Living Large - LCDs Deliver the Big Picture (Cadalyst Labs Review)1 Sep, 2007 By: Ron LaFon
When it comes to LCD monitors, the bigger, the better. Lighter and larger than CRTs, LCDs continue to improve in performance and quality. Cadalyst looks at some of the best from Dell, Eizo Nanao Technologies, Hewlett-Packard, LaCie USA, NEC Display Solutions, and ViewSonic.
Big monitors and CAD just seem to go together. Throughout the past year, monitor technology has improved and LCD units have grown even larger. The last time Cadalyst examined these displays, the only 30" monitor available was an Apple model, and none were included in that particular roundup review article. This year, the review includes two 30" monitors. Bigger and better, certainly, but the question remains as to whether you need this kind of monitor for the type of work you do. After all, a number of users still find that CRT displays are more suited to their needs, both in response time and color fidelity. But the availability of CRT monitors is steadily decreasing.
Just when I thought the days of lugging around large monitors to test for Cadalyst had passed, the proliferation of LCD flat-panel monitors has also resulted in large displays that — although lighter and less bulky than their CRT counterparts — continue to grow in size. The monitors evaluated for this article ranged in size from 21.3" to 30", with most falling into the 24–27.5" range. Although Cadalyst tested individual LCD flat-panel displays in some First Look reviews during the course of the year, this article is Cadalyst's opportunity to have a broader and more in-depth look at what's available.
LCD Monitor Report Card
An amazing array of flat-panel displays is available these days, seemingly evenly divided between the more conventional 4:3 aspect ratio and the wider 16:10 aspect ratio. Prices for the models submitted for this review ranged from a low of $699 to a high of $1,679.99. In addition to the monitors included in this roundup, I've included a sidebar about the LaCie 526, which offers specialized color-correction capabilities. I've also prepared a sidebar about the system I used to test all of the displays; read about it at www.cadalyst.com/0907ximtowerpcie.
As far as CAD and digital content creation (DCC) professionals are concerned, flat-panel displays have been burdened with relatively slow response times. This limitation tends to show itself when running or editing video or rotating a CAD model for evaluation or presentation. It typically presents itself as visual stutter or ghosting as the monitor tries to keep up with the speed of an object — not what you want in a smoothly executed display.
For this group of monitors, response time ranged from a speedy 3 ms to a not-so-speedy 20 ms. This range is somewhat improved over the last flat-panel roundup, where 8–16 ms was typical. And that range was up from the 12–25 ms seen in the previous roundup review. Typical response time for CRT displays is in the 1–3 ms range, so some of the new flat-panel technologies are finally approaching that standard.
As in the last LCD flat-panel monitor roundup, the display quality of this group of monitors was consistently high with excellent color purity, brightness, and contrast. A couple of the displays had reds that were very slightly on the orange side or yellows that were a tad dull, but none deviated significantly enough to warrant a demerit. With display quality becoming a given, LCD monitors are beginning to show more innovation, as vendors strive to distinguish their products from those of other vendors. Many niceties are showing up, and the ability to display content-protected high-definition (HD) media (along with the associated cable) is being incorporated. One could say that the LCD flat-panel market is reaching maturity, even though prices are still higher than I would like. The onscreen menus (OSMs) generally could do with some improvements, and they vary widely in design and ease-of-use among the group.
As in previous flat-panel roundups, Cadalyst requested flat-panel displays with a minimum 20" viewable area and with a minimum resolution of 1280 x 1024 (24-bit color). Displays had to have an RGB analog input — a 15-pin mini D-Sub connector with optional digital DVI-D input. As noted previously, almost one-half of the displays had a wide-screen 16:10 aspect ratio.
I used DisplayMate Technology's DisplayMate (www.displaymate.com), excellent software to run a wide range of video tests for brightness, contrast, focus, convergence, purity, geometric distortion, and raster rotation. DisplayMate also incorporates tests specific to LCD displays. During the course of testing, I also evaluated the OSM and the general functionality of the available controls. I looked at a suite of digital photographs on each display, and, while the results cannot easily be quantified, this test proved to be useful, particularly because many design professionals find themselves working with either photographs or visualizations during the course of their work.
When the tests were complete, the LCD displays were rated on several factors that were weighted according to importance: image quality (6x), price (4x), connectivity (2x), image controls (2x), and warranty (1x).
