|Xi MTower PCIe
For this roundup, @Xi Computer submitted a version of its Xi MTower PCIe system based on an Intel Core 2 E8500 microprocessor. This processor has a native clock speed of 3.16 GHz but had been overclocked on this unit to 4.00 GHz. This clock rate is supported by the system's EVGA nFORCE 790i motherboard, which uses the NVIDIA 790i chipset and has a front-side bus speed of 1,600 MHz. Overclocking a processor in this way generates at lot of heat, so the MTower PCIe uses a beefy 700-W Cooler Master power supply with a liquid cooling mechanism. As one might expect, this combination produced high performance scores on the benchmark tests.
The MTower PCIe garnered an A+ grade for expandability.
The Xi MTower PCIe system came with 4 GB of 1,333-MHz DDR3 RAM installed, out of a possible 8 GB when the board is fully populated, and included a Western Digital VelociRaptor SATA II 500-GB hard drive. A Lite-On 18 x 10 x 40 x 12 combination optical drive rounded out the system drives.
Housed in a compact black mid-size tower measuring 17.2" x 8" x 19.2" (H x W x D), the MTower PCIe was relatively quiet, thanks in part to the liquid cooling system. The system offered plenty of room for expansion, with a total of 10 drive bays, 10 USB 2.0 connectors, and 2 FireWire 1394 connectors, which, combined with the 700-W power supply, earned the Xi MTower PCIe an A+ grade for expandability. There are no USB or FireWire connectors on the front or top of the case; instead, two USB and one FireWire connections are rather oddly located at the bottom right of the front panel of the case, along with microphone and headset sockets.
Microsoft Vista Home Premium x64 with Service Pack 1 was preinstalled on the system, along with NVIDIA performance drivers v220.127.116.1196 (dated June 26, 2008) for the NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700 graphics card. The FX 3700 is a PCIe 2 graphics card with 512 MB of integrated DDR3 RAM on board — a speedy but relatively high-cost addition to a budget-minded system.
I put the Xi MTower PCIe system through its paces, starting with the new version of the Cadalyst C2008 benchmark running under the 64-bit version of AutoCAD 2009. With AutoCAD's native Direct3D drivers, the MTower PCIe produced C2008 total index score of 342. Using the NVIDIA Performance driver for AutoCAD, the system scored an even 500, the highest AutoCAD performance score to date. Also using the performance drivers, I then ran two concurrent sessions of AutoCAD, with each running a separate version of the C2008 benchmark. The combined C2008 total index score for the concurrent sessions was 765, completing in only 18 minutes.
Next up was the MAXBench 4 benchmark using the 64-bit version of Autodesk 3ds Max Design 2009. With 3ds Max's native OpenGL drivers, the MTower PCIe produced a combined average high/low score of 74.46. With 3ds Max's native Direct3D drivers, the combined average of the high/low scores was 120.32. Finally, the NVIDIA performance driver (MAXtreme) produced an averaged high/low score of 183.18.
For the final benchmark, I ran the full 64-bit version of SPECviewperf 10, which produced the following scores: 39.15 for 3dsmax-04, 50.08 for catia-02, 42.15 for ensight-03, 165.47 for maya-02, 47.62 for proe-04, 99.60 for sw-01, 25.69 for tcvis-01, and 27.53 for ugnx-01.
The Xi MTower PCIe system as configured is priced at $2,499 and comes with a three-year warranty for parts and labor, with one year of on-site service. Highly Recommended.