3DBOXX 8500 Series

11 September 2009

A specialist workstation for high-end design viz, backed up with knowledgeable support, but let down by poor acoustics

Product 3DBOXX 8500 Series
Company name www.boxxtech.com
Price £3,999

In the ten years I’ve been reviewing workstations, I’ve never had a chance to look at a BOXX machine. One reason for this is that the company is more than just your average workstation manufacturer. Its machines are specifically built for visual effects companies, architecture firms, and design studios and applications such as 3ds Max and Maya. And from the conversations I’ve had with the guys that design, market and support the machines, it’s clear their knowledge of these sectors is head and shoulders above that of most workstation manufacturers.

Headquartered in Austin, Texas, BOXX recently opened up a new channel to market in the UK, through Jigsaw, a company probably best known for its close relationship with Apple, but one that also has a strong focus on architectural and design visualization software. And, with dual Xeon processors, a high-end Quadro graphics card and 6GB of RAM, it is for this latter category of software that the BOXX 8500 workstation has been specifically designed.

The BOXX 8500 is a solid, well-built machine. It also looks good and even the in your face BOXX logo has style. Inside the chassis the attention to detail is excellent. It’s well laid out, with minimal stray cables, plenty of low duty fans, and it’s the first time I’ve seen a hard drive tucked away neatly behind the motherboard.

At the front of the machine, just behind the grill, is a radiator, which is used to dissipate heat from the liquid cooled processors. For me, liquid cooling is designed to do one of two things - either to make a machine incredibly quiet, or to facilitate overclocking. Disappointingly, this 3DBOXX 8500 does neither and even when idle, fan noise is noticeable.

What it lacks in acoustics, it makes up for in performance. The two dual

Xeon X5550 processors, with eight physical and sixteen virtual cores between them, will make light work of any rendering tasks. And the Quadro FX 3800 graphics card, with 1GB RAM, is more than a match for most material heavy datasets. The system comes pre-loaded with Windows XP x64 and even with 6 x 1GB of RAM, there is room for more with six spare DIMM slots for expansion.

The BOXX 8500 is a specialist piece of kit designed specifically for high-end design visualisation. In a commodity market this is a big selling point, particularly as it’s backed up with excellent support for applications such as 3ds Max. It’s just a shame it couldn’t be a little quieter.

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» 2 x Quad Core Intel Xeon 5550 (2.66GHz) processors
» 6GB (6 x 1GB DDR3-1333 REG ECC) memory
» Intel S5520SE Motherboard  
» 250GB 7,200RPM Western Digital hard drive
» Nvidia Quadro FX 3800 graphics (1GB)
» Windows XP x64 Edition (or Windows Vista business 64-bit)

»Benchmarks
Graphics (bigger is better) SolidWorks 2009 - 36.8 3ds Max Design 2009 - 205 Inventor 2009 - 3.6
CPU (smaller is better)  3ds Max Design - 484 secs

To find out how DEVELOP3D benchmarks workstations click here

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