Workstations

First Look Review: HP xw9400 Workstation

1 Dec, 2006 By: Ron LaFon

Dual dual-core processor workstation.


This year Hewlett-Packard revamped and refreshed its lines of workstation-level computers and provided users with a greater variety of processors, video cards and expandability options. Cadalyst Daily recently reviewed the HP xw8400 workstation (www.cadalyst.com/HPxw8400) that is based on Intel architecture. The xw9400 workstation reviewed here is based on AMD microprocessors.

 HP xw9400 Workstation
HP xw9400 Workstation

The test unit arrived in a somewhat large case that measured 7.9" x 8.3" x 20.7" (H x W x D). The case proved to have outstanding acoustical engineering—the xw9400 is one of the quietest systems to come through Cadalyst Labs. Connectivity options are excellent, with ten USB 2.0 connectors—six in back, two in the front and two inside for use with things such as the expensive-to-replace hardware dongles required by some high-end CAD, engineering and digital content creation applications.

The HP xw9400 was based on two dual-core AMD Opteron 2220E 2.8GHz microprocessors mounted on a custom HP motherboard supported by an NVIDIA chipset. The system arrived with 2GB of DDR-2 667MHz registered ECC RAM that is expandable to a remarkable 64GB in the eight DIMM slots provided. At Cadalyst's request, the HP xw9400 arrived with 32-bit Windows XP and Service Pack 2 installed, although the system is available with several operating system options—among them 64-bit Windows, Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS 4 (64-bit) and 32- or 64-bit Red Hat Linux. HP notes that the xw9400 is Windows Vista ready.

Graphics on the HP xw9400 system were powered by an NVIDIA FX 3500 graphics card, and NVIDIA drivers v.8.4.8.0 were preinstalled. The system has dual PCIe x16 graphics slots. That means a second matching graphics card can be installed using an SLI bridge, or four 3D non-SLI graphics configurations can be accommodated.

The xw9400's case features outstanding acoustical engineering— this was one of the quietest systems ever tested at Cadalyst Labs.
The xw9400's case features outstanding acoustical engineering— this was one of the quietest systems ever tested at Cadalyst Labs.

The hard disk included in the test system was a 160GB SATA drive, though many other configurations are available. The xw9400 has excellent expandability supported by an 800W Delta power supply. The system I/O bandwidth includes two PCIe x8 slots and two PCI-X 100 slots that can be configured as a single PCI-X 133 slot to meet some software vendor requirements. Six-channel serial ATA and eight-channel serial attached SCSI are integrated, and the system also provides dual integrated gigabit LAN-on-motherboard.

I tested the HP xw9400 with AutoCAD 2005 using Service Pack 1 and the Cadalyst Labs C2006 benchmark, which returned a total index score of 143. With MAXBench 4 running under Autodesk 3ds Max 8 with Service Pack 3 installed, the system generated an averaged high/low score of 65.63 with the default system-level graphics driver and 145.31 using NVIDIA's MAXtreme v.8.00.03. Finally, the ProE-04 viewset of SPEC ViewPerf 9.03 (www.spec.org) produced a weighted geometric mean of 29.41. These numbers are not in the top range of what's available today, but they aren't at the bottom either. For those who need what AMD processors offer, this system is a solid choice.

As delivered, the HP xw9400 is priced at $5,924 (though some configurations start as low as $3,229). The price includes the HP standard warranty with three years of next-business-day coverage on parts, labor and onsite service, with 8 x 5 phone support.

Ron LaFon, a contributing editor for Cadalyst, is a writer, editor and computer graphics and electronic publishing specialist from Atlanta, Georgia. He is a principal at 3Bear Productions in Atlanta.


About the Author: Ron LaFon


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