Product Review: The Xi MTower PCIe Workstation

July 10th, 2014

For starters, any hardware review is, by its very nature, subjective. My experience with a system is just that, my experience. Your experience can and probably will be different, based on what you have and what you do with it. I think the one thing we all can agree on is that desktop systems still have a valuable role to play in today’s business environment. Even with solid and high-performance laptops, the ability to crack open a box and fiddle with the innards is something that many find crucial to making the most of their system and their valuable time using the system.

When I got the call that a package was up front, I was excited! Then I turned the corner and I had to pause for a moment. I went back to my store room to get a dolly. This box is HUGE. When shipping a system across country, @Xi doesn’t skimp on the packaging. Once back at my desk and after finding about 3 square feet free to open the box, I finally got to see what was waiting for me. The shipping box opened up well enough and had a good deal of that black foam-like packaging to keep everything in place and protect the contents. The top layer was wedged in pretty tight and took some effort to remove. But after a minute or two I managed to free it and access the actual “box.”

For those who are impressed with a computer enclosure, the Xi® MTower™ PCIe Workstation from @Xi will not disappoint. The case is a product from Cooler Master, the Cosmos SE full tower enclosure. It has a good deal of lighting and from what I found out about the case you can get blue or red. If you are the type to move your box around, then the robust handles on top and stand bars on the bottom will suit you fine.

Occupying the front face of this system is just about every connection I have ever seen on a computer. You get (2) USB2.0 connections, microphone and headphone 1/8” jacks, and (2) USB3.0 connections. Then, using one of two full size drive bays is a 3½” wide Rosewill RDCR-11003 internal media card reader with yet another USB3.0 port.

Next, below in the other 5¼” drive bay is a Dual side Rewritable DVD burner and player. Personally I would have upgraded to Blu-Ray, just in case I wanted to kick back and watch a movie on my PC. Of course, I don’t have time for that, so whatever… Then up on top of the case are a few more controls. We have a lighted power off/on button, a hard reset button, and a switch to turn off and on the front fan LED lighting.

Next is the heart and soul of a PC box, the inside! The first thing I notice is a Borg-like set of black tubes running from the CPU to a dual fan radiator at the top of the case. Hidden under this tubed contraction is an Intel i7-4770K processor operating overclocked at 4.3GHz. The contraption attached to the CPU is a CORSAIR Hydro Series H100i sealed water cooling system with two fans.

To go along with a heart and soul, you have to have eyes and this system has them via a NVIDIA® Quadro® K4000 3GB DDR5 video card. It has one DVI and dual DisplayPort connections. Also contributing to the memory of this system is 16GB DDR3 of Corsair in two RAM sticks. The brain itself is an ASUS Z87-P®RO motherboard and it has two more slots available for RAM, so I can add more as I wish. The system only came with 16GB of RAM, so this is another upgrade you should make.

The lungs of this beast is a Corsair RM850 power supply that offers plenty of breathing room for more stuff later. And this Cosmos case has the room. As configured, there are six free hard drive bays, with a Samsung® 840 EVO™ 500GB SATA Solid State primary drive and a Seagate® Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM SATA secondary drive using up the remaining two drive spaces.

In general, the interior space of the case is open and invites you to poke around and perhaps even store stuff (non-metallic of course). To make the interior so roomy the case is configured such that all cabling is hidden on the backside of the motherboard under a metal plate.

Moving to the rear of the case, we have four more USB2.0 ports and four more USB3.0 ports! And this doesn’t include the two USB ports used up by the fanned radiator at the top. The motherboard has video on-board, providing DVI/DisplayPort/HDMI/Optical connections. Of course, with the Quadro card slotted this will not be active. The remaining ports are the typical fare of network and surround sound connections.

Now on to usage. To be honest, this is the fastest system I have ever used. Certainly part of that performance is the overclocking of the CPU from 3.5GHz to 4.3GHz. But the huge solid state hard drive running Windows 7 is another key player. Averaged results put this system about 40 percent faster than typical desktop systems you might be using. In one rendering test I ran, my i7-3940XM laptop was 43 percent slower. So obviously CPU intensive activities will flat-out scream using this system. If you are running large Revit models, pop in 16GB more RAM to really keep performance at its peak levels.

The base price of this system is $1,079 with price as tested at $3,199. In the article, I have provided reference hyperlinks to key system components. Unless you are a computer geek, I would leave building a powerful computer system to the professionals. If you do contact @Xi Computers, be sure to say that AUGIWorld sent you. 

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About the Authors

David Harrington

David Harrington

David first began using AutoCAD in 1987 in the Structural Engineering discipline. He later joined the Board of Directors for NAAUG, and later AUGI. He is an established technical editor and author, having worked on over eight books. He also teaches at Autodesk University and occasionally writes for magazines such as AUGIWorld.


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