With its new line of workstations, Hewlett-Packard enters the world of PCI Express (PCIe), a serial bus technology with much higher speed than conventional PCI. Although it initially will benefit graphics performance, PCI Express can be used for any number of applications.
I reviewed the mid-range HP xw6200, a high-powered workstation for digital content creation. The 6200 can be configured with Linux or Windows XP Professional. The review system came configured with Windows and shipped with a very snazzy 21-inch HP L2035HP flat-panel monitor having excellent image and color quality.
|The xw6200 is one of three new workstations from HP that take advantage of PCI Express technology.
Both attractive and well designed, the xw6200 packs a lot of features into a compact, black enclosure. The workstation is approximately 19 inches high, so it can be turned sideways and placed into a rack, if desired. The front of the case has large cooling fins, room for two external 5.25-inch drives, a power switch, audio, FireWire, and two USB ports. The back of the unit contains the requisite serial, parallel, and mouse ports, along with six USB, two more FireWire, audio, and Gigabit Ethernet connections. I like the overall layout of the case and its quality construction.
Flipping a small latch pops open the side of the case, revealing a well laid out interior with all the cables neatly routed. The card cage is tool-free for easy servicing. The workstation has room for only two internal hard disks, but the drive mounts are toolless and configured so the drives pull straight out easily and without obstruction. Power is provided by a 440-watt power supply, which should handle most expansions fairly easily. Two whisper-quiet fans on the back of the case provide cooling and make this one of the quietest machines I've ever reviewed. This feature combined with its small size make the xw6200 suitable for desktop use. A majority of workstations on the market today have to be tucked under a desk because of size or noise considerations.
The motherboard came configured with dual 3.4ghz Xeon processors supporting Intel's new EM64 technology, which enables 64-bit applications to run on the machine. This trait will be very important as Linux and Windows move to 64-bit over the next few years. Memory consisted of 2gb of fast ECC RAM. The motherboard supports four standard PCI slots, one 16x PCI Express slot for graphics and another 4x PCIe slot. The motherboard also contains connections for two Serial ATA cables, as well as two standard IDE connectors for legacy drives.
A quick Sandra test put CPU performance at 14661 mips integer and 13178 Mflops. Integer performance seemed slightly slow, particularly considering the machine was running dual 3.4ghz processors. A slightly lower score is likely due to the fact that it was a pre-production machine that hadn't been fully optimized. Memory performance was clocked at 2901mb/second, which is quite fast.
The machine was configured with a DVD/CDRW drive and a 74gb Serial ATA hard drive. Spinning at 10,000 RPM, the drive provides outstanding performance for a single drive. A Sandra benchmark showed a transfer speed of approximately 44gb/second, which is faster than some RAIDs. This drive should be great for video professionals.
HP offers a number of graphics options from ATI and Nvidia. The review machine was configured with an Nvidia Quadro FX 3400 graphics card, currently Nvidia's fast-est PCI Express card. It is equipped with 256mb of memory and supports up to two monitors. Graphics performance was very good. Testing against Viewperf 7.1 revealed a 3ds max score of 25.68, a Pro/E score of 32.27, and a UGS score of 32.27. These figures, lower than Nvidia's published scores, are similar to those of other top-end cards.
Real-world applications are always the best way to test a machine, so I loaded it with several graphics applications, including Discreet's 3ds max and Adobe's Photo-shop and After Effects. I ran a small project through the pipeline and encountered no discernable problems. The machine ran fast and strong. I also loaded a few games on the machine to test raw graphics performance, which proved to be excellent.
I like this machine a great deal. It's the first system in a long time that I don't want to send back. The combination of ergonomics, quiet operation, and advanced technology make it a cool and desirable machine. I'm certain the xw6200 will be successful in the content creation and graphics arena.
George Maestri is president of Rubberbug, a Los Angeles-based animation studio specializing in character animation.
Starting at $1750 ($6494 as configured)
Minimum System Requirements: