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An Optimized Single-socket Solution

We’re always excited to receive new workstations from BOXX Technologies. The Austin, TX-based company has been building computers since 1996, and its systems have consistently set new high-water marks for performance. The dual-CPU 8980 XTREME we looked at this summer (DE, July 2013) proved to be the fastest and most expensive system we’ve ever tested. In contrast, the new 3DBOXX 4150 XTREME is a much more affordable solution.

Images courtesy of David Cohn.

Like all of the other 3DBOXX workstations we’ve reviewed previously, the 3DBOXX 4150 XTREME came housed in a custom-designed aluminum chassis. But everything about the 4150, starting with the box it arrived in, was sleek and compact. Like its larger sibling, the 4150 XTREME’s case is all black — except for the brushed aluminum BOXX logo on the removable front panel and the matching logo cutout on the top of the case. That front grille conceals a pair of 4-in.-diameter cooling fans. The case itself measures just 6.85×16.6×14.6 in. (WxDxH), and weighs 19 lbs. This makes it much smaller and lighter than the 3DBOXX 3970 EXTREME, the last single-CPU BOXX workstation we reviewed (DE, January 2012).

In spite of the physical changes, the front panel still houses a single LG Electronics 20X super-multi DVD-RW optical drive, as well as a panel containing two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, audio jacks for headphone and microphone, a round power button with bright-white LED power indicator, a blue hard drive activity light, and a small reset button. But the smaller case does not provide any additional front panel drive bays.

A well-designed rear panel houses four additional USB 2.0 ports, four more USB 3.0 ports (including one that allows for updating the system BIOS), an RJ45 network connection for the integrated Intel I217V Gigabit LAN controller, and both DVI and HDMI ports for the Intel CPU’s integrated graphics. There are also six audio connectors (microphone, line-in, line-out, side, rear, and center/subwoofer), as well as an optical S/PDIF Out port.

Compact Interior

Removing the right side panel reveals a compact, but well-organized interior. In addition to the single drive bay with front panel access, there are two internal drive bays. In our evaluation unit, one of those bays contained an Intel 240GB SSD drive, adding $250 the base price. BOXX offers other drive options, however, including standard 7,200 rpm SATA drives ranging from the 500GB drive in the base configuration to a 4TB hard drive. The system’s integrated drive controller supports up to six SATA drives, as well as redundant array of independent disks (RAID) 0, 1 and 10 configurations.

A 550-watt power supply with Gold-level efficiency nestled in the bottom rear of the case provides ample power for any expansion needs — but covers more than half of the ASUS Gryphon Z87 motherboard. That motherboard supports Intel’s latest, fourth-generation CPUs and is based on a Z87 chipset.

We could just barely see the Intel Core i7-4770K CPU beneath its closed-loop cooling unit. A pair of black rubber hoses extend from the CPU’s heat sink to a radiator case mounted behind the lower portion of the front grille. Those rubber hoses, as well as a stiffening panel running the full depth of the case, also make it a bit more difficult to access the motherboard’s memory sockets.

The ASUS motherboard provides four memory sockets supporting 240-pin dual in-line memory modules (DIMMs). While the base 3DBOXX 4150 XTREME configuration comes with just 4GB of RAM, our evaluation unit was equipped with 16GB of memory installed as a pair of 1600MHz 8GB DDR3 modules, leaving room to expand system memory to its 32GB maximum. That extra memory in our evaluation unit added $382 to its price.

New Intel CPU

The 3DBOXX 4150 XTREME comes with an Intel Core i7-4770K quad-core CPU. This new “Haswell” CPU is the successor to Intel’s “Ivy Bridge” architecture. Officially announced on June 4, 2013, these new processors use a 22nm process and provide a 6% increase in the number of instructions per clock, resulting in 6% faster single- and multi-threaded performance.

