InterPro’s latest CAD/CAM/CAE workstation, the IPW-Ci7 (ATI Edition) is another six-core workhorse, a variation on the machine the Stafford-based system builder submitted for review back in April 2010.
Gone is the premium 3.33GHz Intel Core i7 980X Extreme Edition CPU and in its place is the more cost effective 3.20GHz Intel Core i7 970. Then, giving the machine a greater emphasis on 3D graphics, it has been enhanced with one of AMD’s new generation professional boards, the 2GB ATI FirePro V7800, taking over from PNY’s ageing 768MB Nvidia Quadro FX 1800.
This new balance of CPU and GPU power is sure to put it directly in the line of sight of CAD/CAM/CAE users who work with large 3D datasets, though those with models of exceptional size may benefit from boosting the memory from 6GB to 12GB, either at time of purchase or as a relatively straightforward upgrade later on, populating the three spare memory slots with 2GB DDR3 modules.
In what is becoming an increasing trend in workstation storage, InterPro has coupled a Solid State Drive (SSD) with a standard mechanical platter hard drive. The 60GB OCZ Vertex 2E 2.5” SATA-II SSD takes pride of place in the machine’s drive bays playing host to the Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Operating System, applications and current datasets.
As far as current drive capacities go 60GB isn’t a huge amount and those that work with multiple applications should probably consider upgrading the capacity of the SSD. But with prices falling all the time, this shouldn’t impact the overall price of the system by a huge amount. Meanwhile, the 1TB Samsung ‘Spinpoint’ F3 7200 RPM Hard Drive SATA-II takes on the role of data storage and archive.
The IPW-Ci7 didn’t disappoint when put to the test in our new suite of benchmarks. It held its own against the dual processor Workstation Specialists machine in our CAD, CAE, and single task CAM test.
The difference between the machines became apparent under rendering and when multi-tasking with the dual processor machine showing its pedigree when three of our CAM tests were run concurrently. Graphics-wise, it put in a respectable score of 30 under our SolidWorks 2010 test.
Overall, the IPW-Ci7 (ATI Edition) is a good all rounder for all types of CAD/CAM/CAE users and a serious alternative to more costly dual CPU machines. It’s well built and quiet and would be a welcome addition to most desktops.
The changing role of the single CPU workstation
First there were two, then four, and now six cores can be packed inside a single CPU. This, combined with the limited scaling of CAD/CAM/CAE applications over multiple CPU cores, means the role of the single processor workstation has changed considerably in recent years. The boundaries between the entry-level and mid-range (the traditional stomping grounds of the single processor workstation) and the high-end have blurred.
So when do you double up? Dual processor systems can still offer great payback for advanced CAD/CAM/CAE users and if you want to slash your render times there is no substitute. Also, with each CPU having its own dedicated memory there can be major benefits for multi-tasking, as demonstrated in our new CAM benchmark.
3.20GHz Intel Core i7 970
6GB (3 x 2GB) 1,333MHz DDR3
AMD ATI FirePro V7800 (2GB)
MSI X58 PRO-E Mainboard (Intel X58 Express chipset)
60GB OCZ Vertex 2E Solid State Drive (SSD) + 1TB 7,200RPM Samsung ‘Spinpoint’ F3
36 month return to base (RTB) (parts and labour)