CAD Tech News (#21)

9 Jul, 2015 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ First Look Review: HP Z440

Desktop model offers excellent price-to-performance ratio for CAD users.

By Alex Herrera

Today's workstation market is diverse, with vendors building machines of various shapes, sizes, mobility levels, and of course, prices. One particular segment, however, outweighs all the rest when it comes to popularity among CAD professionals: the single-socket (or "1S," accommodating only one CPU) deskside tower. Vendors typically offer two models in the space, one focused on economy (Entry 1S) and one focused more on features and performance (Premium 1S).

HP Z440

As luck would have it, we've had a trio of Premium 1S machines come through our doors recently, one from each of three workstation vendors: Maingear's Quantum F131, Dell's Precision 5810, and HP's Z440, reviewed here.

System Features

Back in 2009, HP launched the Z workstation brand, pioneering many of the ergonomic features that are now common across its workstation line. The Z440 displays that heritage in elements such as chassis-integrated handles to ease transport. The Z line also raised the bar considerably with tool-free access to interior components, and the Z440 continues in that vein with color-coded tabs that make accessing storage bays and securing add-in card retention simple and painless. Of course, with the HP Z440's price point, it doesn't include all the bells and whistles available in some other members of the Z family, and there are a couple of significant omissions — most notably, the lack of a modular, easily swappable power supply unit (PSU). Most users would never need to swap out the capable, 85% efficient, 525-watt PSU, however.

Premium 1S workstations aren't designed to support the maximum number of the highest-performing (and power-consuming) components — that's what Premium 2S machines are for. But a Premium 1S machine such as the Z440 supports hardware configurations that will satisfy the vast majority of CAD professionals. With dimensions of 6.65" x 17.5" x 17", the Z440 comes in the minitower form factor common to most single-socket workstations. It can support a maximum of six PCI Express slots (two x16s for dual graphics processing units [GPUs]), 128 GB of memory, and more than 12 TB of storage — all figures typical of the class of machine. Read more »

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

▶ First Look Review: Maingear Quantum F131

Deskside tower brings a unique form factor and high performance to the table.

By Alex Herrera

Maingear Quantum F131

Given that they are responsible for shipping around 85% of all workstations sold worldwide, according to Jon Peddie Research, it's no surprise that a healthy percentage of the machines Cadalyst reviews come from three workstation vendors: HP, Dell, and Lenovo. But there's a tremendous amount of innovation going on elsewhere in professional computing, so when we get an opportunity to sample system designs from other players, we jump at the chance. Maingear's Quantum F131 was particularly intriguing, as the model represents a departure from the norm, demonstrating what's possible when designers forget some of the old "rules" and come up with a new take on what a workstation can be.

System Features

Opening the enclosure is simple to do without tools. The front metal panel pops out, as does the top plastic grill. The front panel remains tethered to the chassis by the power cable running to power the Maingear logo LED on the front. The primary optical drive is accessible through a slot through the front panel (there is no button to eject discs; doing so requires selecting the Eject menu option through Windows with your mouse).

The two metal side panels slide up and out. Unlike some of its peers in the industry, the 27 lbs Quantum F131's chassis has no external handles, and the slide-out panels had us carrying the machine very gingerly, as the panels proved very prone to inadvertent release. They slid up and out almost every time we moved the machine, tempting us to grab the duct tape to fasten them in place. Read more »

▶ First Look Review: Dell Precision 5810

This solid performer offers high-quality engineering and excellent rendering performance.

By Alex Herrera

Dell Precision 5810

The Dell Precision Tower 5810 is Dell's offering in the premium, single-socket (1S), deskside segment of the workstation market. (This is the same segment addressed by two machines I reviewed recently: the Maingear Quantum F131 and HP Z440.)

System Features

Dell's attention to quality engineering is evident in the Precision Tower 5810. While it's not hard for a vendor to include all kinds of value-added features at the high end — thanks to ample budgets — it's much more of a challenge in the more cost-conscious mainstream market. Yet Dell managed to do quite a bit to differentiate the Precision Tower 5810, offering several features one might expect only in higher-priced models.

The first thing we noticed was the metal casing, notable because plastic often dominates at this price level. The Dell Precision Tower 5810 shows off a bit more alloy than the norm, particularly in the convenient front and rear chassis handles. And second, a look at the rear panel reveals a small handle and finger tab to release the 5810's modular, serviceable power supply unit (PSU). While most premier workstation vendors now support swappable PSUs, Dell is one of the few that also does so with the more economically priced, 1S machines such as the Precision 5810. The PSU's rated 685 watts of supplied power beats out most others in this class as well. Read more »


The CAD Workstation Configuration Cheat Sheet
To ensure you've got the computing power your software requires, check these guidelines before you make your purchase. Read more »

CAD Manager's Toolbox: Compute Optimal RAM Easily
Make sure your workstation has enough RAM. Read more »

The Sly CAD User's Guide to Professional Development
How can you get the training you need if you don't have management's support? Try these tips to get started on your own. Read more »

CAD Cartoon – July 2015
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Herrera on Hardware: What Do Windows 10 and DirectX 12 Mean for CAD Users?
Should you upgrade to the new version of Microsoft's operating system, or hold off? Read more »

IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: Autodesk Inventor 2016 Home Page Offers Many Surprises
The new Inventor Home Page offers improved tools to increase productivity. Read more »


Building Content Summit 2015
July 22, 2015
Washington, D.C.
This one-day event will focus on better understanding the unique challenges related to building information modeling (BIM) content. Read more »

Revit Technology Conference 2015
July 23–25, 2015
Washington, D.C.
Attendees of the fifth North American Revit Technology Conference can learn from some of the world's top instructors and industry experts. Read more »

The Future Of Making Things: Manufacturing Roadshow
July 28, 2015
Troy, Michigan
This Autodesk 2015 Future of Making Things event will discuss technology disruption, integrated product development, and ways to stay competitive. Read more »

e-SPECS for Revit Live Webinar
July 29, 2015
11 a.m. PT
This InterSpec webinar will discuss the company's e-SPECS for Revit for automated and coordinated specifications with Autodesk Revit. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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