In its stock configuration, the CPU has a maximum turbo boost frequency of 3.9GHz while maintaining a maximum thermal design power (TDP) rating of 84 watts. But as we’ve come to expect, BOXX increases performance by over-clocking the CPU to a maximum turbo boost frequency of 4.3GHz. Our research indicates that the overclocked i7-4770K runs 10 to 15 degrees hotter than comparable over-clocked Ivy Bridge CPUs, but our evaluation unit remained cool and quiet even under heavy computational loads.

Although the ASUS motherboard provides a pair PCIe 3.0 x16 graphics slots, as well as a third PCIe x16 slot with version 2.0 support, ASUS recommends using just a single graphics card with this motherboard (although the board does support CrossFireX and SLI). There is also a single PCIe 2.0 x1 slot.

The base 3DBOXX 4150 configuration comes with an NVIDIA Quadro K600 graphics card. For us, BOXX included a more powerful Quadro K4000 GPU with 3GB of GDDR5 memory and 768 compute unified device architecture (CUDA) parallel processing cores. That upgrade added $891 to the overall system price.

BOXX also offers other graphics options, including dual NVIDIA GeForce cards, Quadro Tesla boards, and AMD FirePro. Customers could also save money by opting to use only the integrated Intel HD graphics provided by the Core i7 CPU. But while tests indicate that the integrated HD4600 graphics performance is approximately 20% faster than the HD4000 graphics included in the older Ivy Bridge CPUs, intensive engineering computing performance is better using a discrete graphics board rather than the integrated graphics.

Record-setting Performance

We always expect great performance from BOXX workstations, and can report that the 3DBOXX 4150 EXTREME delivered. On the SPECviewperf test, which focuses only on graphics performance, the 4150 did extremely well, scoring near the top on almost every test. It even out-performed the Ciara Kronos 800S workstation we recently reviewed (DE, August 2013), even though that system was equipped with a more powerful GPU.

On the SPECapc SolidWorks 2013 benchmark, the 4150 XTREME beat every system we’ve ever tested on most portions of this test, lagging only behind the Ciara workstation and the much more powerful 3DBOXX 8980 XTREME on several of the composite scores.

On the AutoCAD rendering test, which clearly shows the advantages of CPU speed, multiple CPU cores and hyper-threading, the 3DBOXX 4150 XTREME completed the rendering in 42 seconds. This is a record for a system equipped with just a single CPU.

BOXX rounded out the system with a Logitech K120 104-key USB keyboard and M500 USB laser mouse. Windows 7 Professional 64-bit came preloaded. Windows 8 and Linux are also available. BOXX Technologies backs the system with a 1-year premium warranty, 24/7 telephone support and next-business-day onsite service, followed by two additional years of standard warranty service. Premium support can be extended for the second and third years at the time of purchase for an additional charge.

Not only does the 4150 XTREME pack plenty of performance, it does so at an attractive price: The 3DBOXX 4150 XTREME has a starting price of $2,800, which gets you the over-clocked Core i7-4770K CPU, 4GB of RAM, NVIDIA Quadro K600 graphics, 500GB 7,200 rpm SATA drive, 20X DVD-RW drive, and Windows 7. As configured, our evaluation unit priced out at $4,273, making it the new price/performance leader.

Although the 3DBOXX 4150 XTREME is more expensive than entry-level workstations, it represents an optimized solution for CAD/CAM and other engineering applications that don’t really benefit from more expensive, multi-CPU configurations.

David Cohn is the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies. He also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA, and has been benchmarking PCs since 1984. He’s a contributing editor to DE and the author of more than a dozen books. Contact him via david@dscohn.com or visit his website at DSCohn.com.

More Info

BOXX Technologies, Inc.


