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Boxx 4150xt Compact Tower Review

on ‎10-07-2013 04:00 AM

I’ve owned a computer from Boxx Technologies before, and I know they are really well built computers, so when the opportunity to review one came up, I jumped at the chance. The previous machine from Boxx that I bought (and still own), was the first computer I bought when I started doing freelance work, in 2005. It cost me about $4k and had a ton of extra connections, should I need them. But as I said, the computer is still being used. It was the last of the single core AMD 64 processors, if that helps you place it in time.

 

When my original Boxx arrived the two things that struck me about it was that it was immense, and second that it was heavy. The sheet metal bordered on plate steel. There was no cheap plastic, not even in the front grille. This thing was built to last. Over time, I have replaced a hard drive and a fan.

 

This new Boxx arrived in a smaller box than I expected. It is being marketed as a compact desktop. The spec sheet is attached at the end of this review. Here is a quick summary:

 

3DBOXX 4150XT    $3715.00

CPU: 4th Generation Intel i7 overclocked to 4.3GHz
Memory: 16GB (please specify if 32 is needed)
Storage: 240GB SSD SATA 6GB/s
OS: Windows 7 Professional 64 bit

 

It came with a Boxx T-shirt (still have my original T-shirt somewhere), along with some adapters that we’ll talk about later, and the expected documentation. It also came with Logitech mouse and keyboard. The mouse is the corded M500, one that has traditionally received good marks from CAD users over the years. I hooked it up to my 6 year old Dell 24” monitor.

 

Looking Inside

 

Before setting up the computer, what does any good tech geek do? That’s right. Take it apart. Opening up the side panel was easy enough with two captive thumb screws. I can see a water cooling radiator and hoses. Very nice. But the radiator appears to be sitting at an angle. Jiggling it confirms that it is mounted solidly, and if you look at the front grille of the box, you can see that this is a design feature. The front grille, and everything attached to it is angled back a couple of degrees.

 

There is another interesting design feature in the sheet metal on the top. There is a perforated vent that has waves formed into it. This is presumably to prevent a pile of books on top of the computer from sealing closed the top vents. You can tell ventilation is a priority on these water cooled machines. Vents on the back panel also increase the flow of air through the enclosure.

Expandability looks good, with extra space for hard drives and extra wire connections for power and data. You might need extra data storage, because there is a single 240 GB ssd. Fortunately, that drive is pretty fast.

 

Still talking about expandability, there is room for 32 GB of RAM (my review unit came with a single processor and 16 GB RAM).

 

Monitor connections

 

The video card in this machine is an nVidia Quadro K2000. This is not a high end card, and we’ll talk more about that later. The cost of this card on Amazon is about $430, while the K5000 is about $1700. Cost isn’t a linear replacement for specs or speed, but it does offer some comparison. The Windows Experience Index on this computer is a surprisingly low 7.3. This is a composite score driven by the slowest component in your system . In this case, the slowest component is the video card, with other components scoring 7.8 and 7.9.

 

The connections on the back of the box offer two HDMI connections and one DVI connection.  Fortunately, one of the adapters that arrived in the Boxx’s box was an HDMI to DVI. If you have to buy your own, this will run you $20-$40 in a specialty computer store (that means not Best Buy). It also had a VGA to DVI I hope primarily for nostalgia.

 

The HDMI connector is one that looks like a 30% larger USB connection. It takes up less space than DVI, the connector is smaller and easier to connect, and it allows higher resolution monitors, along with longer transmission distances (longer cords for a ceiling mounted projector), and it takes up less space on the back of the computer. But for most monitors in most situations, there is no shame in using DVI connections. Monitors the age of mine (6 years) are new enough to still look good, but old enough that they do not have HDMI connections. Many offices have a similar situation.

 

There’s also a bit of a surprise with the ASUS Gryphon Z87 motherboard. It has a DVI and HDMI video connections right on the mobo. So if you’re switching video cards, you can just use the basic connections until you get the new card in.

 

Another oddity is that all the text on the backplane is upside down. It doesn’t hurt the function, it just looks odd. I had to make sure I had the chassis right side up and that I hadn't put the side panel on backwards or something.

 

USB Connections

 

When you’re setting up a new computer, the first thing you want to see is rows and rows of USB connections. I always seem to run out. This computer has 4 USB 2.0 (black), 4 USB 3.0 (blue) on the back, and 2 of each on the front, for a total of 12 USB connections. They are easy to get to and well laid out. You might want to check your peripherals for which are 2.0 or 3.0, the speed benefit can be significant.

