Workstation Specialists WS1400

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Calling the WS 1400 an entry-level workstation is a bit of a misnomer. It may be entry-level in the wider context of product development software – simulation and rendering, for example – but for pure CAD it certainly packs a punch.

It features the Core i5 680, the fastest dual core chip currently available and this means 3.60GHz of dedicated power, which goes up to 3.83GHz when Intel’s Turbo Boost kicks in. For CAD users that ‘do design’ and little else this is perfect, though HyperThreading can give a small boost when rendering.

Workstation Specialists (WS) sent in two configurations with different options for graphics and memory. Coming in at £999, the base model features an ATI FirePro V4800 graphics card and 4GB memory, while ‘option 2’ costs £1,275 to up the graphics to a FirePro V5800 (1GB) and doubling the memory to 8GB for large assembly modelling.

On paper, there’s a fair bit of difference between the two graphics cards – the V5800 features 800 processors, compared to the V4800’s 400 – however, in our SolidWorks graphics test we found there was not a lot between the two. Both feature 1GB memory and support up to three displays using an interesting new technology called EyeFinity.

In terms of storage the 250GB Seagate Barracuda hard drive may be a little low on capacity for some users, but WS offers a full range of hard drive options right up to 2TB, though this will naturally bump up the price.

If Scan’s Nanu is the smallest entry-level workstation we’ve ever reviewed then the WS1400 has to be the largest. Unlike Scan who offer machines in all shapes and sizes, WS has standardised on one case from entry-level to high end. According to WS, this not only helps build brand recognition, but helps solve technical issues with customers over the phone as support staff know exactly where each cable is routed around the chassis.

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While this all makes perfect sense, I can’t help but feel that WS is missing a trick by not offering smaller chassis for its entry-level machine, whose components look a little lost when you open it up. This aside, the WS1400 is a superb choice for CAD users looking for a well-built workstation that doesn’t compromise on raw CPU performance to keep costs down.

Intel Core i5 680 CPU (2 x 3.60GHz)
4GB or 8GB1 DDR3 1333MHz memory
Intel DP55WG mainboard
250GB Seagate Barracuda (7,200RPM) hard drive
AMD ATI FirePro V4800 (1GB) or V58001 (1GB) graphics card
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional Edition (64-bit)
36 month full parts and labour warranty

Benchmarks

Graphics (frames per second – bigger is better) SolidWorks 2010 – 30 / 321
CPU (secs – smaller is better) 3ds Max Design 2010 – 597

Intel Core i5 680 CPU (2 x 3.60GHz)
4GB or 8GB1 DDR3 1333MHz memory
AMD ATI FirePro V4800 (1GB) or V58001 (1GB) graphics card
Intel DP55WG mainboard
250GB Seagate Barracuda (7,200RPM) hard drive
36 month full parts and labour warranty
http://workstationspecialists.com


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