• Price: 2041

  • Company: HP

  • Pros: Small, quiet case. Good set of entry-level accessories.

  • Cons: Slow processor. Few drive bays.

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

Last month we brought you the UK’s first quad-core Xeon-based workstation with Armari’s pimped-out Magnetar QS, though at £4,595 plus VAT it’s out of the reach of most. Our review unit of HP’s first workstation to offer quad-core chips is more modestly specced and priced – and it’s a lot smaller too.

The xw6400 case is the size of a desktop PC, and by far the smallest Xeon 5300-based system we’ve seen. Considering there’s space for two quad-core chips inside, it’s an impressive piece of industrial design. Things are pretty cramped inside, and there’s only room for two hard drives (or three if you pop one in the 5.25-inch slot below the DVD+RW drive). It’s surprisingly quiet, too.

Our review unit has just a single processor, which you could upgrade with another chip in the future. It’s the Intel Xeon E5310, which is the slowest of the quad-core range and runs at 1.6GHz. The specs are completed by 4GB of RAM, an nVidia 1500 graphics chip and two 250GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drives.

A need for speed

This system looks designed for 3D animators or After Effects users on a budget, but its performance lets it down. In our After Effects (with GridIron Nucleo) and Cinebench rendering tests, the xw6400 was barely faster than some of the dual-core, single chip systems that we looked at back in December (Digit 107). It’s far behind systems with Intel’s quad-core QX6700 Core 2 Extreme chip, and the difference in power between this E5310 at the bottom of the range and two X5355s at the top is startling.

The rest of the xw6400’s performances in our tests was as expected from a unit with a substantial amount of RAM and
an excellent entry-level graphics card. The Cinebench result of 3,700 looks low, but at over 11 times the CPU, you can see again where the weakness lies.

If you’ve got a higher budget and can afford to beef it up with one or two better chips, the xw6400 would make a decent, quiet workstation – but in terms of performance you’d get better value at this price from a Core 2-based model.