First Looks: @Xi MTower 64

31 Aug, 2003 By: Ron LaFon

AMD Opteron-based system.

@Xi MTower 64
Opteron-based workstation

pros: Fastest CAD system we’ve tested to date; good price.
cons: None significant.
price: $3,799

@Xi Computer

@Xi Computer has once again produced one of the fastest systems to come through Cadalyst Labs, in this case, the first AMD 1.8GHz Opteron-based 64-bit system I’ve tested.

Housed in a black midtower case with a transparent Plexiglas panel on the quick-release side panel, the MTower 64 is quite expandable. In all, the case has ten bays. Five are exposed behind a swing-away cover. Expandability is further enhanced by the incorporation of a 422-watt EMAC power supply and five PCI slots. The video slot is AGP 8X. An On Board Sound AC 97 Codec provides audio.

With a total of five ventilation fans, this MTower 64 system can’t be described as quiet, but it isn’t as loud as some Intel Pentium 4–based systems I’ve tested.

The system is based on a motherboard built around the NVIDIA nForce 3 Pro HyperTransport chipset. The motherboard supports up to 8GB of RAM. The configuration tested for this review included 1GB of DDR PC2X00 Registered ECC Interleave RAM. Also on the motherboard is a

@Xi MTower 64
The @Xi MTower 64 AMD Opteron 64-bit workstation runs both 32-bit and 64-bit applications.
two-channel Promise ATA 133 RAID controller that supports RAID Modes 0, 1, and 10. Connectivity features are quite good, withi an integrated 10/100/1000 LAN, four USB 2.0 ports, and a FireWire 1394 interface on the front of the case.

For testing, I used Cadalyst Labs’ normal suite of test applications, though I used an updated version of the Cadalyst C2001 Benchmark modified to run in AutoCAD 2004. Other tests were the usual SPEC ViewPerf ProE-01 suite and MAX4Bench running under Discreet’s 3dsmax 5.1, both with the default OpenGL driver configuration and with NVIDIA’s MAXtreme driver. I used graphic driver v6.14.01.4351 throughout the tests, and it performed flawlessly. I tested 3dsmax with and without an accelerated driver and with AutoCAD 2004 with the included standard hardware accelerated driver (wopengl8). All tests ran at a resolution of 1280×1024@85Hz in true color (32-bit) mode.

The benchmark tests using the 128MB NVIDIA Quadro FX 2000 produced a C2001 Total Index Number for AutoCAD 2004 of 107.11 and a 3D Combined Index of 123.68. Test scores were higher using the same benchmark tests with AutoCAD 2002 on this system. The SPEC ViewPerf ProE-01 test produced a score of 34.97. Finally, the system achieved a score of 51.19 with the default driver for the MAX4Bench test. Using the MAXtreme driver for the MAX4Bench tests produced a score of 92.

As equipped for this evaluation, the MTower 64 sells for $3,799 ($1,364 of that covers the NVIDIA FX 2000 graphics card). This price doesn’t include a monitor or a speaker system. It does include a 200GB 7,200rpm Ultra ATA100 Western Digital hard drive with an 8MB cache, an ATAPI CD-RW/DVD 163103403123 combination drive with included software, a standard 1041 Web Key Black Windows keyboard, and a Logitech OEM 21 wheel PS/2 black optical mouse. The evaluation system had Windows 2000 Workstation Pro preinstalled. That added $126 to the base system price, which ordinarily includes Windows XP Home. Also included in the price quoted here is a three-year warranty on parts and labor plus one year of on-site service. Other options are available.

The system also includes a good assortment of supplemental software—PC Works Suite 2003 with Quicken, StarOffice, and more, plus a version of Linux.

The @Xi MTower 64 embodies what we’ve come to expect from @Xi—a speedy, economical, well-built, state-of-the-art system that offers top-flight performance and new technology at a reasonable price.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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