16 Sep, 2010 By: Ron LaFon

First Look Review: Blindingly fast mobile workstation sets a new record in Cadalyst Labs.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in the Summer 2010 edition of Cadalyst magazine.

BOXX Technologies offers a wide range of high-performance workstations, both desktop and mobile, that target demanding users. For this review, Cadalyst Labs took a look at the GoBOXX 1640, which BOXX considers a mid-range mobile workstation.

The GoBOXX 1640 that Cadalyst received was based on an Intel Core i7 Processor Extreme Edition 2.0-GHz quad-core processor with an Intel PM55 Express chipset, and it was configured with 8 GB of 1,333-MHz DDR3 RAM. Two 80-GB SSD SATA hard drives were installed, along with an 8x DVD multi-optical drive. Microsoft Windows 7 x64 Ultimate Edition was preinstalled. Graphics were handled by an NVIDIA Quadro FX 2800M graphics card with 1 GB of video RAM. NVIDIA graphics drivers v8.17.11.9716 (dated March 16, 2010) were preinstalled.

Measuring 16.25" x 11" x 1.69" at front to 2.25" at back (W x D x H) and weighing 8.35 lbs with the battery, the GoBOXX 1640 has an elegant, clean design with a full keyboard and numeric keypad. The system incorporates an array of connectivity options, including four USB 2x ports, an HDMI and external DVI ports, a Kensington lock port, two SATA ports, and four audio jacks. A digital video camera is built-in, as is a 56-Kb V90 fax modem and a 10/100/1,000-MBps Ethernet connection. Some options, including the AC power connector, are located behind a fold-down door at the back of the system.

The full-HD glassview LCD measures 17.3" and offers a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. When driven by the NVIDIA graphics card, the display is crisp and easy on the eyes.

Performance. To test the performance of the GoBOXX 1640, I ran several iterations of the Cadalyst C2011 Benchmark with the 64-bit version of AutoCAD 2011 and its applicable service packs and hot fixes. The Intel processor that powers this system has a Turbo mode that can be activated to balance performance, and it's also possible to assign either single or multiple processes to a single core in the processor. I opted to test the base configuration as received, but keep in mind that these options are available for fine-tuning system performance to individual needs.

When I started the first run of the new Cadalyst C2011 benchmark with AutoCAD 2011, it was obvious just from watching the test progress on screen that this system was very speedy. The first C2011 benchmark runs used the native AutoCAD driver, which produced a C2011 total index score of 341 with a single-loop time of 18 minutes.

I then installed the NVIDIA accelerated driver for AutoCAD 2011, rebooted the system — and sat in amazement as the GoBOXX 1640 speeded through the benchmark, generating a remarkable C2011 total index score of 885 with a single-loop time of 15 minutes. This result is a record high for any system running the C2011 benchmark test in Cadalyst Labs to date — desktop or mobile.

Switching to the SPECviewperf 10 benchmark, I ran the full set of tests at 1,280 x 1,024 resolution. Here I also found remarkably good performance. The scores were as follows: 59.22 for 3dsmax-04, 68.26 for catia-02, 54.57 for ensight-03, 234.87 for maya-02, 69.50 for proe-04, 149.43 for sw-01, 40.53 for tcvis-01, and 37.82 for ugnx-01. With threads enabled, the Composite 2 thread/Composite 4 thread results were as follows: 108.60/144.48 for 3ds-max-04, 101.51/120.32 for catia-02, 243.46/201.63 for maya-02, 92.00/101.19 for proe-04, 244.30/227.22 for sw-01, and 39.93/32.64 for tcvis-01. These test results reflect very good performance across a broad range of demanding applications.

Battery. After observing this kind of performance in the benchmark suites, I turned to the battery tests to see at what cost this performance comes. The results on both battery tests were not great — but better than I expected. With the system idle and background services such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth disabled, the time to hibernation was 1 hour, 20 minutes. With a loop of the Cadalyst C2011 benchmark running in AutoCAD 2011, the time to hibernation was 49 minutes. These battery tests are not meant to mimic real-life use, but rather provide a range of performance you could expect. In most circumstances, of course, applications as demanding as these would be run from on-site electrical sources, rather than from the batteries. During these test runs, the GoBOXX 1640 system generated very little heat.

Warranty and price. The GoBOXX 1640 is priced at $5,391 as equipped for this review, with configurations starting at $2,794. The standard BOXX limited warranty is for one year.

If you're looking for an impressive, very fast workstation to take on the road, the GoBOXX 1640 won't disappoint. Highly Recommended.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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