Price: $4,273 as tested ($2,800 base price)
Size: 6.85 x 16.6 x 14.6-in. (WxDxH) tower
Weight: 19 lbs.
CPU: one Intel Core i7-4770K (quad-core) 3.5GHz (over-clocked to 4.3GHz in turbo mode)
Memory: 16GB DDR3 at 1,600MHz (up to 32GB supported)
Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K4000
Hard disk: Intel 240GB SATA SSD (two internal drive bays)
Optical: LG Electronics 20X DVD+/-RW
Audio: onboard integrated high-definition audio
Network: integrated 10/100/1000 LAN with one RJ45 socket
Other: Two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 on front panel; four USB 2.0 and four USB 3.0 on rear panel; integrated DVI and HDMI video ports
Keyboard: 104-key Logitech K120 USB keyboard
Pointing device: Logitech USB Laser Mouse

Workstations Compared

  Single-Socket Workstations Dual-Socket Workstations
workstation (one 3.5GHz Intel Core i7-4770K quad-core CPU over-clocked to 4.3GHz, NVIDIA Quadro K4000, 16GB RAM)
Ciara Kronos 800S
workstation (one 3.5GHz Intel Core i7-2700K quad-core CPU over-clocked to 5.0GHz, NVIDIA Quadro K5000, 16GB RAM)
Lenovo E31 SFF workstation (one 3.3GHz Intel E3-1230 quad-core CPU ]3.7GHz turbo], NVIDIA Quadro 400, 8GB RAM) Lenovo S30 workstation (one 3.6GHz Intel Xeon E5-1620 quad-core CPU ]3.8GHz turbo], NVIDIA Quadro 4000, 8GB RAM) BOXX 8980XTREME workstation (two 3.1GHz Intel E5-2687W eight-core CPUs over-clocked to 3.82GHz, NVIDIA Quadro K5000, 64GB RAM) HP Z820 workstation (two 3.1GHz Intel Xeon E5-2687W eight-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro 5000, 32GB RAM)
Price as tested $4,273 $5,714 $1,093 $2,614 $13,454 $9,984
Date tested 7/31/13 5/31/13 12/29/12 8/18/12 5/9/13 7/16/12
Operating System Windows 7 Windows 7 Windows 7 Windows 7 Windows 7 Windows 7
SPECview 11 higher
catia-03 72.37 96.39 18.15 48.21 78.01 51.69
ensight-04 49.20 83.26 11.08 32.18 80.25 44.13
lightwave-01 100.78 103.15 46.79 64.47 77.07 59.02
maya-03 131.31 153.01 40.36 84.50 125.16 101.67
proe-5 24.74 22.87 10.29 11.93 16.14 11.72
sw-02 78.27 84.51 31.54 53.53 67.16 57.48
tcvis-02 55.73 77.82 16.53 37.66 71.58 44.52
snx-01 53.95 83.21 13.25 33.87 81.35 44.86
SPECapc SolidWorks 2013 Higher
Graphics Composite 5.25 3.89 n/a n/a 2.69 2.15
RealView Graphics Composite 5.38 4.1 n/a n/a 2.86 2,37
Shadows Composite 5.36 4.1 n/a n/a 2.86 2.36
Ambient Occlusion Composite 5.63 8.37 n/a n/a 6.26 5.19
Shaded Mode Composite 5.12 3.79 n/a n/a 2.62 2.27
Shaded With Edges Mode Composite 5.38 3.98 n/a n/a 2.77 2.03
RealView Disabled Composite 4.74 3.15 n/a n/a 2.11 1.45
CPU Composite 4.07 4.92 n/a n/a 4.84 4.5
Autodesk Render Test Lower
Time Seconds 42.00 58.33 64.00 63.80 38.00 41.00

Numbers in blue indicate best recorded results. Numbers in red indicate worst recorded results. Results are shown
separately for single- and dual-socket workstations.

About David Cohn

David Cohn has been using AutoCAD for more than 25 years and is the author of more than a dozen books on the subject. He’s the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies, a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering, and also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA. Watch for his latest CADLearning eBooks on AutoCAD 2015 on the Apple iBookstore, at Amazon, and on the CADLearning website. You can contact him via email at david@dscohn.com or visit his website at www.dscohn.com.
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