PolyStation iQ470 (First Look Review)26 Mar, 2009 By: Ron LaFon
You can find more powerful workstations, but this model will get your design work done for a mere $699.
In theNovember/December 2008 Cadalyst Labs roundup, “Budget-Conscious Workstations,” we were surprised to find 64-bit workstations priced as low as $1,300, and we were equally surprised to find 32-bit CAD workstations being offered in early 2009 for as little as $699. Here we have a look at Polywell Computers’ PolyStation iQ470 in its lowest-cost configuration.
The PolyStation iQ470 system we reviewed is based on an Intel Core2 Duo E7200 2.53 on an Asus P5NVM motherboard with integrated NVIDIA Quadro FX 470 OpenGL graphics. This configuration supports a front-side bus speed of 1333 MHz. The system we tested included Windows XP Professional (and the CD+license) and featured on-board 7.1 3D audio sound and Gigabit 100/1000T Ethernet. We note that the integrated NVIDIA Quadro FX470 graphics card shares 256 MB of system memory for graphics and can drive displays at resolutions as high as 2560x1600. For our test suites we used the NVIDIA graphics driver v.220.127.116.1120, dated 12/26/2008.
The system included 2 GB of DDR2 800 MHz RAM, although when fully populated, this motherboard can accommodate 16 GB of RAM. The PolyStation iQ470 is housed in a compact black TM315 nine-bay MicroATX tower case with a 350-W iMicro power supply. The case measures 13.75" x 7.1" x 16.2" (HxWxD). A 250-GB Seagate SATA-II 7200-rpm drive was included in our test system, as was an Asus DVD-R/W optical drive. A Logitech USB optical mouse and Logitech keyboard rounded out the package. This system apparently has little in the way of acoustic engineering or noise dampening – I found it to be fairly noisy.
Expandability options include one 3.5” and three 5.25" external drive bays, along with five 3.5" internal bays. Motherboard slots include one PCI Express 2.0 16x slot, and one each PCI Express 4x slot, PCI Express 1x slot, and standard PCI slot. The PolyStation iQ470 offers a total of eight USB 2.0 connectors: six on the back and two on the front behind a panel door that also offers microphone and headset connections.
Priced at a mere $699, the Polywell PolyStation iQ470 is a very suitable solution for the CAD user.
On the test bench, we ran the latest release of the Cadalyst C2008 Benchmark in AutoCAD 2009 with Service Pack 2 installed. Three different configurations were tested: OpenGL, Direct3D, and Direct3D with the NVIDIA accelerated driver for AutoCAD 2009. The OpenGL tests produced a C2008 Total Index Score of 172, completing in 81 minutes. The Direct3D tests generated a Total Index Score of 177 and completed in 61 minutes. Finally, the Direct3D tests with the NVIDIA accelerated driver produced the speediest scores with a C2008 Total Index Score of 253 in 25 minutes. As a frame of reference for interpreting these scores, consider that currently available, high-end, overclocked workstations are typically scoring just above 500 on the C2008 Benchmark, so this unit offers about half the speed of a high-end system for about one-sixth the cost.
For reasons we were unable to pinpoint, we could not successfully complete the SpecAPC 3ds Max benchmark tests on this configuration. So, we substituted the older MAXBench4 benchmark, which produced an averaged high/low score of 111.24 using Autodesk 3ds Max Design 2009 with the NVIDIA accelerated Direct3D drivers.
Last of the tests was a complete run of the SPEC ViewPerf 10 Benchmark. The scores for the individual components were: 3dsmax-04: 36.90, catia-02: 31.93, ensight-03: 22.65, maya-02: 86.52, proe-04: 33.42, sw-01: 49.55, tcvis-01: 10.99, and ugnx-01: 12.43. The SPEC ViewPerf 10 Benchmark reflects relative performance for a number of major CAD and design applications on a given hardware platform.
To compare these scores with those of other lower-priced workstations, refer to the system scores included in the feature table that accompanied our “Budget-Minded Workstations” article.
The Polywell PolyStation iQ470 as reviewed is priced at $699 without a monitor. Several higher-priced configurations of this system model are available, including one that is based on Windows Vista Business x64 and incorporates a faster processor and numerous additional extras for $999.
Polywell's standard system warranty is five years labor and three years limited parts. (Only eligible parts will have coverage for up to three years.) The warranty includes unlimited phone support during business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT). Optional warranty plans are available, offering up to three years of advance parts replacement, three years of third-party, 24/7 phone support, and up to three years of third-party, on-site parts replacement service.
You can certainly find more powerful workstations, but this configuration of the PolyStation iQ470 is an amazingly low-cost option for doing CAD and design work on a budget, with noise being the only significant reservation about the system.