First Look Review: HP xw8400 Workstation

8 Oct, 2006 By: Ron LaFon

Highly recommended desktop system is a bit pricey, but offers extremely quiet operation and remarkable AutoCAD performance

HP xw8400 Workstation
Desktop workstation
Pros: Extremely fast and extremely quiet, many configuration options.
Cons: A little pricey.
Price: $5,670

Phone: 800.888.0262

Highly RecommendedThe HP xw8400 was a bit larger than most HP workstations that Cadalyst has reviewed recently -- it measures 17.9" x 8.3" x 20.7" (HxWxD) -- but the slightly larger case apparently included some new acoustic engineering features that made it one of the quietest systems I've ever used. The sleek silver and charcoal gray case featured three 5.25" external drive bays, with an additional five 3.5" drive bays accessible internally. In addition to single serial and parallel connections, the workstation had seven USB 2.0 external connectors, one USB 2.0 internal connector and single external FireWire connectors on both the front and back of the system. The extensive expandability options are supported by an 800W Delta power supply.

Inside the box, the HP xw8400 featured a Tyan/MiTac customized motherboard, which housed two of the newly released Intel dual-core Xeon 5160 3.0GHz processors and featured the Intel 5000X chipset with a front-side bus speed of 1,333MHz. A total of 2GB of DDR2-667 ECC fully buffered DIMM were included on

HP xw8400
The HP xw8400 is an extremely fast workstation that also happens to be extremely quiet.
the test system; eight memory slots make 64GB of onboard memory possible as future memory comes available. An HP SATA 3.0Gb/s 7200 rpm 160GB hard drive was installed on the test system, as was an HP 48X CD-RW/DVD combination drive.

Graphics for the HP xw8400 tested were handled by an NVIDIA FX3500 PCIe graphics card with 256MB of onboard memory. This card provides the best price-to-performance ratio of any of the NVIDIA performance graphics cards. HP refreshed its line of workstations and the components available for them.

On the test bench, the HP xw8400 proved to be the fastest system I've ever tested -- not just by a small amount, but by a significant margin, reflecting the potential of the new Intel processors at its heart. All tests were run with NVIDIA graphic drivers v8.4.8.0 (05/27/2006) under Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 installed. I ran the Cadalyst C2006 benchmark under AutoCAD 2005 with Service Pack 1 installed, and the system generated a remarkable total index score of 211 using the wopengl8.hdi accelerated driver that ships with that version of AutoCAD.

For the MAXBench4 benchmark, I used the same system-level drivers and Autodesk 3ds Max 8 with Service Pack 3 installed. Here I obtained an averaged high/low score of 82.06 with the base video drivers and a speedy 185.68 averaged high/low score with the NVIDIA MAXtreme 8.00.03 accelerated driver for 3ds Max.

The final benchmark test -- which typically follows the performance of the installed graphics card -- was the ProE-04 Viewset of SPEC ViewPerf 9, where I obtained a weighted geometric mean of 37.11. The HP xw8400 excelled at performance as tested by our benchmark software, with especially strong scores on the Cadalyst C2006 benchmark for AutoCAD.

A somewhat pricey $5,670 as equipped for our evaluation, the HP xw8400 included 36 months of parts, labor and onsite coverage. As is true of all HP workstation systems, the xw8400 can be configured with a broad range of options, so final pricing will depend upon which options you choose. This forward-looking system delivers a lot of performance today and incorporates support for emerging technologies that will keep it abreast of the performance curve for some time to come.

Although the higher price tag would ordinarily preclude the xw8400 from receiving Cadalyst's Highly Recommended rating, the stellar AutoCAD performance proved to be the determining factor here, so the HP xw8400 earns the Highly Recommended rating.
Highly Recommended.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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