Pros: Low-cost. Good attempt to be different.
Cons: Performance only average. Not quite configured right.
Entry-level workstations are usually based around high-spec desktop chips: either Pentium 4 or Athlon 64 processors. The latest low-cost system from Scan, however, uses a single Opteron chip. Due to recent developments at AMD, this offers more ‘bang for your buck’, according to Scan.
We’re not sure we agree. In our tests, the 3XS Opteron 939 delivered the same level of performance as we’d expect if you popped out the Opteron chip and put an equivalent Athlon 64 in its place – or swapped the motherboard and used a similarly-priced Pentium 4 and board mix.
This workstation took 44 minutes and 39 seconds to render our standard scene in LightWave 8.3. This is as you’d expect from a computer with one single core processor – though not much faster than the AMD Turion processor used by the Rock Quaddra 64 laptop in our group test in Digit 97.
Our Photoshop test was performed in two minutes and 24 seconds – again standard for a workstation with 2GB of RAM. Cinebench results matched the grade for the choice of graphics card, with the Quadro FX 1400 delivering a hardware lighting rating of 3,349 and with an acceleration of 8.98x.
This workstation uses the same large shiny case as the Scan unit we looked at back in November (Digit 93). Inside, though, the small Asus motherboard offers SLI, so that you could add a second Quadro FX 1400 card to boost graphics performance. The chip is cooled by a massive, spindly Zalman fan that looks like a deep sea crustacean. Even so, the workstation isn’t as quiet as other models we’ve looked at.
Scan deserve points for trying something different with the 3XS Opteron 939, but the results are no better than the average entry-level 3D workstation.
Processor: AMD Opteron 148 (2.2GHz)
Max RAM: 4GB
Free slots: 2
Graphics card: NVidia Quadro FX 1400
Connection: PCI Express
Hard drive type: Serial ATA
Size: 2x 250GB
Free bays: 2x 3.5-inch int, 2x 5.25-inch ext
Removable media drive: dual layer DVD±RW drive (16x)
Soundcard: On-board 7.1 plus optical
Ports: 8x USB 2.0, 2x FireWire, gigabit ethernet, OS: Windows XP