Price: WSX6 V2 £3,195 plus VAT . RS-D2850 £3,195 plus VAT
Company: Workstation Specialists
Pros: Offers flexible creative workflow for 3D and VFX; powerful workstation and rendering system
Cons: A pricey combination
Rendering is a pain. Whether you’re animating in Cinema 4D or Maya, or creating VFX in After Effects or Nuke –rendering is what stands between you and your next period of creativity.
Workstations Specialists’ RS-D2850 (above, on the left) is designed to free up your life from that wait. While it’s named like a background droid in Star Wars, it’s a rendering workstation forced into a small chassis that’s the size of a skateboard and as a tall as a shoebox.
You install a render node for your favourite VFX, motion graphics or 3D application on it, configure your suite on your main workstation and send off renders to it – freeing you up to carry on with another part of the project. You can do this with a traditional server, but the RS-D2850 is smaller and quieter – and it’s a lot more powerful than using your old workstation for rendering.
Setup is best done by someone with knowledge of Windows Remote Desktop – though Workstations Specialists (OK, WS from now on) can do it for you.
The RS-D2850’s width and depth is the same as your average workstation – such as the WSX6 V2 (above) that WS delivered it alongside – so it’s easy to stack on top of your desktop. However, while this rendering station is much quieter than its predecessor – the first RSD, which we reviewed in late 2011 – it’s still too noisy when in full rendering flow for most artists to want on their desks. As it trades files with your workstation over your ethernet network though, it’s easy to stick it away somewhere it won’t annoy you or your colleagues.
The WSX6 V2 is the first system we’ve seen to offer an Nvidia Quadro graphics card based on its ‘Keplar’ platform. The K5000 produced the best results in the Cinema 4D-based Cinebench benchmark and our own Maya test that we’ve ever seen. With an overclocked Intel Core i7 3930K six-core processor and 32GB of RAM, it’s no surprise that this WSX6 V2 is the fastest single-chip system we’ve reviewed. For your money, you also get a 240GB SSD system drive and a 2TB media hard drive – plus a nice glowing logo on the front (though you can turn it off using a dedicated switch if it gets on your nerves).
Our RS-D2850 was no slouch either, with two eight-core Xeon E5 chips and 32GB RAM. There’s no graphics card and a 120GB SSD, as a rendering-only box needs no more.
We tested the RS-D2850 using 3ds Max 2013, with Autodesk Backburner taking care of the network rendering. It’s a smooth workflow with a lot of flexibility – you can push preview renders off to the RS-D2850 through the day, so you can carry on working, then let both work together on a taxing final render overnight.
If you’re an all-round 3D, VFX or motion graphics artist, combining the two systems is a simple way to boost your own creativity in a way that’s more effective than a dual chip behemoth of a workstation – though buying both together costs about 50 per cent more than that.