The New TweakTown Workstation
Finding a suitable workstation to test the latest and greatest products might sound like an easy venture. Grab a motherboard, processor, RAM and get to work. Easy, right? - Our Tyan S2915-E that we tested with for over a year was a great solution, but when testing PhotoFast's V5 on it and an ASUS P6T Deluxe we found that the drive performed much faster on the P6T Deluxe, even though both systems used SATA 3 Gbit/s (second generation SATA).
Motherboard: ASUS P6T7 WS SuperComputer (Supplied by ASUS)
Processors: Intel Core i7 975 EE (Supplied by AVADirect)
Memory: Corsair Dominator 1600 MHz Triple Channel Kit
Graphics Card: Leadtek Quadro FX1700 (Supplied by Leadtek)
Enclosure: Lian Li V2000
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P SE2 (Supplied by Noctua)
SAS Controller: LSI MegaRAID SAS 9260-8i (Supplied by LSI)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate X64
The ASUS P6T7 WS SuperComputer
PCIe has taken over the storage industry. RAID controllers and even the famed Fusion-io ioDrive use it and you can't find a motherboard with more PCIe connections than the ASUS P6T7 WS SuperComputer. The P6T7 WS SuperComputer was designed from the ground up to deliver outstanding PCIe performance for personal supercomputers that utilize CUDA processors. Since we are looking for maximum PCIe performance the P6T7 WS was our first choice and it delivered with outstanding accuracy test after test.
ASUS has also worked very hard on their power saving features and their products are capable of very efficient ratings. More importantly for us, ASUS has made control of these features easily accessible and the user still has the option to disable these features when needed.
To sweeten the deal, the P6T7 WS SuperComputer has a built in SAS controller that will allow us to test SAS drives without running the data through a controller with cache.
The Intel Core i7 975 Extreme Edition
Products like the Fusion-io io-Drive and PhotoFast V5 are just two examples of drives that we observed benchmark performance scaling when tested on different processors. The 975 EE is the fastest processor on the market and will deliver the highest performance from the products we test.
On a normal day Intel would provide the processors that we use for testing, but when I started validating the ASUS P6T7 WS SuperComputer it was not a normal day. The processor that I had ready to use in the new system was treated like a Chinese throwing star by my team of future reviewers that frequent my computer room and are eligible by birth to get a pass. Core i7's are great processors, but they do not hold up to child ninjas. After a post on Facebook detailing my frustration, AVADirect owner Misha Troshin chimed in to let me know that he had a brand new retail box 975 Extreme Edition on the way.
AVADirect is a boutique builder that has an excellent customer service staff that showers their customers with industry leading support. One look in their forums and you will see that AVADirect is gaining in popularity and many of their customers are customers for life. When I frequent forums I am used to seeing complaints about shipping times, service issues and RMAs, but I have to admit that this company really surprised me.
AVADirect has a full line up of notebook, desktop, workstation and servers at industry leading prices and is equipped to handle both government and consumer orders in a timely manner. We look forward to working with AVADirect on many projects in the future.
The LSI MegaRAID SAS 9260-8i
LSI was the first to market with their SAS 2, 6 Gb\s RAID controller that doubles the performance of this two way serial interface. The 9260-8i will be used for all of our SAS and SATA drive RAID tests.
The Noctua NH-U12P SE2
I started using Noctua heat sinks just a few weeks after they announced their first products. The NH-U12 quickly became my favorite CPU cooler when it was used passively on a pair of overclocked AMD Opteron processors that allowed me to break the 3DMark CPU World Record back in January 2006. I have used Noctua CPU coolers on every test system built since then. The Noctua NH-12P SE2 is a highly refined version of the original NH-U12 and is one of the best cooling and quietest heat sinks on the market.