We love testing high-end dual-Xeon systems with dozens of CPU cores that can chew through heavily multithreaded software in no time at all.
But these specialised systems are neither affordable or necessary for the vast majority of artists, who will not only save a considerable amount of money by opting for a more mid-range rendering computer, but may even get better performance from it too, depending on the software and workload.
As we’ve seen on many occasions, if you’re working with scenes with a low-to-medium number of polygons, or with software that doesn’t make full use of eight, ten, or twelve-core processors, you could see better results from a Core i7 running at a high clock speed, and will definitely get better bang for your buck.
With this chip is an AMD FirePro W5100 GPU, a card that is right in the middle of the FirePro line, providing 4GB of GDDR5 video memory, performance that should be a solid foundation for 3D, but without a high cost that seriously inflates the final price, as would happen with any top-of-the-line GPU.
With 32GB of DDR3 memory and a 250GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD, Workstation Specialists has carefully chosen the remaining components so that they don’t end up costing the earth, but still help with both rendering performance and overall system responsiveness.
The SSD in particular is half the price of Samsung’s top-end 850 Pro, but still one of the fastest around, and gives consistently fast boot and application load-times. It sits in an ASUS Z97-WS motherboard, and is accompanied by a 3TB hard disk for archival storage.
The chassis is the only weak spot. Workstation Specialists use a tank-like Supermicro case for its high-end rigs, with a custom-designed glowing logo on the front. The WS-X140 comes in a cheaper desktop chassis though, with just a branded sticker on the front. It’s generally fine, but the fan guard was a bit loose, and there were no thumbscrews for easy access to the internals.
But it’s polygon pushing that matters most, and the WS-X140 delivered consistently good results, with a few really superb scores as well.
A CINEBENCH CPU score of 901 shows what a difference the overclock makes, when a stock-speed Core i7-4790k managed 789. And this leads to better rendering times in the 3ds Max Underwater scene at 1080p, from 13 minutes 59 seconds for the stock i7 compared to 12 minutes 53 seconds when overclocked.
The most recent comparison for SPECviewperf results is the Nvidia Quadro K2200 in HP’s Z440, which is powered by a 3.7GHz Xeon E5 quad-core processor. The WS-X140 edges slightly ahead in six of the eight tests, with about ten per cent better results.
Certain graphics cards work better with some software than others though, the classic example being the better Maya results we normally see from AMD.
There are equally some places where the FirePro W5100 didn’t quite pip the Z440’s Quadro K2200. SPEC’s catia-04 and energy-01 tests were behind, as was the CINEBENCH OpenGL result of 102.4, lower than the K2200’s 116.7.
But the overall good set of results, solid specification and relatively affordable price proves that the WS-X140 is a great choice of workstation for artists looking for a mid-range upgrade, or buying their first dedicated rendering computer.
There’s plenty of potential in the WSX140. Just customise it with a slightly beefier graphics card to turn it into a powerhouse
Features – 5/5
Performance – 4/5
Design – 3/5
Value for money – 4/5