All tests were driven by a Diamond Viper HD graphics card, which is based on the ATI 2900XT chipset and boasts 512 MB of integrated DDR3 memory. For all the tests, I used Diamond drivers v.8.380.0.0 (5/8/07), which were the most current version available when I began the evaluations. I used a speedy workstation from @Xi Computer for all the tests. For more information about this system, see the sidebar "Xi MTower PCIe" at www.cadalyst.com/0907ximtowerpcie.
Evaluating the Displays
All LCD monitors are designed with a rated resolution sweet spot for which the monitor is optimized. Although they typically are capable of other resolutions, usually by scaling the original image, the best results are at the rated resolution. Resolutions lower than the optimum (ones at which the image was scaled to fit the screen) usually provided a somewhat granular appearance. Even though it's generally expected, the appearance wasn't up to what Cadalyst readers would want from a monitor that they would sit in front of and use for extended periods of time. I looked at the LCD monitors in this roundup in several different modes, including the default/optimal resolution and color depth.
With the display quality being consistently very high for this group of monitors, the evaluation was difficult. Certain things stood out during evaluation — lack of more than the most basic connectivity options, for example, or a warranty that goes beyond the norm. With the overall quality of the large LCD monitors I tested being very high, those slight flaws have a way of getting magnified in the final tally — one-quarter of one point off in one area can be a deter-mining factor, or it can be balanced by another factor that might be less apparent at the time of testing. For example, the two 30" displays reviewed here offered excellent display quality, but they lacked many of the basic screen adjustments found in their smaller brethren.
Pricing tends to be another area in which an otherwise excellent monitor can get less-than-top ratings. If the pricing of a particular display is out of line with comparable displays included in the roundup, I made a deduction that can again be amplified as a result of the weighted nature of the report card. Even pricing proved difficult to evaluate — obviously, a 30" panel should cost more than a 21" panel, all other things being equal — so I had to look at pricing related to size and features.
Although I certainly observed some differences from monitor to monitor, the display quality varied little. My thought was that if a display was particularly remarkable, it received an A+ rating for display quality, but the display quality of the group was so high that all received a grade of at least an A. Other factors, such as warranty or price, tended to vary more than display quality. For a thorough comparison, please consult the accompanying online feature table at www.cadalyst.com/0907monitors-table.
The flat-panel displays submitted for this roundup are the best that Cadalyst has seen. While it seems that I say that every year, there's a reason — they really are better every year. If you're in the market for an LCD flat-panel display, your choices have expanded greatly, both in quality and in sheer size, whatever your selection criteria may be. In the not-too-distant future, we'll be seeing more displays with a higher color gamut and even greater image fidelity, but most users will find much to like among the LCD flat panel displays reviewed here.
When Cadalyst first looked at the Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC (www.cadalyst.com/0406Dell3007WFP), I was impressed with its size as well as its overall construction quality and the excellent display quality. The 30" active matrix TFT LCD panel offers a native resolution of 2,560 x 1,600, response times of 12 ms black-to-white and 8 ms gray-to-gray, and a 92% color gamut. The brightness rating for the UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC is 300 cd/m2, and the contrast rating is 1,000:1.
The 30" Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC has a native resolution of 2,560 x 1,600, which provides excellent display quality. It received perfect scores in the Cadalyst benchmark tests.
The display quality of the Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC is excellent, and it sailed through the benchmark tests with perfect scores. Reds were very slightly on the orange side, but other colors were as expected. The display has a rated 178° viewing angle both horizontally and vertically, and this seemed to be fairly accurate, with no noticeable fall-off or screen darkening when viewed off angle.
As is true with all of the 30" panels that I've seen, users have little ability to control the onscreen image. It has no OSM, per se, but the monitor has three touch buttons at the bottom right of the bezel for adjustments. These buttons are – (minus), + (plus), and Power. The minus and plus buttons are used for brightness adjustment only. After the monitor driver is installed, a control tab is available in Windows Properties that users can access to set the Power button to function normally, launch the Windows shutdown box, or disable it entirely.
The Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC is a digital-only monitor with no analog, video, composite, or component connectors. An included CD contains drivers and an ICC color profile for the display, as well as an operating manual. The special cable required for secure HD operation is included as well. A Dell AS501 multimedia soundbar accessory with speakers is available as an option, but it wasn't tested. The display and backlight is covered by a standard three-year warranty.
A USB 2.x hub is incorporated into the display, with USB connectors in a row on the left side of the panel. The Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC operates only in landscape (horizontal) mode — typical of panels this large. You can adjust the height of the display, and the mount allows you to swivel and tilt the panel. Despite the large size of the panel, the mount is stable and doesn't wiggle.
The UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC is currently priced at $1,499, down somewhat since its introduction. A 30" panel is not for everyone, but if you need the visual real estate and the lack of connectivity options and display controls aren't limiting factors, then the Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC may be just what you need. Highly Recommended.
Eizo Nanao Technologies
For this roundup, EIZO submitted its FlexScan S2431W display, a wide-aspect ratio (16:10) 24" S-PVA display that has a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200. The S2431W has a brightness rating of 450 cd/m2 and a contrast rating of 1,000:1. The dot pitch is given as 0.27 mm, and the viewing angle is rated at 178° both vertically and horizontally. Mid-range response time is a relatively speedy 6 ms.
The FlexScan S2431 display's wiggle-free stand pivots for horizontal and vertical modes.
I put the FlexScan S2431 thorough its paces using DisplayMate and found no problems. In terms of color purity, the yellows were a tad dull, but other colors — particularly red and magenta — were excellent. Grays were fairly neutral and slightly warm, with grayscale ramps being represented smoothly without any noticeable banding. No ghosting or flickering was evident at any setting.
The FlexScan S2431 has built-in speakers as well as USB 2.x hub. Connectivity options included both a DVI-I connector and a standard 15-pin D-Sub connector. The stand, which pivots for vertical (portrait) mode, was very stable in all tested configurations and showed no wiggle at even the most extreme extensions. The pivot and other adjustments are very smooth, lending to the stability of the mount. A standard VESA wall mount option is integrated.
I wasn't greatly enamored with the OSM, though it is serviceable. Physical monitor controls consist of 10 dark buttons against a dark housing and are located at the bottom center of the bezel. These controls include two buttons for the left and right sound adjustments of the integrated speakers, as well as the expected up/down, right/left navigation buttons, a mode selector (movie, picture, text, etc.), and the Power button and LED indicator.
Text was a bit difficult to read at 9 pixels in height (6.8 points), but the contrast and brightness of the display made other text sizes easy to read. In general, the presented onscreen image was clean and attractive.
The warranty coverage on the EIZO FlexScan S2431 is an exceptional five years, well beyond the typical three-year coverage offered by most flat-panel vendors, earning it an A+ grade in that category. Pricing for the display is $1,399, which to my thinking is a bit on the expensive side for a 24" LCD panel; however, the quality of the S2431W is excellent, so I rated the pricing A–. Because of the tight nature of our rating system, this factor alone resulted in an overall A– grade that the monitor received.
The EIZO FlexScan S2431 is an excellent display. I'd just like to see it at a lower price point.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) offers a broad range of flat-panel monitors for a wide range of applications and budgets. This review is Cadalyst's first opportunity to check out the 30" display. The HP LP3065 offers a 30" diagonal screen with a 92% color gamut, providing a large, high-quality display that is suitable for a broad range of applications. These applications include CAD and DCC, presentations, and visualization.
The HP LP3065 aced the benchmark test with excellent scores for brightness, contrast, focus, convergence, color purity, geometric distortion, and raster rotation.
The HP LP3065 features a 1,000:1 contrast ratio display with a brightness rating of 300 cd/m2, combined with a fine dot pitch of 0.25 mm. The native resolution of the panel is 2,560 x 1,600 and, when combined with the fine dot pitch, produces text that is readable at 9 pixels (6.8 points) in size.
The HP LP3065 monitor is a landscape-only display — typical for a panel of this size — and it has a very stable mount that showed no wiggle in any of the tilt or rise operations. The viewing angle of the panel is given as 178° both horizontally and vertically, which seems to be accurate. I saw no evidence of darkening on off-axis viewing.
Connectivity options are good and include dual-link DVI-D. The HP LP3065 incorporates a USB 2.x port with one upstream and four downstream connectors. The HP LP3065 has a standard VESA wall mount option.
On the test bench, the HP LP3065 performed the benchmark suites without any difficulty and produced excellent scores in terms of brightness, contrast, focus, convergence, color purity, geometric distortion, and raster rotation. No flickering or ghosting was present at any point during testing. Grays were generally a bit on the warm side — typical of recent HP flat-panel displays — with grayscale ramps that were smooth and showed no discreet steps. Yellows were very slightly dull but not enough to warrant a deduction of any kind.
The display has no true OSM, which seems to be the norm for these extra-large panels. Physical controls consist of four buttons located at the bottom right of the bezel: input selection, – (minus), + (plus), Power button, and LED indicator. The buttons are dark, against a matte black housing, yet they are relatively easy to see. The overall design of the display and stand are attractive.
