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Sun, Dell, HP, Lenovo workstations tested

Aditya Nag | Jan. 28, 2009
We had four solid machines, but there's only one winner: the Sun Ultra 24.

Performance

In SPEC CPU2006, both Sun and Lenovo did very well. This is due to their having faster processors: a Core 2 Quad QX6850 for Sun, and a Core 2 Duo E6850 for Lenovo. This test is weighted towards CPU performance, so they outdid the slower HP and Dell with their Q6700 and Q6600 processors respectively. However, in the multi-threaded tests, Lenovo was handily out done by the trio of quads. Sun aced most of the tests, thanks to its speed advantage, while Dell and HP were neck and neck through most. The biggest difference between the quad cores and the dual core was in the Bzip2 Compression test.

This takes advantage of all the cores, and the quad core machines were more than twice as fast as the dual core. Lenovo was also hampered by having only 2 GB of RAM, though it was DDR3 RAM, so memory bandwidth tests were a walk in the park. Still, in the overall analysis, it could not keep up with the quad cores. SPECviewperf depends on the GPU. Sun and Lenovo both had Quadro FX1700s, while HP and Dell used the slower FX570. Interestingly, this did not predict the order of the winners. Sun took first spot, but Lenovo didn't come close and placed third.

This is due to the multithreaded nature of the tests. Sun shone in these tests thanks to a combination of a fast CPU and GPU, while HP and Dell slugged it out. In the Pro/E benchmark, Sun got 60.98, HP followed with 47.41, Lenovo came in third with 41.33 and Dell had 36.53. This was emblematic of this set of tests. In Maya, 3D Studio Max, CATIA and SolidWorks, the results were similar to Overall, the tests showed quite clearly that a fast dual core can out do slower quad cores; except when you use applications that are optimized to use multiple cores. The choice you make will depend on the applications you intend to run.

Conclusion

We had four solid machines, but there's only one winner: the Sun Ultra 24. The most expensive of the lot, the Ultra 24 won both the performance and the design tests. In second place, HP put in a good mix of performance and features. The third quadcore machine in the test, Dell, managed to get past the fast dual-core on the basis of the multi-threaded tests. The Thinkstation S10 is a good choice if the applications that you run aren't going to use more than two cores. The price is quite impressive as well. Indeed, when dealing with machines of this class, the difference between them is measured in fractions. All four have highly customizable configurations, so make sure to buy a machine that is configured optimally for the applications that you intend to run. And yes, a little bit of bargaining won't go amiss.

 

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