 

Starting it Up

 

I love starting up new computers. The 4150XT went through some diagnostics when firing up the first time, walked me through some settings to establish a user name and password, and then landed me on the page where you enter the key for the OS (Windows 7 Professional – it comes “ready” for Win8, but thankfully it just had 7).

 

The code was on a sticker on the back of the computer. Easy enough to find, but nightmarish to read. It took me a flashlight, a magnifying glass and 8 attempts to read this 25 character code correctly. I know it wasn’t Boxx that made the code nearly impossible to read, that’s on Microsoft. But Boxx was the one that made me read it rather than entering the information at the factory. All in all it’s a minor point, but it was preventing me from moving on with set up, and it was a big annoyance. I don't need that kind of reminder that my eyes are pushing 50 and might not be as good as they once were.

 

Benchmark

 

Solid Edge has a performance benchmark tool, and I used it to compare the Boxx 4150xt against two of the machines in my office with the Solid Edge software installed on them. The benchmark calls up models and moves them around the screen, recalculates hidden lines in a drawing view, and performs some I/O functions to test the hard drive.

 

The Xi M Tower in the comparison was custom built as a heavy-duty CAD box about 18 months ago, and the laptop is my work laptop, new about 4 months ago.

 

SE Graphics

SE Proc 1

SE Proc 2

SE I/O 1

SE I/O 2

SE Start

Total

Boxx 4150xt

78.0

172.9

27.6

126.2

13.7

6.9

1457.4

Xi M Tower

50.5

196.0

33.4

124.3

50.5

11.3

1538.7

Dell M4700 laptop

125.2

288.0

50.3

144.9

28.4

14.2

2238.8

 

For comparison, the Dell M4700 laptop had a Windows Experience Index of 5.3, AMD FireProM4000, 16 GB RAM, and i7-3740QM @ 2.7 GHz, ~$2200.

 

The Xi had a WEI of 7.8. AMD FirePro W7000 video, 16 GB RAM, and  i7-382 @3.6 GHz processor, ~$2100. This video card was an upgrade, well above the level of the Quadro K2000.

So even with the low WEI and comparatively weak graphics in the Boxx, it still won the comparison against a venerable workhorse.

 

Summary

 

While the cost of the Boxx seems high given the relatively basic graphics, the overall performance in the benchmarks was excellent. Boxx offers upgraded video cards for the 4150xt should you want to order one with graphics to match the rest of the components. Fast SSD drive and processors stepped up to the task. Also, the machine was very quiet. In fact, I could not hear it at all over the sound of the fans in the Xi machine.

 

The Boxx 4150xt’s compact size, functional and attractive enclosure, and quality high performance components combine to make a reliable and affordable workstation for the heavy duty engineering tasks you work with. Customer support at Boxx is first rate, so you can’t go wrong with the Boxx 4150xt.

 

Comments
by Theorist
on ‎10-07-2013 01:27 PM

I never really understood the buzz around Boxx and Xi, maybe it's because I've been building my own computers since I was 13 but I can get a computer with the same specs, all well known brands components, even some of the exact same components as this one for around $2000. I'm sorry but in my opinion that extra $1500-1700 is just for the Boxx name.

 

On another note, you should swap your video cards to see the results you get in this computer with the FirePro.

 

by Community Manager Community Manager
on ‎10-07-2013 09:24 PM

Hey Matt, since the Solid Edge benchmark tool is relatively new, probably a lot of folks don't know about it. Why don't you post it here, so interested parties can download it. They can then see how their results compare. My personal thinking is graphics cards have come such a long ways and processors too -- its going to be the disk drive that sets things apart and one of the reasons even "high end" laptops are kinda slow at some stuff. 

by Community Manager Community Manager
on ‎10-08-2013 09:19 AM

JRC,

Lots of people don't want to build their own machines. There's a real risk of not getting components that are compatible. And then there's always the warantee issue. If anything goes wrong, you're going to waste a lot of time sending parts back and getting replacements. It's just too much hassle for a lot of people. That's part of the reason why I listed the prices for the other systems. Xi can be much less expensive than Boxx, but to be honest, with my last Xi, they had to refund me some money because the overclocking/water cooling didn't work.

 

As this was a loaner demo system, I didn't really feel comfortable swapping components, but yes, it would have been interesting to see what this did with the bigger card.

 

Dan,

it used to be that the video card was the most important component, but not so much any more. It depends on what kind of things you're doing and what kind of data you're using. Big assemblies with a lot of tranparency hit it a lot harder.

 

I'll get the benchmark tool up and available. It's 188 mb, so its pretty big. Stay tuned for more details on that.

 

by Honored Contributor
‎10-08-2013 10:57 AM - edited ‎10-08-2013 10:57 AM

The performance tool is located here: https://download.industrysoftware.automation.siemens.com/solid_edge/SupportTools/PerformanceTool/V1....

