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Workstation Specialists WS-X141S

Check out our review for the WS-X141S, taking all the power of a decent modelling workstation and packing it into a small form factor chassis...

Check out our review for the WS-X141S, taking all the power of a decent modelling workstation and packing it into a small form factor chassis...

Product: WS-X141S

Company: Workstation Specialists

Website: www.workstationspecialist.com

Buy now from Workstation Specialists for a limited time only at £2,194

Workstations are supposed to be huge black boxes that remind you of the opening sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But Workstation Specialists has other ideas. The WS-X141S is still black, but it's small enough to be mistaken for a desktop network-attached storage box. Yet inside is a bevy of powerful components that belie its diminutive stature. Also unusual is the choice of a consumer-grade graphics card. But it's from the latest NVIDIA GeForce 1000 series, so performance should be excellent while keeping the costs down. Can the rest of the system punch above the system's tiny size as well?

The WS-X141S measures just 338mm deep, 250mm tall, and 160mm wide. Yet, incredibly, it has pretty much the same specification as a full-sized tower workstation. The processor is an Intel Core i7-6700K. This is a quad-core processor with a nominal 4GHz frequency from Intel's sixth Skylake generation. But Workstation Specialists has permanently set the clock to 4.6GHz across all four cores, and there's Hyper-Threading on call as well, turning these into eight virtual cores.

So there will be a reasonable level of rendering ability, even if this is not really the focus of the system. Further aiding this, the processor has been allied with a very healthy 32GB complement of 2,666MHz DDR4 SDRAM. This is the maximum for the motherboard, but you probably won't be wanting more for the lifetime of this system.

The most significant and surprising inclusion considering this system's size is the GeForce graphics, and this isn't a lesser model from the range either. Not only is the adapter in question from the latest NVIDIA GeForce 1000 series, using the new Pascal GPU generation, but the GTX 1080 is also top of the range (at the time of writing – the release of the top Titan X was imminent).

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 takes over from the GTX 980, and whereas the latter sported 2,048 CUDA cores, the new model increases this to 2,560. This puts it closer to the Quadro M6000 than M5000 in raw horsepower. The GTX 1080 also has a base clock of 1,607MHz, considerably higher than the GTX 980's 1,126MHz, whilst all the Quadro M-series are clocked below 1,000MHz. The GTX 1080 also comes with a healthy 8GB of GDDR5X memory on a 256-bit bus, offering 320GB/sec bandwidth.

However, it's worth mentioning that although this card will have plenty of GPU power on paper, not every professional 3D content creation application will be optimised properly to run with consumer-oriented drivers. So it's worth checking whether your intended software will work with the GeForce, and if not there are NVIDIA Quadro and AMD FirePro options for the WS-X141S available as alternatives. But the GeForce is considerably cheaper, so will stretch your budget further, if it is compatible.

Despite the miniscule small form factor chassis, the WS-X141S still adopts the usual pattern of solid state disk for operating system and main applications, plus conventional hard disk for general storage. The SSD in question is the latest Samsung SM961, which is a super-quick NVMe PCI Express model, and the 512GB capacity is generous too. The hard disk is a 7,200rpm 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 – enough, but not massive now that hard disks have hit 8TB already.

Putting the two drives through their paces with CrystalDiskMark 5, the Samsung SSD manages a whopping 3,456MB/sec sequential reading and 1,599MB/sec sequential writing – both absolutely phenomenal, with reading more than five times faster than SATA-connected SSDs. Operating system and app loading is noticeably speedy as a result. The Seagate hard disk is capable of a more pedestrian 223.3MB/sec sequential writing and 216.3MB/sec sequential reading. This is quick for a mechanical hard disk, but nothing compared to the SSD.

There's also a slot-loading LG GS40N optical drive, accessible from the top front edge of the system. The chassis itself is very neat in appearance, with very little breaking the sleek black lines. It is meant to be on a desk rather than on the floor, though, as the front-accessible USB and audio ports, as well as the power switch, are on the bottom edge. It's also quite easy to remove panels to get into the system, with no tools required, although perhaps a little too easy as panels pop off with only limited force. The system is also very quiet, even under heavy load.
So the WS-X141S certainly packs a punch on paper. But the question is whether it can deliver the goods in the real world. In Maxon Cinebench R15's render test, the system manages 1,006, which is pretty much as expected for a quad-core CPU running at this frequency. The OpenGL portion of Maxon Cinebench R15 provides a very impressive score of 176.1, which is one of the best we've seen, and above what a Quadro M4000 would manage.

The graphics card may be a consumer-grade GeForce, but it's the top-end GTX 1080 model, which has enormous performance potential with the right software.

The graphics card may be a consumer-grade GeForce, but it's the top-end GTX 1080 model, which has enormous performance potential with the right software.

The SPECviewperf 12 results are more of a mixed bag. The score of 88 in catia-04 is on par with a Quadro M4000, as is 63.57 in creo-01, but 10.53 in energy-01 is better. The standout score is 177.02 in maya-04, which would make this workstation one of the best around for modelling with Autodesk Maya. The result of 50.16 in medical-01 is very impressive too, as is 112.96 in showcase-01.
However, the score of 8.84 in snx-02 is very worrying, so if you're running Siemens NX 8.0 CAD software, a professional graphics card would be recommended. The SolidWorks sw-03 result of 71.59 is good, but a Quadro M4000 would have been faster, and even the recently released M2000. So if you are designing products with SolidWorks, again a Quadro or FirePro would be preferable.

The Workstation Specialists WS-X141S is an impressive piece of engineering, with a lot of rendering and modelling performance packed into a tiny, quiet chassis. It may not be as gorgeous as the "dustbin” Apple Mac Pro, but where the latter is usually a generation or so behind the latest technology, the WS-X141S is bang up to date. The range starts at £1,219 ex VAT, but our sample comes in at £2,194 ex VAT. So you are paying a premium for the small form factor, although not too much of one. Overall, this is an attractive choice if you're short on space or want a stylish workstation that still delivers the goods in the performance department.

Score (out of 5): 5

Price: £2,194 ex VAT

Release date: Now

Key features

- 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K clocked to 4.6GHz
- 32GB 2666MHz DDR4 SDRAM
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics with 8GB GDDR5X memory
- 512GB Samsung SM961 NVMe PCI Express solid state disk
- 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 SATA 7,200rpm hard disk
- LG GS40N 8x DVD rewriter
- Windows 10 Professional 64-bit
- Warranty: 3 Years warranty with next business day response

CPU benchmarks:

Maxon Cinebench R15: 1,006

Graphics benchmarks:

Maxon Cinebench R15: 176.1

SPECviewperf 12:

Related links

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