Best Buy
  • Price: £4,995 plus VAT)

  • Company: Armari

  • Pros: Fastest non-overclocked system we’ve ever seen

  • Cons: Price puts it out of reach for most creatives; red glow off-putting

  • Our Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10 We rate this 9 out of 10

Few creatives can afford to drop five grand on a workstation, but if you’re in that select group of 3D and VFX artists, then the Magnetar M32 is what you want under your desk.

It comes in a smaller chassis than the two first-generation models with Intel’s latest line of Xeon chips we looked at in April – including Armari’s own X32 – but the company has squeezed a lot into its almost-desktop-sized chassis.

Everything is still relatively easy to get to inside the M32’s shell. The brushed aluminium and black steel chassis is appealingly designed, with a useful swivel-out handle on top to help carrying – though we’d prefer the ugly card reader to be hidden behind a panel and the red LED glow made the Xbox players among us think it was initially broken (though you can choose a healthier blue instead).

Our test M32 featured two Xeon 2.6GHz E5-2670 chips, slower than the X32’s 3.1GHz. You can’t overclock this generation of Xeon processors much, but the M32’s Cinebench score of 22.59 is impressive though, and this model was the fastest we’ve ever seen in our After Effects test, completing a FX-laden render in less than half the time of the HP Z1 we were testing at the same time. Assisting the M32 here was 32GB of RAM – though unlike the Z1, this isn’t ECC – and the usual combination of an SSD system drive and a large hard drive for your projects (2TB in this case).

Making its debut in the M32 is AMD’s FirePro W8000 graphics card, which has 4GB of its own graphics RAM. This outstripped anything we’ve seen so far in both Cinebench and Maya – though we’ve yet to see a workstation with Nvidia’s new K series of cards. Expect to see a head-to-head comparison next issue.