By Neil Bennett | on March 22, 2004
Armari’s RX-E includes some of the best components currently available for mid-range, Windows-based 3D workstations. It offers two of the latest generation Xeon processors and a healthy amount of fast RAM – and it sees the first appearance of ATI’s latest workstation-class graphics card.
The RX-E’s 3.2GHz Xeon processors are top of the line. In our LightWave 3D rendering tests – which tests processor performance – the RX-E finished the Tracer-Radiosity benchmark scene in 15 minutes and five seconds. This is only 30 seconds faster than the dual 3.06GHz Xeon-driven Evesham Acumen we looked at back in August, but it’s the best there is – and the price is not prohibitive.
However, at 3D rendering, the RX-E does lose out to competitors featuring dual AMD Opteron 248 processors – including Armari’s own RO-X64E. These machines are around two minutes (and 15 per cent) faster at the LightWave test than the RX-E. For all-night renders this can translate into a time saving of hours.
The FireGL X2-256t graphics card is much more impressive. It might not sound that different from the FireGL X2-256, but the added lower-case t actually means for increased engine and memory speeds, plus a redesigned board and a new copper fan. ATI claims all this boosts performance even further. Our results bear this out, as the RX-E is this first mid-range 3D workstation we’ve seen to top 3,000 in our Cinebench real-time 3D tests – while the 256MB of RAM allows you to work with very complex models.
The rest of the RX-E is well put together. 2GB of RAM is as you’d expect, but the two 74GB hard drives are fast (10,00rpm) and can be set up as a mirrored RAID if you wish. The Asus motherboard is great for the techie – it allows overclocking – and features eight USB 2.0 and two FireWire ports. However, it lacks PCI-X slots. The Supermicro case is well laid out, though it won’t fit your old IDE drives – it fits Serial ATA drives only. The Sony DRU-510AK 4x DVD±RW drive is solid and reliable, though 8x drives are available. Like the RO-X64E, the RX-E ships with the best mouse-&-keyboard combo, Logitech’s wireless keyboard and MX700 mouse.
The RX-E’s main problem is that in a few months we’ll have access to Xeons with 64-bit instructions that can match the Opterons for 3D rendering performance, and PCI Express for connecting graphics boards. If you have to have a 3D workstation now, the RX-E is a great choice, but if you want to upgrade your current machine, we’d suggest waiting until the spring.