Single page Print

A big Boxx o' badness

Above is the Boxx workstation that Intel supplied to us, wrapped around a pair of Xeon E5-2687W v3 processors, for testing and review. With 20 cores, 40 threads, 50MB of L3 cache, and eight channels of DDR4 memory with a total capacity of 128GB, this puppy is the most potent single-user system ever to find its way into Damage Labs. Regular high-end desktops are just a time slice on this thing.

And, minor miracle, its operation is whisper-quiet, unlike some workstations in this class. How did Boxx manage that feat?

Yep, snaking away from each socket are the hoses for a water cooler. Twin radiators evacuate heat from the Xeons with minimal noise.

Here's the obligatory screenshot from Windows Task Manager, showing all 40 available cores and indicating 128GB of available RAM. And then there's this...

Installed in one of the PCI Express slots is an Intel 400GB NVMe SSD, one of the fastest storage devices currently available. If you appreciate fast computers, well, this is among the fastest systems possible with today's technology.

Here at TR, it's apparently our mission to educate and—since we serve an audience of geeks—to disappoint. (Read the comments some time if you don't believe me.) Our daily dose of disappointment comes in the various ways we didn't test Intel's new Xeons in the limited time available to us prior to this product launch. We've had to confine ourselves to workstation-class processors, although we've tested servers quite thoroughly in the past, because we couldn't carve the time out of our schedule to get the latest SPEC benchmarks up and running on multiple boxes. Even our workstation-class testing is devoid of $40K applications like AutoCAD and the difficult-to-obtain data sets we'd need to test such things properly. Really, it's a travesty of some sort.

Damage Labs does have a few trick up its sleeves, and one of those is our ability to provide broad comparisons of x86 processors against one another. In a move that will surely risk angering the gods of product segmentation, we have provided, alongside our Xeon numbers, some benchmark results from CPUs stretching down to single-socket offerings that cost less than 80 bucks. The results for the lower-end CPUs are grayed out in the graphs on the following pages, since they're not the primary focus of our attention. We've also included, later in the article, results from much older Xeons and Opterons from years past. All of it is probably a bit much, but perhaps you'll find it entertaining.

Our testing methods

As usual, we ran each test at least three times and have reported the median result. Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor Dual Xeon 2687W Dual Xeon 2687W v3
Dual Xeon 2687W v2
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8WS Supermicro X10DAi
Chipset Intel C602 Intel C610
Memory size 128 GB (16 DIMMs) 128 GB (16 DIMMs)
Memory type Micron ECC DDR3 SDRAM Samsung ECC DDR4 SDRAM
Memory speed 1600 MT/s 2133 MT/s
1866 MT/s
Memory timings 11-11-11-28 1T 15-15-15-36 1T
13-13-13-32 1T
Storage Kingston HyperX SH103S3 240GB SSD Intel  DC S3500 Series 240GB SSD
OS Windows 8.1 Pro Windows 8.1 Pro

Thanks to Asus, Boxx, Samsung, Micron, and Kingston for helping to outfit our test rigs with some of the finest hardware available. Thanks to Intel and AMD for providing the processors, as well, of course.

Some further notes on our testing methods:

  • The test systems' Windows desktops were set at 1920x1080 in 32-bit color. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled in the graphics driver control panel.
  • We used a Yokogawa WT210 digital power meter to capture power use over a span of time. The meter reads power use at the wall socket, so it incorporates power use from the entire system—the CPU, motherboard, memory, graphics solution, hard drives, and anything else plugged into the power supply unit. (The monitor was plugged into a separate outlet.) We measured how each of our test systems used power across a set time period, during which time we encoded a video with x264.
  • After consulting with our readers, we've decided to enable Windows' "Balanced" power profile for the bulk of our desktop processor tests, which means power-saving features like SpeedStep and Cool'n'Quiet are operating. (In the past, we only enabled these features for power consumption testing.) Our spot checks demonstrated to us that, typically, there's no performance penalty for enabling these features on today's CPUs. If there is a real-world penalty to enabling these features, well, we think that's worthy of inclusion in our measurements, since the vast majority of desktop processors these days will spend their lives with these features enabled.

The tests and methods we employ are usually publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.