 

You need a valid Webkey account to download it.

by Theorist
on ‎10-08-2013 02:43 PM

Matt,

 

That's what I figured that people don't want to build their own computers but $3700 just seems pretty high for $2000 worth of parts but that's just my opinion, like I said I've been building my own computers since I was 13.

 

Since you're on the subject of hardware and video cards, maybe you can answer this for me, is Solid Edge using OpenGL or DirectX? And are workstation video cards like a Quadro or FirePro worth the extra money compare to a gaming card such as a GeForce or Radeon?

 

by Community Manager Community Manager
on ‎10-08-2013 02:56 PM

JRC,

I'm pretty sure Edge uses OpenGL, and that someone will correct me if I'm wrong there. I've found that you might be able to get away with a game card if you aren't stressing it too much. Small parts and assemblies, not much transparency, shadows, reflections, etc. Big assemblies with complex display set ups will bog you down. Rendering like with Keyshot is all on the CPU, so the graphics card doesn't come into play.

 

In the past I used to use game cards with hacked drivers. The difference between the cards is mainly the drivers and the price. Usually a mid-range OpenGL card will get you where you need to go, you don't need to shell out for the big buck card.

by Theorist
on ‎10-08-2013 09:03 PM

Thanks Matt.

 

It would be interesting to see an actual comparison between a gaming card and a workstation card with relatively the same specs.

 

by Community Manager Community Manager
on ‎10-09-2013 12:22 PM

JR -- on the Quadro vs GeForce question:

 

GeForce is quite capable, but the vendor (NVidia) will not support you/us if there are bugs that show up when using Solid Edge. With the Quadro, they provide driver support and make fixes to problems we log with them. So I would always recommend the Quadro. They have a bunch of really inexpensive models these days that are more than adequate for Solid Edge in normal usage.

by Phenom
on ‎10-11-2013 04:16 AM

Dear JRCormier,

 

We have a test where compared Quadro4000 with GTX670 in the same HP workstation! The result is simple: Quadro's graphic performance is ~4x better than GTX, this benchmark is based on SE Performance tool. I will share this info, if I have free time! Smiley Wink

 

BR,

Imi

by Community Manager Community Manager
on ‎10-11-2013 10:27 AM

Imics,


Thanks, that would be greally great to see. Looking forward to you getting a little free time!

by Theorist
on ‎10-11-2013 03:00 PM

Dan, 

 

I understand about the support but it does seem like an expensive insurance if there are no performance advantage. I do have an older Quadro right now but it was a low end model but then again when I bought it my PC was already old.

 

lmics,

 

I would really like to see this info, hopefully you have some free time to post it up.

 

This is the kind of stuff I like to see because if you look at generic benchmark like Passmark, the Quadro 4000 is rated much lower than the GTX670 and it's about twice the price. But the problem with those benchmark is they're not specific to your usage so if you're going to be using that video card for Solid Edge and the performance in Solid Edge is actually much better, plus the support as Dan mentionned, it starts to make more sense for spending more.

 

by Phenom
on ‎10-14-2013 05:39 PM

Hi JRCormier,

 

Here is our test results (the generic benchmark software doesn't give us real result, because it is "benchmark optimized", but here is a test software what was written for Solid Edge): I think the result is significant.

 

by Community Manager Community Manager
on ‎10-14-2013 06:16 PM

Imics,

 

Thanks for that. Pretty significant difference in the graphics scores.

by Theorist
on ‎10-15-2013 07:58 AM

That's pretty interesting. Thanks a lot for that.

by Honored Contributor
on ‎10-15-2013 09:37 AM

Matt, how about getting a certain developer who specializes in graphics display to post a synopsis on the BLOG as to what makes workstation cards better than game cards???  I'ved talked to him before and he certainly knows what the differences are.

by PLM World Member Valued Contributor PLM World Member Valued Contributor
on ‎10-23-2013 12:32 PM

JRCormier

 

Back in the day antialiased lines was one of the big diffrences between CAD and game but I do not know if that still the case. The number of windows that coudl be open and the handeling of small windows for comands were also better in CAD cards. I have also seen images from vendors of rendering issues with game cards that look like defecets in the surface model.

 

The biggest diffrence has allways been suport. The cad company/Nvidia will fix bugs with cad cards but not game cards.

 

Imics

 

Thank you for that test. Looking at the specs for the cards I would expect the game card to be much faster.

 

Matt

 

What size of model would you sugest is too big for that computer? Would it be good with 10,000 parts in an assembly?

 

 

 

 

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