Seneca Data VFX 92005 Aug, 2015 By: J.V. Bolkan
First Look Review: Burly workstation is designed for serious computing.
The VFX 9200 is a substantial workstation, both literally and figuratively. The case is large (9.2" w x 18.4" h x 20.6" d), and weighs in at just over 27 lbs. The system also scored big numbers on our benchmark tests. Fortunately, the price isn’t outsized — it’s quite reasonable, considering all that Seneca Data has put into that beefy case.
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The VFX 9200 series comes with either an Intel Xeon E5-1600 or an Intel i7-5820K 3.3-GHz CPU. Our review system was equipped with the latter, including the water-cooling option and overclocking to 4.5 GHz. As is becoming the norm in a workstation of this class, the primary storage drive is a 250-GB solid-state drive (SSD), which provides quick loading of core applications. At this price, you might not expect to see a pair of 1-TB Seagate hard drives in RAID 0 configuration in this machine, but they are included too.
If you need to expand beyond the impressive amount of storage available, there is plenty of room to add more: The system will accommodate a total of five storage drives. There are also two front-access drive bays behind the hinged front panel for adding optical drives.
There are also ample expansion options elsewhere in the system. Our test machine came with 16 GB of RAM, but can reach 64 GB when all eight DIMM slots are filled. There are five PCI Express (PCIe) 3.0 slots, with four open on our test system. You can also add graphics cards to support as many as 18 monitors.
Supporting all these additional components, if you ever need to, shouldn’t be a problem for the 860-watt power supply (a 1,200-watt version is also available). The cooling system is also up to the task, thanks to two unusually large fans. Those fans, along with the Corsair CPU water-cooling system, kept the review unit running smoothly with the overclocking (even as the temperature in our test area exceeded 90 degrees when our air conditioning went out for a few days). If you’re going to work in those types of conditions on a regular basis, you might want to install the optional third fan — an addition that can easily be made by the customer or by Seneca Data.
Integrated sound, networking options (dual Gigabit Ethernet local-area network [LAN] and Wi-Fi), and a wealth of USB ports (8 USB 3.0/2.0 and 4 USB 2.0) are included. The case is attractive, in a beefy way, and is accented by a large, blue LED–rimmed power button on the front top edge. The heft and dimensions of the system shouldn’t be an issue once you’ve set it up, but if you rearrange your workspace often, they could become an annoyance; there are no integrated handles on this model.
Inside, the layout is meticulously trim, with every cable routed mostly out of sight. My only quibble with the case is that the tool-free screws attaching the cover onto the side of the unit are the fully removable type, which can easily be dropped and lost.
As configured, the VFX 9200 is very capable. It handled our C2015 benchmarks in AutoCAD 2016 with excellent scores, as follows: a Total Index of 770; a 3D Index of 1,842; a 2D Index of 541; a Disk Index of 372; and a CPU Index of 324. The outstanding 2D Index score is the fastest I’ve measured, and is likely a result of the high overclocking of the CPU. The NVIDIA Quadro K4200 graphics processing unit (GPU) delivers the best balance of performance and price available and helped the system perform on a par with, and slightly above, other machines in the $3,000–$4,000 price range.
In the SPECviewperf tests, the VFX 9200’s results demonstrated a balanced performance in a variety of applications. Scores included 69.87 for Catia-04, 63.24 for creo-01, 2.93 for energy-01, 57.6 for maya-04, 20.93 for medical-01, 37.44 for showcase-01, 103.41 for snx-02, and 105.74 for sw-03.
Seneca offers a very competitive three-year standard warranty, as well as a five-year option that includes 24-hour telephone support and replacement parts. Configuring and purchasing a Seneca Data system could be a bit easier — they don’t sell direct, but rather through an online partner portal. Customers must apply and register with the partner to gain access to the configuration and purchasing website.
The VFX 9200, with its overclocked 4.5-GHz i7 CPU and NVIDIA Quadro K4200 GPU, is perfectly suited for AutoCAD and other applications that favor raw clock cycles over efficient multithreading where the Xeon CPUs excel. For less than $4,000, including the large drive capacity, it is also a solid value. Highly Recommended.