In It for the Long Haul

How a 3-year-old BOXX workstation is faster than your brand new Dell or HP.

 “Kaby Lake” is the latest processor from Intel, introduced in early 2017, and features a top clock speed of 4.2GHz. That sounds impressive, until you realize that BOXX offered safely overclocked 4.3GHz workstations as far back as late 2013. While Dell and HP brag about their new 4.2GHz machines, BOXX offers expertly-engineered solutions – with speeds up to 4.9GHz currently – to boost 3D design & modeling performance.

Taking this concept a step further, BOXX has also introduced overclocked multi-core systems that bridge the gap between single-threaded and multi-threaded tasks. Thanks to Intel’s new line of Extreme-series processors, safe overclocking of multi-core CPUs is now possible. Imagine how much faster you can compile a 3D scene using the speed of a single, high-speed overclocked core, and then render your scene in record time with additional overclocked CPU cores. Now your creativity doesn’t have to wait on your hardware!

BOXX workstations are built to last, and they will likely be the most relevant piece of hardware your organization uses for years to come. While cheap, throw-away PCs are just now catching up, BOXX is introducing systems that will outpace those other systems for another 3 or 4 years, and maybe longer. Some BOXXers have even reported using their BOXX workstation for up to 12 years before needing to upgrade. Talk about return on your investment!

The DEVELOP3D Review: BOXX APEXX 2 + BOXX renderPRO 2

Ray trace rendering is arguably the most computationally intensive process in any product development workflow. It is highly multi-threaded so it absolutely hammers all of a workstation’s CPU cores. It is also extremely scalable, so doubling the number of cores can, in many cases, halve the render time.

CAD software is very different in that it is a single threaded process, so the majority of tasks are performed on one CPU core. This means it thrives on a high frequency (GHz) CPU. Performance will not increase if you add more CPU cores.

This presents a big challenge when choosing a workstation for both CAD and rendering. The highest frequency CPUs have the least number of cores, while the ones with the most cores tend to have the lowest frequencies. As a result, designers and engineers must accept that there will always be a trade off. Or must they?

Custom workstation manufacturer BOXX offers an alternative solution by dedicating separate machines to each process. CAD work is done on the BOXX APEXX 2, a high frequency Intel Core i7 desktop workstation, while the rendering is handled by the BOXX renderPRO 2, a networked, dual Intel Xeon rendering machine with lots of cores.

As both machines work completely independently of each other, it also means that the BOXX APEXX 2 workstation will be able to dedicate almost all of its resources to CAD modelling when the BOXX renderPRO 2 is rendering.

In contrast, when a traditional desktop workstation is set to render flat out, it will often become sluggish, making it almost impossible to do any meaningful CAD work.

To get round this, users have to reduce the number of cores assigned to the rendering task, either by changing processor affinity in Windows Task manager (so specific applications use specific CPU cores) or by applying more granular control of CPU core usage inside the rendering application. And that means renders come back slower.

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