The HP LP3065 has a three-year warranty that covers parts, labor, and on-site service, as well as 24-hour, 90-day toll-free technical support. Pricing for the HP LP3065 is $1,500.
If you need a high-quality and very large display, the HP LP3065 is a well-built and attractive choice. Highly Recommended.
LaCie offers a broad range of computer peripherals for both the PC and the Mac, including a number of high-quality LCD flat-panel displays. The LaCie 321 is a 21.3" 4:3 aspect ratio monitor — the smallest of the submitted displays for this roundup review. The LaCie 321 is small in size only, producing an onscreen image that is exceptionally good. The LaCie 321's native resolution is 1,600 x 1,200, with the dot pitch given as 0.27 mm on a SA-SFT panel. The response time is 20 ms.
The LaCie 321 is equipped with a removable cowl — called the easyHood — to block unwanted light from the monitor surface. It provides off-the-scale good color rendition with vibrant, accurate, and extremely pure colors.
The LaCie 321 is a high-gamut display, offering CRT-grade 72% NTSC gamut in combination with a screen brightness of 250 cd/m2 and a contrast rating of 800:1, making it an excellent choice for those to whom color fidelity and accuracy are paramount. Color correction is incorporated into the display at the base level, and the LaCie 321 has an embedded integrated circuit with 12-bit look-up tables. Color gradations are extremely smooth, with subtleties that are lost on most displays displaying onscreen.
A removable cowl, which LaCie calls the easyHood, blocks unwanted light from the monitor surface, and an optional colorimeter puck is available for extremely accurate color calibration. The puck attaches to your system via a USB port and uses LaCie's included blue eye pro software for calibration.
On the test bench, the LaCie 321 performed flawlessly, with no ghosting or flickering. Grays were neutral, with both grayscale and color ramps being smooth and step free. Brightness and contrast were excellent. The color rendition was off-the-scale good, with vibrant and accurate colors that were extremely pure.
Physical controls for the LaCie 321 consist of a number of buttons on the bottom front and up the lower-right side of the bezel to control source, left, right, up, down, reset, and the ubiquitous Power button with an indicator LED. In keeping with the importance of the onscreen image, there is little to distract, making it difficult to ascertain the button functions. However, you can touch any button and the function of all the buttons appears briefly onscreen next to the individual buttons to indicate their specific functions. The OSM has great depth and is very easy to comprehend and use.
The stand is very stable and showed no wiggle at any extension or in vertical mode. Pricing, as one might expect in a display with extensive color-control capabilities, is $1,679.99 — a bit on the pricey side. But if you're looking for superb color fidelity, it may be worth it to you. Highly Recommended.
NEC Display Solutions
NEC Display Solutions has been producing high-quality monitors for a very long time, and its accumulated experience and knowledge tends to show in high-quality products like the MultiSync LCD2470WNX monitor submitted for this roundup. Based on a 24" wide-aspect ratio SPVA panel with rapid response technology and dynamic video mode, the MultiSync LCD2470WNX offers a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200. The dot pitch for the display is 0.270 mm, and the brightness rating given is 500 cd/m2. Contrast for the MultiSync LCD2470WNX is rated at 1,000:1, and the response time is a relatively speedy 6 ms gray-to-gray.
In addition to a good-quality image, the MultiSync LCD2470WNX has many digital and analog connectivity options, including four USB 2.x connections.
The four-way adjustable stand adjusted smoothly throughout its range of settings and showed no sign of wiggling, even when the large panel was configured in vertical mode. The stand is removable so that the panel can be mounted on the wall with the incorporated VESA standard wall mount.
Connectivity options are good with both digital and analog connectors; the MultiSync LCD2470WNX has a total of four USB 2.x connections — two on the left side of the panel and two others located with the cable and power connections on the back of the display.
I ran the NEC MultiSync LCD2470WNX through its paces and found that it achieved perfect scores through-out the tested ranges. Brightness and contrast are very good, and color purity was really outstanding. The grays were clear and neutral with smooth grayscale ramps that showed no signs of banding. I saw no ghosting or flickering in any of the tests. It was evident from the moment I powered up that the display had a very pleasing on-screen image.
The OSM took some getting used to, but it offered a lot of depth and control of the displayed image. Also included with the display is NEC's NaViSet software, which provides a graphical user interface that lets users adjust display settings using either the mouse or the keyboard. The viewing angle for the NEC MultiSync LCD2470WNX is 176° both horizontally and vertically, and I saw no edge fall-off through-out the course of the evaluation.
