Xi MTower PCIe (First Look Review)

31 Aug, 2007 By: Ron LaFon

CAD workstation delivers high performance and expandability.

To evaluate the LCD monitors in Cadalyst Labs' September 2007 roundup review ("Living Large -- LCDs Deliver the Big Picture"), @Xi Computer sent Cadalyst one of the latest models of its Xi MTower PCIe, which is based on an Intel Core 2
Xi MTower PCIe    @Xi Computer
   Price: $2,899
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.

Xi MTower PCIe
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, 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 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.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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