By Neil Bennett | on April 07, 2010
Price When Reviewed: £5,999 plus VAT
Pros: The most powerful workstation we’ve ever seen.
Cons: Price puts it out of reach for most creatives.
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Six grand is a lot to spend on a workstation, but the Magnetar X24 is at the forefront of new technologies. It’s the equivalent of the Pagani Zonda supercar, boasting top-of-the-line processors, graphics card and storage. Only those working on CG for Hollywood movies will be able to afford one, but the technologies it features will eventually trickle down to more affordable stations.
Powering the X24 are two brand-new six-core Xeon processors, each running at 3.33GHz. They’re the main reason for the X24’s price tag; less expensive six-core Core i7 chips are due soon for more affordable workstations. Using the new Cinebench 11.5 rendering test, these ran 42 per cent faster than a rival with two four-core 3.33GHz Xeon X5570s.
This is impressive – especially as we weren’t expecting the extra cores to add nearly this much power. You’ll see a massive boost in power in your apps, whether you’re rendering animation, video, large PDFs or effects in Photoshop.
Our After Effects CS4 test also showed this, with the X24 rendering our HD VFX in 6 minutes 42 seconds
– the fastest we’ve seen. And when 64-bit AE CS5 comes out, this will get even better. Also helping here is 24GB of RAM – so the 64-bit version of Photoshop CS4 raced through our tests, and CS5 will fly. The very fast solid-state system drive, backed up with a capacious media drive, won’t hurt its performance either.
It’s not just the chips that are brand new though. The X24 sees the debut of AMD’s ATI FirePro V8800. To geek out briefly, this has 2GB RAM, 1,600 Stream processors and a 147.2GBps memory bandwidth. Translation: it’s a corker. Using Cinebench 11.5’s OpenGL test, the V8800 ran through a textured real-time scene at 66.47fps – 45 per cent higher than nVidia’s flagship Quadro FX 5800.
The V8800 can output 10-bit per colour graphics over DisplayPort, offering over a billion colours. This requires a monitor that can output 10-bit colour; the Magnetar X24 ships with a Dell UltraSharp U2711W – a 27-inch monitor with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440
Turning on support for 10-bit per colour in Photoshop involves ticking a box hidden away in its Preferences.
The U2711 is a cracking monitor, and at £901 plus VAT it’s more affordable than HP’s DreamColor LP2480zx (£1,900). It’s well designed, and you could easily couple it with one of AMD or nVidia’s lower-cost 10-bit capable boards for a less pricey set-up.
The X24 is a leviathan. It has plenty of expansion possibilities, with five free standard drive bays and four free optical bays you could co-opt if you wished. It’s also near silent, which is due to some well-chosen noise-reduction components, including a Dark Power Pro P8 power supply (supplying 1000W for your future upgrades) and Sanyo Denik SanAce Pro fans.
Armari’s Magentar X24 is a dream machine – and best of all, it gives a peek at how powerful the next generation of more affordable workstations will be.
CPU: 2x Intel Xeon X5680
Graphics: AMD ATI FirePro V8800
Graphics RAM: 2GB
Storage: 128GB SATA 6Gbps SSD + 2TB SATA II, 10x Blu-ray drive + media card reader
OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Monitor: Dell Ultrasharp U2711
Input devices: Logitech Wireless Desktop MK710