Physical controls for the display are located below the bottom center of the monitor bezel and consist of five buttons: menu, NaViKey toggle stick, input select, dynamic video mode (standard, text, gaming, movie, and photo), and a Power button with an indicator LED.
Pricing for the NEC MultiSync LCD2470WNX is $819.99 — good for a high-quality LCD monitor of this size. Warranty coverage is a standard three years for labor, parts, and the backlight. The MultiSync LCD2470WNX combines elegance and function to produce a pleasing onscreen image that is easy to live with. Highly Recommended.
ViewSonic produces visual display products for a broad range of purposes, with products targeted toward business and consumer electronics as well as the professional market. ViewSonic's Three Bird brand logo appears in diverse endeavors.
Of all the monitors in this roundup review, the ViewSonic VX2835wm display provides the fastest response times: 3 ms for gray-to-gray and 5 ms for black-to-white-to-black.
For this roundup, ViewSonic submitted the VX2835wm display, which is based on a 27.5" wide-aspect ratio (16:10) TFT active matrix panel with a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200. The VX2835wm has a brightness rating of 500 cd/m2, a contrast rating of 800:1, and a dot pitch of 0.309 mm. Although the display incorporates two speakers, it has no USB hub. The response time is a very speedy 3 ms for gray-to-gray and 5 ms for black-to-white-to-black, which is the fastest response time of any monitor in this roundup.
The stand for the landscape-only VX2835 is very stable and doesn't wiggle in any of the tested extensions. A VESA 200 x 100 wall mount is incorporated into the panel. Connectivity options include both analog and digital connectors, as well as HDMI, component, composite, and S-Video connections.
For the categories in which Cadalyst tests — brightness, contrast, focus, convergence, color purity, geometric distortion, and raster rotation — the ViewSonic VX2835 achieved top scores. Color purity tests showed reds that were very slightly orange but with excellent renditions of both yellow and green. Grays were slightly on the warm side, with grayscale ramps displaying some very slight steps, though not significant enough to warrant a deduction. Text was easily readable at 9 pixels (6.8 pts). Although I saw no ghosting, I observed an extremely slight flicker in some of the more difficult targets.
As noted in the feature table for this article (www.cadalyst.com/0907monitors-table), the viewing angle of the ViewSonic VX2835wm is rated at 160° both horizontally and vertically. I noticed a definite darkening of the edges of the display when I viewed it a bit off-axis. Whether this effect will be a factor in your purchasing decisions depends on both the nature of your work and how sensitive you are to such display anomalies. I wouldn't consider it a major or profound problem, but it's something to be aware of.
Monitor controls are an arc of black-on-black buttons located under the display area. They include menu, input, Power (LED), audio, and OptiColor mode selections. The OSM of the ViewSonic VX2835 is extremely good — among the best I've seen. It's easy to understand and to navigate, so any needed adjustments are simple.
The pricing for the ViewSonic VX2835 monitor is $699, a remarkably good price for an LCD display of this size, which earns the display an A+ grade for price. Warranty coverage is a standard three-year limited warranty on the LCD, parts, and labor. Highly Recommended.
Monitor has exceptional color gamut and display quality unlike any other.
By Ron LaFon
Originally, Cadalyst planned to do a stand-alone review of the LaCie 526 monitor, but delays in shipping — and one getting lost in transit on its way — delayed the process, so I opted to include it as a sidebar to the LCD flat-panel monitor roundup.
The LaCie 526 monitor handles approximately 98.5% of ISO coated and 95% of Adobe RGB color gamuts, a capability well beyond the typical LCD monitor.
The LaCie 526 is a 25.5" 16:10 wide-aspect ratio display that offers a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 and a 0.287-mm dot pitch. Brightness for the LaCie 526 is rated at 400 cd/m2 and contrast at 800:1. Response time is 16 ms (typical rise and fall) and 8 ms gray-to-gray. One look at the display, however, and you'll see that the LaCie 526 goes well beyond these basic specifications. Designed for use with digital photography, prepress, CAD, and video-editing applications, the LaCie 526 offers an extremely wide color gamut and a display quality unlike any other LCD panel I've ever seen.
