• Price: 1995

  • Company: CAD2

  • Pros: Powerful 3D graphics card. Design-inspired looks.

  • Cons: Slow rendering and image processing.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

It used to be the case that Macs looked great and PC workstation were ugly beige boxes. Now G5s look like air-con units and it’s left to PC makers to take the lead in case design.

The Imagine FX840DC definitely looks different – it’s constructed of onyx-black aluminium and resembles a scale model of a modern art gallery, which looks pretty good to us.

It’s a powerful beast too. Based around a dual core Pentium D processor, it’s the first workstation we’ve seen with NVidia’s Quadro FX 3450 graphics card. This is an upgraded version of the FX 3000 with 256MB of DDR-3 memory and a 256-bit memory controller interface.

The FX840DC scored only moderately well in our Cinebench tests, scoring 3225 in the hardware-accelerated real-time
3D test. However, the FX 3450 proved its mettle by delivering an acceleration ratio of 10.03x, which compares the 3D power of the workstation using the graphics chips against running the same test using the host processor alone.

This score is the highest we’ve seen, proving the worth of the FX 3450. Unfortunately, it also shows that the rest of the workstation is letting it down. The Pentium D 840 is the fastest dual-core Intel processor, completing our LightWave rendering test in 22 minutes exactly. This is around ten per cent slower than units with AMD’s Athlon X2 4800+ dual core processor that we reviewed last issue.

This workstation also underperformed in our Photoshop tests, taking over three minutes to process 20 actions. This is very slow compared to Armari’s Best Buy-winning Gravistar ST, which took just under two minutes.

The case internals are immaculately laid out and we were impressed by the inclusion of three hard drives, FireWire 800 ports, and the near-silence of this system – though details like these can’t make up for the lack of power.

Processor: Pentium D 840 (3.2GHz dual core)
RAM: 2GB
Max RAM: 8GB
DIMMs: 2
Free slots: 6
Graphics card: NVidia Quadro FX 3450
RAM: 256MB
Connection: PCI Express
Hard drive type: Serial ATA
Size: 2x 80GB + 250GB
Speed: 7,200rpm
Free bays: 1x 3.5-inch int, 3x 5.25-inch ext
Removable media drive: DVD±RW drive (16x)
Dimensions: 540-x-198-x-458mm
Soundcard: On-board 7.1 plus optical
Ports: 8x USB 2.0, 2x FireWire 800, 2x FireWire, gigabit ethernet
OS: Windows XP