Labs Report: We examine four
state-of-the-art desktop systems and find
that 2D/3D CAD power is well within the
reach of money-minded users.
Xi MTower PCIe
should come as no surprise to our regular
readers that @Xi Computer earned top marks —
by a large margin — for the performance of
its Xi MTower PCIe workstation. However, to
afford its two performance-enhancing options
— an overclocked CPU and a Corsair
solid-state SATA-3 hard drive (with 0.3-ms
seek time) — and stay below the $2,000 price
ceiling for this roundup, the company had to
make a tradeoff: Hard drive storage was
limited to 120 GB.
System configuration. The Xi
MTower PCIe is built around the Asus P8Z77-M
PRO motherboard, which is ideally suited for
overclocking the Intel i5-3570K CPU (four
cores, four threads) to 4.6 GHz from the
standard 3.4 GHz.
Click here for Comparison Table
Corsair sealed water-cooling system, with a
4.75" dedicated fan, dissipates the extra
heat generated by this
processor-on-steroids. In addition, the
tower case, which measures 8.75" x 18.75" x
19.25" (WxHxD), provides generous
ventilation on five sides. However, this
creates a direct path for internal sounds to
leak, producing a slight but discernible
noise from beneath the desk.
After accommodating the graphics card,
the Asus motherboard has three free
expansion slots: two PCIe 2.0 x 16 slots and
one PCIe 2.0 x 1 slot. Due to our price
ceiling, @Xi Computer could not include its
standard choice of the mid-to-high–range
NVIDIA Quadro 4000 graphics card — so it did
the next best thing and included a Quadro
2000. This card, which includes 1 GB of DDR5
memory, provides one dual-link DVI-I port,
two DisplayPort connections, and a 3D stereo
jack. It supports two monitors
simultaneously at a maximum resolution of
2,560 x 1,600 with 32-bit color.
The Xi MTower PCIe provides a tremendous
amount of expansion space for drives, with
four 5.25" (three free) external drive bays
as well as six 3.5" (five free) and two 2.5"
(both free) internal bays. As for
connectivity, more options are available
than anyone should ever need. The front
panel includes two USB 3.0 ports, two USB
2.0 ports, and headphone and microphone
jacks. The rear panel includes four USB 3.0
ports, two USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA ports,
one network connection, an S/PDIF port,
another pair of headphone and microphone
jacks, and an old-fashioned PS-2 port.
The blazingly fast Xi MTower PCIe
workstation keeps its cool thanks to
ample ventilation, numerous fans,
and a sealed water radiator system.
Completing the configuration are 8 GB of
1,866-MHz DDR3 non-ECC (error-correcting
code) memory (two 4-GB DIMMs, each with a
large Corsair heat-spread); an extremely
generous 850-watt Corsair Ultra-Quiet power
supply (minimum 80% efficiency); a DVD+RW/DL+/-R/CD-RW
18X optical drive; a Logitech Deluxe Windows
keyboard; and a Logitech optical wheel
Test results. Using our current
testing configuration of AutoCAD 2012 with
the c2012 benchmark and Microsoft Windows 7
Professional 64-bit operating system, @Xi's
work-station proved to be 27–35% faster than
the competition, as measured by the overall
index. That substantial edge in performance
is amazing, and most of it is attributable
to the overclocked processor. The full set
of c2012 scores were as follows: total index
of 614, 3D graphics index of 1,239, 2D
graphics index of 517, disk index of 342,
and CPU index of 360.
Cost, warranty, and tech support.
The Xi MTower PCIe, as configured for this
review, costs $1,990. This price includes a
three-year hardware warranty with express
advance parts replacement, parts and labor,
and return shipping costs — and @Xi Computer
includes a 30-day money-back guarantee
(excluding software), the best of any in
this review. Tech support is free for the
lifetime of the system.
The Xi MTower PCIe shines in this roundup
of systems costing less than $2,000. It has
more than enough power to do serious 2D work
as well as entry- to mid-level 3D modeling.
It definitely has expansion capacity to
spare, should you need to upgrade at a later
date. An additional 500 GB of hard drive
space can be had for $89.
@Xi Computer's 25 years of experience in
the CAD market is obvious in the engineering
and manufacture of its workstations. The Xi
MTower PCIe delivers superb performance for
the price — it's an exceptional value.
Click here for Comparison Table
The blazingly fast Xi MTower PCIe workstation keeps its cool thanks to ample ventilation, numerous fans, and a sealed water radiator system.