First Look: HP Workstation xw6200

30 Jun, 2004 By: Ron LaFon

New Xeon processor with support for PCI Express

Boasting all sorts of new technology-a new and faster Intel processor, a PCI Express bus with a new NVIDIA Quadro FX3400 graphics card, and a motherboard with an 800MHz FSB (front-side bus), the Hewlett-Packard Workstation xw6200 is the first of a wave of speedy systems poised to come our way.

The new processor is the 3.6GHz Intel Xeon processor with the E7525 chipset. The system uses Intel's new Extended Memory 64 Technology to enable users to run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications. The HP Workstation xw6200 was supplied with 2GB of RAM, and the motherboard supports as much as 8GB of ECC DDR@SDRAM. It also accommodates dual processors. The workstation ran Windows XP Professional with service pack 1 installed.

The Hewlett-Packard Workstation xw6200.
The Hewlett-Packard Workstation xw6200.

A compact system, measuring only 17.4" X 6.5" X 17.3" (wXhXd), the HP xw6200 is surprisingly heavy for its size, weighing in at around 33lb. The system is covered by a three-year parts, labor, and onsite service warranty with 24-hour telephone support available.

The first PCI Express system evaluated by Cadalyst Labs, the Hewlett-Packard Workstation xw6200 included the NVIDIA Quadro FX3400 PCI Express graphics card with 256MB of RAM. I tested driver v6.14.10.6085 at our usual 1280X1024 at 32 bits and 85Hz. PCI Express is an update to the PCI input/output architecture that's expected to eventually replace AGP and AGP 8X graphics card interfaces. PCI Express uses serial, point-to-point lanes, each with two pairs of lanes to carry data upstream and downstream. Each lane carries 2.5GB/sec each way.

Test scores were excellent. On the Cadalyst C2001 Benchmark, the HP xw6200 turned in blazing scores:

  • 1. C2001 Total Index score: 139.21
  • 2. 3D Wire frame Index: 161.09
  • 3. 3D Gouraud Index: 238.20
  • 4. Nongraphic Index: 114.17
  • 5. 2D Graphics Index: 43.37

These scores were accompanied by a SPEC ViewPerf score of 40.82 on the proe-02 Weighted Geometric Mean. On the MAXBench 4 test, the averaged high and low frame rates were 61.89 using the default system-level driver settings. The averaged frame rase score rose to 104.37 using the NVIDIA MAXtreme v6.00.07 accelerated driver for 3ds max 6.

This system incorporates Hewlett-Packard's Performance Tuning Framework, which is designed to analyze the software on the system and choose a setting that provides the best performance. However, I found that its setting produced a slightly lower score overall than when I set the system up manually for testing.

I could hear the fan occasionally when the system was active, but the sound was low-pitched and unobtrusive. Altogether, the system is very quiet in operation.

The NVIDIA display drivers and the Quadro FX3400 seem relatively stable-some minor artifacts were visible during the C2001 tests, but none were apparent during the SPEC ViewPerf tests and the MAXBench4 performance tests.

Although it was not included with the preproduction xw6200 system tested, I ran tests with NVIDIA's MAXtreme 6.00.7 driver, which provided the expected performance boost and ran without difficulty.

The performance figures for this system leave little doubt that it's a very speedy workstation. You might be inclined to attribute this performance solely to the PCI Express video system, but it's the result of several different factors: a faster microprocessor, the 800MHz front-side bus, and, of course, the Quadro FX3400 PCI Express graphics card. In and of themselves, PCI Express graphics cards will offer only minor improvements as far as CAD systems are concerned.

Applications for which the video bus is a performance bottleneck, such as video production, will derive more profound benefits from this technology. The majority of CAD applications are not slowed by moving data across the video bus, so such graphics cards offer only slight performance improvements until CAD applications incorporate specific support for PCI Express features and capabilities.The Hewlett-Packard xw6200 system tested was a late preproduction model, so some changes may be made in the final version-though any such changes should be minor and have minimal, if any, impact on system performance.

Ron LaFon, a contributingeditor 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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