CAD Tech News (#14)

2 Apr, 2015 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ First Look Review: BOXX APEXX 2 2401

Powerfully configured workstation features service, support, and attention to detail that justify the price tag.

By J.V. Bolkan

Highly Recommended

The APEXX 2 from workstation specialist BOXX Technologies is a purpose-built system designed specifically for tearing through CAD and rendering up a storm. Neither at the bottom nor the top of the range of configurations available for this model, the 2401 configuration is built around an Intel i7 4790K 4-Ghz CPU that is overclocked to 4.5 GHz and paired with the nimble NVIDIA Quadro K4200 graphics card.

Loaded on the Inside

The high-frequency, overclocked i7 CPU actually outperforms the more sophisticated and expensive Xeon in the Cadalyst Systems Benchmark 2015 (C2015), which measures single-threaded performance. To keep system temperatures stable, the APEXX 2 2401 incorporates a water-cooling system that has the added benefit of almost banishing fan noise. A few times during testing, it was so quiet that I had to double-check to confirm that the system was powered up.

BOXX Technologies' APEXX 2 is a solid, hard-working machine, ready to take on any CAD or rendering project.
BOXX Technologies' APEXX 2 is a solid, hard-working machine, ready to take on any CAD or rendering project.

The NVIDIA Quadro K4200 is a very capable graphics card, especially if you work primarily in 2D CAD. Loaded with 4 GB of GDDR5 memory, the card handles both 2D and 3D tasks smoothly and efficiently. The Quadro K4200 is positioned right in the sweet spot for anyone primarily running 2D CAD; performance would drop significantly with a lesser card, and higher-end options simply wouldn't deliver meaningful advantages. If you perform more 3D work than 2D, consider upgrading to a higher end graphics card, such as the NVIDIA Quadro K5200.

Pairing an overclocked Intel Core i7 and a Quadro K4200 makes for a strong package, but those are stock components that are available from many vendors. Where BOXX Technologies makes the APEXX 2 2401 stand out is in the details of each subsystem. For example, a custom structural aluminum case with iron bracing may seem to be of minor importance, but the superior cooling properties of those materials lessen reliance on fans and the superior case integrity helps diminish system noise even further. In addition, cooler components are generally less prone to failure. There are standard fans within the case, but they are whisper-quiet, probably because they don't need to work very hard. There are two fans, one on the graphics card and a single 120 mm case fan. Read more »

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J.V. Bolkan has been evaluating and writing about graphics technology for more than 25 years.

▶ GTC 2015: NVIDIA Serves Current CAD Computing Models, Builds Out New Options, Part 2

Event Report: NVIDIA is not alone in pursuing virtual workstation technologies, which promise to make large projects available at any time to team members around the globe.

By Alex Herrera

Editor's Note:Read Part 1 of this two-part series here.

Will 2015 Be the Year of the Virtual Workstation?

NVIDIA's promotion of its GRID technology, as well as the virtual workstation platform it supports, has grown louder over the past few years. With GRID, NVIDIA is aiming to push server-side computing and graphics delivery (first and foremost via virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI) to serve a desire — and for some, an urgent need — to better manage growing IT challenges imposed by large model databases, tighter security, and a workforce that is increasingly scattered across locations and time zones. The past year in particular has seen a great deal of momentum on that front, for example as outlined in the three-part Herrera on Hardware series, "Is Cloud-Based CAD Ready for Prime Time?"

VDI with high-performance graphics: a solution that moves workstation computation and rendering from the desktop to the datacenter. Image courtesy of NVIDIA.
VDI with high-performance graphics: a solution that moves workstation computation and rendering from the desktop to the datacenter. Image courtesy of NVIDIA.

At GTC 2015 that volume hit a crescendo, as NVIDIA got several more critical ducks in a row for its GRID solution. With a complete supporting ecosystem in place, NVIDIA has set the stage for what should be a steady increase in the adoption of virtual workstations across professional markets, and the CAD space in particular. First and foremost, the company announced general availability of GRID vGPU support in VMware Horizon and vSphere 6. Given that about four-fifths of VDI deployments run on VMware's Hypervisor, the company's support for virtualized GPU (vGPU) support in GRID is the most critical linchpin toward achieving mass-market acceptance. Citrix was already on board with vGPU, so NVIDIA now has a very large sandbox to play in. Read more »

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Contributing Editor Alex Herrera is a consultant focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.


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Introducing solidThinking Evolve 2015: The Ultimate Hybrid Modeler
April 8, 2015
11 a.m. PT
This Novedge webinar will introduce attendees to the solidThinking Evolve 2015 hybrid modeling system, combining solid parametric modeling, organic surface modeling, polygonal modeling and a rendering engine. Read more »

FME World Tour 2015
April 8–June 30, 2015
Various cities
Safe Software will sponsor this single-day FME user meeting in more than 60 cities worldwide. These events will feature presentations that introduce FME's capabilities, cover current use cases, and discuss what's new in FME 2015. Read more »

Fiatech 2015
April 13–15, 2015
Boca Raton, Florida
This conference will comprise more than 50 sessions on the latest in building information management (BIM), workface collaboration and management, and related topics. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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