Price: £1,700 plus VAT (base price)
The W6000 is the first workstation release in Compaq’s new Evo line. Evo is the company’s name for all of its user-based computers – from thin clients and notebooks to desktops and workstations. It also represents a new look – black and silver with sweeping arches – that’s different to the previous range’s bland beige, and makes the W6000 seem more like the powerful professional system it is. A replacement for the highly regarded AP550, the Evo W6000 is based around Intel’s Xeon processor – or even two of them if you feel the need. Xeon is Intel’s name for what should by rights be called the Pentium 4 Xeon. This currently exists as speeds of 1.4GHz and 1.7GHz, though a 2GHz version should be along soon. Xeon boosts the Pentium 4’s ability to deal with large amounts of information at once, giving it a 400MHz front side bus to Intel’s latest 860 chipset and 256KB of L2 on-die cache. This makes it ideal for highly intensive tasks such as 3D rendering for modelling, animation, and video and Photoshop effects. Impressive specs The W6000 offers up to 2GB of 800MHz ECC RDRAM, the maximum possible this side of Itanium systems. Up to 144GB of Ultra160 SCSI storage can be placed internally, while the external drives consist of a floppy drive and either a CD or DVD drive. You have a wide range of 2D and 3D cards from the Matrox Millennium G450 to ATI’s Fire GL2 or 3Dlabs’ Wildcat 5110. You also get integrated Soundblaster 128 audio and a network adaptor. The W6000 is dual-booted with Windows 2000 and NT both pre-installed – and there are many other options besides. The model we tested sits a notch above the standard at £2,589 plus VAT. It includes a Xeon 1.4GHz chip with 512MB of RAM and a 18.2GB hard drive. It has an NVidia Quadro2 Pro graphics card, which is an excellent card if you don’t have the budget for a Fire GL2 or Wildcat card. There’s also a 48x CD drive – plus a 12x/10x/32x CD-RW that makes up £150 of the price. In our tests, the W6000 performed very well. It outstripped its predecessor, the AP550, and even beat our office Xeon favourite, IBM’s IntelliStation M Pro. It matches what we’d assume the M Pro to show if you bought a 1.4GHz Xeon-based model today. And that’s fast. Case design This workstation’s case is likely to be an important factor in selling (or not selling) this machine to you. It’s noticeably smaller than other workstations in its class, especially when compared to the IntelliStation. This is great if you’re running out of desk space – but it has forced Compaq to make compromises with the internal design. Compaq has had a long history of awkward internal layout. The company seemed to be getting better with the last machine we reviewed (the DW300), but the W6000 goes back to the bad old days of case design. Getting the side off is easy, but fitting it back on is a pain. Once inside, everything seems to be hidden behind everything else, which in turn is hidden behind a plastic air vent. At least the drives are easy to get to. There are also only three PCI slots. The good news is that they are completely free as the SoundBlaster 128 soundcard and network adaptor are both on the motherboard. The bad news is they can’t be upgraded, and, if they fail, more than likely so will your motherboard. Not such a good thing for a workstation. If you’re interested in upgrading the parts yourself in the future, I’d avoid the W6000. Otherwise, this is a powerful machine that we can recommend.