pentium 4, although the floating-point scores fall a bit short. These are 32-bit tests, so being a true 64-bit chip means that the Athlon 64 will give you an extra performance boost once applications migrate to 64-bit code.

The machine is expandable, with six internal 3.5-inch drive bays, as well as four external 5.25-inch bays. I liked the fact that the internal bays were oriented so the drive cables faced outward; it will make servicing the drives extremely easy. The motherboard supports Serial ATA and standard IDE drives.

The GameBoxx FX is the first machine I've seen with a serial ATA drive. The Serial ATA standard uses a much thinner cable and is considerably faster than the standard 40-wire IDE drives. The 36gb drive runs at 10,000 rpm, which provides a performance boost over 7200 rpm drives. A quick test of the drive using Sandra pegged the speed at 33,490kb/sec., which is similar to high-end SCSI 320 speeds.

The graphics card is an ATI Radeon 9800XT, a fast 256mb card geared for gaming. Boxx offers a few other consumer-level ATI graphics cards in the lineup, as well as a few Nvidia boards. In a nod to the gaming world, I ran a 3Dmark, which produced a score of 12,631. Running Viewperf, the standard OpenGL test, however, revealed a 3ds max score of 13.70 and a Pro-E score of 15.33. While good, these scores are below those of the high-end ATI FireGL and Nvidia Quadro cards. Those who use high-end 3D authoring packages and need the extra speed might want to consider going with Boxx's 3DBoxx machines, which sport high-end cards from ATI and Nvidia.

Of course, benchmarks are only one part of the story. I tested the machine against a number of applications, including Discreet's 3ds max and Adobe's After Effects and Photoshop. Application performance was very good, and I had no serious issues with any of the packages. As concerns gameplay on the machine, it gets two thumbs up. Resolution and playback speed were excellent, and again no compatibility issues arose.

Overall, I like the GameBoxx FX. It is solidly built, attractive, and fast. I am sure any serious gamer would love the machine. At a price of almost $3,000, it's not for the timid. Still, this workstation is not just for gamers. With the right video card, I can certainly see it fitting nicely into a production environment. The fast Serial ATA drives and FireWire capabilities make it a capable video machine, and the GameBoxx is certainly fast enough for 3D authoring as well.

George Maestri is president of Rubber-bug, a Los Angeles-based animation stu-dio specializing in character animation.

Boxx Technologies
Price: $2924 as configured
Minimum System Requirements: Not Applicable