The LaCie 526 monitor handles approximately 98.5% of ISO coated and 95% of Adobe RGB color gamuts, which are well beyond the range typically handled by LCD monitors. Users get a very close match between captured, displayed, and printed colors, and each panel is individually corrected at the factory to ensure uniform brightness and chromaticity across the screen. To keep the display accuracy, the LaCie 526 has an embedded ColorKeeper sensor that analyzes the brightness and chromaticity of its backlight in real time and continuously adjusts the backlight and panel behavior for stable brightness and color. What users get from this function is superbly good color fidelity and a remarkably accurate onscreen image.
As one might expect from such a display, it has a removable cowl (LaCie calls it the easyHood) for blocking unwanted light and an optional colorimeter for highly accurate color matching. The colorimeter puck attaches to your system via a USB port and uses LaCie's blue eye pro software for hardware calibration. An extensive set of tools is available for advanced users who want more precise control of the displayed image.
In operation, the LaCie 526 offers little to distract from the onscreen image. Physical controls are dark control buttons at the bottom right and side of the matte black bezel. Touch any button, and an indicator appears on the screen next to all the buttons that indicate their function. The OSM offers great depth and is easy to use and navigate. The stand is stable and easily adjusted, and the entire assembly is well considered and well engineered.
Reflecting its special-purpose nature, the LaCie 526 is somewhat more expensive than a normal desktop LCD display — priced at $2,099.99 for the monitor only and $2,419.99 with the colorimeter. Pricing includes a three-year limited warranty.
If you need a high-quality LCD display and if accurate color rendition and matching are essential, the LaCie 526 is a superb instrument that produces visually arresting displays that are not only stunning, but accurate as well.
Xi MTower PCIe
CAD workstation delivers high performance and expandability.
By Ron LaFon
Xi MTower PCIe
To evaluate the monitors in this roundup review, @Xi Computer sent Cadalyst one of the latest models of its Xi MTower PCIe, which is based on an Intel Core 2 E6850 2.93-GHz dual-core processor (overclocked to 3.20 GHz) with Silent Water Cooling. The system was built around an EVGA NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI motherboard that uses, as should come as no surprise, the NVIDIA 680i chipset. This chipset features support for a front-side bus speed of 1,333 MHz.
The system included 2 GB of DDR2 1,066-MHz memory and a Western Digital 150-GB Raptor hard disk, as well as a Lite-On 18 x 10 x 40 x 12 optical drive. This particular system featured a new case with lots of amenities, including a swing-away drive bay door and a control panel on the top front of the case that included a Power button/LED indicator, two USB 2.x connectors, a reset button, and an HD indicator. A 600-W OCZ power supply provided sufficient power for expandability, and the 10 drive bay, 10 USB 2.0, and two FireWire 1394 connectors all offer flexibility. The system proved to be very quiet in operation.
Cadalyst used the Xi MTower PCIe system from @Xi Computer for all the monitor tests in this roundup. It also produced stellar CAD scores in its own benchmark tests.
Graphics for the Xi MTower PCIe were provided by what proved to be a very speedy Diamond Viper HD graphics card (www.diamondmm.com/2900XT512PE.php), which is based on the ATI 2900XT chipset and features 512 MB of integrated DDR3 memory onboard. The motherboard supports SLI configurations, but I used only a single graphics card for this roundup.
Although my intent was to provide a stable and capable platform for testing all the large LCD monitors here, I'd be remiss if I didn't also put this speedy new system through its paces to see what it could do.
I ran the Cadalyst C2006 benchmark (www.cadalyst.com/c2006) with AutoCAD 2008 in two configurations using the native AutoCAD drivers — one set with OpenGL and the other with Direct3D (D3D). For the OpenGL tests, the system produced a total index score of 211, and the D3D iterations of the benchmark produced a total index score of 366, both of which are exceptionally good performance numbers.
Using Autodesk 3ds Max 9, I ran the MAXBench4 benchmark in two configurations — again, OpenGL and Direct3D (there are no accelerated 3ds Max drivers available for this graphics card). For the OpenGL component of the benchmark, the system produced an averaged high/low score of 126.81, and for the D3D tests, it produced an averaged high/low score of 226.54. Again, these are excellent performance numbers. For the final test, I ran the ProE-04 component of the SPECviewperf v9.03 benchmark, which produced an expectedly low weighted geometric mean of 11.66.
As delivered, the Xi MTower PCIe system is priced at $2,899, which includes a three-year warranty on parts and labor, a one-year warranty on onsite service, and 24-hour replacement parts and telephone support. @Xi Computer offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on its systems with no restocking fee. If you need a high-performance CAD workstation with lots of room for expandability, the Xi MTower PCIe delivers.
Ron LaFon, a contributing editor 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.