I wonder what it means when you are genuinely excited about getting a new computer in the office to review. I am pretty sure my wife would say that means you are a geek. Nevertheless, when we found out that BOXX was sending us an Extreme system, I got excited and started counting the days. We have had some experience with BOXX in the past while building a render farm. We have also seen several positive comments about BOXX from users. Finally, we were going to find out if the system could live up to the “Extreme” name.
The system arrived at the office with no damage. Opening and unboxing the system was quick and easy. In less than five minutes, we had the system out on the desk and the side panels off taking inventory of what makes the system tick. The first thing you notice on the inside is the liquid cooling system. BOXX configures these systems for maximum performance and the liquid cooling systems keeps the processor from overheating. Considering how fast this system runs, the liquid cooling system is not just for show. We will talk more about that later.
The system we tested is the BOXX 3970 XTREME Series.
The specs on the system are:
- Intel i7 Quad Core Enhanced Performance Processor 4.5Ghz
- 16GB DDR3 2133 (4 DIMMS)
- NVIDIA Quadro 2000 1GB
- 250GB SSD SATA 6Gb/s
- 20X Dual Layer DVD±RW Writer
- Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
- Microsoft Windows 7 Professional Edition, 64−bit
- USB keyboard
- Logitech M500 laser corded mouse
- BOXX 3 year limited warranty
The outside of the system is clean with a black and metal color scheme. The front panel has access to the DVD writer and a panel of ports. The easy access ports on the front include two USB 2 ports, two USB 3 ports, audio jacks, and a 1394a port. You also get a power button, reset button, power light, and a hard drive light in the panel with the easy access ports.
Right below the ports is a grill that has the BOXX logo in it. This may seem like a decorative element, but it is actually a filter system. If you pull out on the top of the grill you will find that it is removable and exposes a filter that is used to keep the inside as clean as the outside.
On the back of the system you will find six USB 2 ports, two USB 3 ports, one eSATA port, one S/PDIF out, one 1GB Ethernet Port, and 7.1 HD audio ports. With our system we had two video options. The onboard video provides one DVI−D Port, one HDMI Port, and one VGA Port. The NVIDIA Quadro 2000 card provides one Dual Link DVI-I and two Display Ports.
Like most systems today, you can use only one of the video systems at a time. If you need to support dual monitors, you have to use the NVIDIA card with one of the Display Port adapters that are in your extra parts box. If you wanted to add a second video card, the system comes with expansion slots and the 620W power supply should be plenty.
On the inside we found the system to be very clean and well put together. The liquid cooling system is resting on top of an Intel i7-2700k processor that has been cranked up to 4.5Ghz. The SSD is installed underneath the motherboard. You take off the second side panel to reach it. Last, but not least, are four slots for RAM and installed in our test system was 16GB DDR3 2133. Altogether the specs on this system are spectacular and seem to live up to the Extreme name.
The first time you turn on the system you find out just how fast this system is. The normal Windows setup process normally takes 10 to 15 minutes. This computer does it in under two minutes. A quick look at the Windows experience ratings and you will see everything gets the highest possible marks—7.9—except video and it gets 7.0.
The combination of super fast CPU, USB 3 and SSDs make short work of the basic tests. First we copy the 3.1TB Revit 2013 installation file from an external USB drive to the local hard drive. Forty-four seconds later we are ready to start the installation. Now a typical Revit installation typically takes 10 to 15 minutes. The BOXX Extreme did it in 5:20.
On most computers Revit takes 30 to 45 seconds to load. With this system, in 10 seconds you are ready to work. It is hard to imagine that after we got the system up on the desk and turned it on, we had Revit running in well under 10 minutes. Once we started loading files and doing speed tests we found that this system performs well above what we expected. The system scored a 133 on the AUbench and was able to load a 100MB Revit file in 25 seconds. Even our 500MB file with three 200MB attachments loaded in under two minutes. All of our AutoCAD tests gave us similar results, the speed of the CPU matched with super-fast RAM and SSDs make for a super-fast workstation.
The one area that surprised us was rendering times. The system was not at all slow, but it was only about 15 percent faster on rendering then a standard i7-2700k processor. We had it in our heads that it should be twice as fast. I think we got so excited about how fast everything else was that we might have set the rendering expectations a bit too high.
As usual we could not let a system come across our testing table without testing it as a private BIM cloud (PBC) as well. To start with, if we were going to buy this system to serve as a PBC we would have ordered 32GB of RAM and a second 250GB SSD. To make sure we had enough RAM and hard drive space to support five users. For this review we still built the system for five users and just assigned 3GB of RAM to each user. Although this is not enough for a real-world test, it did give us enough to run the AUBench and some basic editing speed tests. Running five users at one time returned great results. We had less than a 6 percent change in the AUBench test and the speed tests were too close to measure a difference.
Overall, we found that the BOXX 3970 Extreme lives up to the extreme name. If you want to compare this system to those from other manufacturers you will find it difficult because you are not comparing apples to apples. The combination of the i7-2700k processor, 6Gbps SSD, 16GBs of 2133 RAM and a motherboard to support it all is just not available with most manufacturers’ products.
Most manufacturers will want to push you into a Xeon processor, have slower RAM, or a motherboard that will not support 6Gbps transfer speeds. If you are going to compare, make sure you get the combination of parts right, because it is this combination of parts that makes this BOXX 3970 Extreme so extreme. The system we tested comes in at just under $4,700.
We don’t like to give anything “10 stars”—simply because we never know what is coming next. With that mind, we give the BOXX 3970 Extreme 9 out of 10 stars.
Bill Debevc and Lonnie Cumpton together have more than 40 years of experience working in the design and IT industries. They use that experience to evaluate technology from both an IT and design prospective. Currently, they are using that expertise to help companies develop and deploy private BIM clouds at BIM9. You can find them on LinkedIn and at www.bim9.com.