The RS-D2180’s rendering complements the WS-X14Ts modelling beautifully, but both are expensive
PRICE WS-X141, £2,447 (£2,936 inc VAT); RS-D2180, £4,425 (£5,310 inc VAT) from workstationspecialist.com
Workstation Specialists has a novel solution to an ongoing problem: that 3D rendering and 3D modelling require almost the opposite types of specification. It offers two discrete systems designed to work together.
The WS-X141 is a standalone modelling workstation, supplied with a quad-core Intel Core 17-6700K. This runs at a nominal 4GHz, but Workstation Specialists has set it permanently to 4.5GHz. For good measure, there’s 64GB of 2,133MHz DDR4 SDRAM onboard.
Graphics acceleration comes from Nvidia’s familiar Quadro M4000, but Workstation Specialists diverts from the storage script by supplying two SSDs. There’s the now-standard PCI Express-based unit for OS and apps, in the form of a 512GB Samsung SM951, and it notably topped the charts for write performance. For more general data, Workstation Specialists includes a 1TB SATA-connected Samsung Evo 850 SSD, which proved twice as fast as other workstations’ secondary drives.
The second unit in the package, the RS-D2180, is a tiny chassis designed to sit on top of the main workstation. Its styling echoes that of the WS-X141, so it ends up making the latter look like a very tall tower, although the RS-D2180 is quite a bit longer. Inside is a very powerful set of components, purely focused on rendering.
Chief among these arc the two Intel Xeon E5-2683 V3 processors.
They may run at a modest 2GHz, but there’s a 3GHz Turbo Boost mode and each has a whopping 14 cores – with Hyper-Threading available as well.
So this system boasts 56 processing threads, which is exactly what you need when rendering 3D, or anything else that is efficiently multithreaded.
The two CPUs are amply serviced by 64GB of 2,133MHz DDR4 memory, taking up half of the 16 DIMM slots.
Its 500GB Samsung Evo 850 SSD is connected over SATA, so not as fast at the PCI Express options elsewhere.
However, the main sacrifice is 3D graphics acceleration: there is none.
Performance of the two systems is like chalk and cheese. The WS-X141 was in the lower half of this month’s systems in the Maxon Cinebench R15 rendering test, but the RS-D2180 was twice as fast as any other system. In the PC Pro Benchmarks, the WS-X141 was strong at running the clock-speed-sensitive image-editing test, while the RS-D2180 proved phenomenal in the multi-core-enhanccd video-encoding section.
The WS-X141 posted some of the best scores in SPECviewperf 12, including an amazing 129 in the SolidWorks-based sw-03 viewset, but the RS-D2180 won’t even run applications that demand hardware 3D acceleration.
The RS-D2180 was also supremely quick at our other render tests, although it’s noisy when running at full pelt.
So the WS-X141 is a good modelling workstation, and the RS-D2180 excellent at its specialist task of rendering. You can, of course, buy these two components separately, but if you buy them together then Workstation Specialists will set them up for you. Our system came with a switch, all the necessary network cables, and Backburncr for Autodesk 3ds Max preconfigured to receive workloads from the modelling workstation. So you can get straight on with work and sending jobs to the RS-D2180 appliance over the network for rendering.
This isn’t a cheap option in terms of initial outlay, however.
The WS-X141 is the most expensive general-purpose workstation this month, while the RS-D2180 costs a scary £4,425 exc VAT. However, as a shared resource, the RS-D2180 could make a lot of sense, allowing your other workstations to focus on modelling. If you have the budget, these two workstations combined could be a brilliant solution to your problems.