Boxx Technologies 3DBOXX 4860 Workstation

In our most recent workstation review, we confidently claimed that professional-class workstations are not overclocked. Business users generally don't care about an extra five or 10% performance that could compromise the stability of their machines or result in an error impacting the viability of an important design.

It seems we weren't entirely accurate with that statement, though.

Boxx Technologies is a system builder that specializes in designing and integrating workstations and rendering systems for the visual effects, digital content creation, and advanced visualization markets. It was founded in 1996 and is based in Austin, Texas. The company says its business model involves the innovative integration of best-in-class components in order to create solutions that enable market segment users to get their work done as fast as is possible. Boxx doesn't build consumer-level systems for gaming and productivity applications. Its focus is on the workstation market.

Some notable Boxx clients include: CafeFX, Technicolor, Disney, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, URS, BMW Designworks, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. Air Force. It has partnerships with most developers in the DCC and CAD industries.

The 3DBOXX 4860 Xtreme-Series Workstation

Boxx premiered its new Xtreme workstation family just before SIGGRAPH 2010, and the systems were used extensively in demonstration booths at SIGGRAPH. For instance, the Nvidia demo displays at the show were running on Boxx workstations. The 4860 is a single-socket Intel Core i7-based workstation available in various configurations, up to and including the overclocked setup we are testing here.

The company also sells its 3DBOXX 7600-series workstations based on AMD Opteron CPUs and 8500-series systems that employ dual-socket-capable Xeon 5600-series processors. The AMD-based machine can't be purchased overclocked, but the 8500-series configurations can be purchased at up to 4.2 GHz. While the 4860 employs an X58-based motherboard and LGA 1366-based Core i7 processor, the 8500-series relies on an Intel 5520 chipset-based platform and Xeon processors, which are needed to run in a 2P arrangement.

The 4860 can take two dual-slot GPUs, while the slightly higher-end 4880 can take four dual-slot or seven single-slot GPUs. The 8550 can do the same four/seven configuration. It should be noted that these slots would not be merely used just for graphics cards, as Tesla GPU Computing boards require 16-lane PCIe slots as well.

Boxx designs its own chassis, which it has manufactured locally. Installed drives, as you can see in the images above, are mounted vertically behind the motherboard, which certainly increases the available airflow to the board and its components. At the same time, though, it may limit airflow across the hard drives. Though that's probably not an issue with our test setup, we suspect it could be if you were using a large array of 10 000 or 15 000 RPM disks. Fortunately, Boxx says that it tests its systems with a full load of drives, and hasn't seen any troublesome temperatures with its chassis design. Moreover, we didn't encounter any heat-related issues during testing.

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  • one-shot
    Almost $8000 USD and not even a dual CPU workstation? Hmmm....
  • hardcore_gamer
    what a way to waste $8000
  • nebun
    what a cheap cpu cooler they have....really...for 8k they could have installed a better cooling system
  • razor512
    major ripoff, the system is worth at most 30% of that price
  • sudeshc
    Agreed waste of $$ ....
  • vaughn2k
  • utengineer
    mayankleoboy1though if i were to take each component separately and build our own system, it would be cheaper.

    You forget, the cost of a commercial PC includes service, support, and licensed certifications.
  • nforce4max
    I wouldn't purchase this workstation. First you can build a better base machine for the fraction of the cost. Second you can purchase on your own the software you require or pirate. Third there is a flaw, yes there is always the temptation of mounting the hard drives in that manor but isn't recommended due to the uneven wear on the spindle that can lead to early failure.
  • Anonymous
    For this price, I'd go with a workstation from a major player (ex. HP or similar). You could easily build a dual socket workstation with similar (or better) overall performance; remember that many apps that require this level of hardware are optimized for Xeon instruction sets and 8+ threads. Additionally, you're software vendors would actually support their products on a system running within spec. Simply put, this is a toy not an enterprise class product
  • wiyosaya
    utengineerYou forget, the cost of a commercial PC includes service, support, and licensed certifications.

    Licensed certifications may be confidence inspiring to some, however, I think they are a waste of money. It is just a different form of branding that can be marketed at what is usually an expensive premium. Think THX certification. It was expensive in consumer audio and video, however, in my opinion, it has had it's 15-minutes of fame.
  • Onus
    I found the conclusions about value entirely reasonable. You guys being critical aren't the market for this box, or the services behind it. Someone whose job isn't messing around with workstation hardware and getting specific software configured and working on it may be very happy to pay someone to do those things.
  • warezme
    any decent modder can build this at less then half the cost and tweak it further. Not any value to this but for business people who don't know the difference between socket 1366 and widget 1998
  • malnute
    All you complaining about prices talk your broke a## home, its a great build and did you see they make their own chasis how cool is that.
  • TeraMedia
    I found the conclusions about value entirely reasonable. You guys being critical aren't the market for this box, or the services behind it. Someone whose job isn't messing around with workstation hardware and getting specific software configured and working on it may be very happy to pay someone to do those things.

    I agree with this, and it also points out something else. For all of us who build custom systems for ourselves and our friends / family, this type of product provides a data point for the value of that work. your time is worth money - don't ever forget that. So if you built a custom workstation w/ comparable parts and OCed to 4.2 GHz and supported it for 3 years, then you are providing roughly $4k of value to the recipient.
  • cadder
    I think overclocking is almost essential in a workstation. Performance is everything when you have expensive employees waiting on the computer. We run AutoCAD and Revit in my little company, and our manager enforces a very tight budget on us. I built our last 3 CAD workstations myself. I used i5-750 processors, 8GB ram, WD velociraptor drives, FireGL video cards, Antec cases, Win7-64bit, and a good Xigmatek CPU cooler. I also added 2 more fans to the 2 that the Antec cases already had. When I built these over a year ago I wasn't the best overclocker but they would run at 3.9 and pass my stress tests. We run them 24/7 and I set them at 3.5GHz for that. We don't have any temperature problems, the CPU's run very cool. For our software the video card isn't that important, the lowest FireGL will run AutoCAD just as fast as the most expensive one. The reason to even buy the FireGL is to get better drivers that will work with the 64bit OS. I've tried with other brands of cards and they weren't reliable. The only problems we have had with any of these machines has been with the cheaper video card when the FireGL that we wanted to buy was not available. I believe we spent about $1200 each on these machines, I spent about 2 hours each at home building and testing them.

    At the time that I built these, the i5-750 system offered a $300 savings over an i7-920 system. Today it might be a different story, and with the i7-SB we might run them at 4.0GHz.
  • sunflier
    malnute...its a great build and did you see they make their own chasis how cool is that.

    Thanks for pointing that out. The case looks like crap.
    For $8000.00 case looks cheap and dull.
  • d_kuhn
    I've got an older Boxx machine... their systems are top shelf. Sure they're expensive (I paid 10k for mine) but they're not intended for consumer use but for high end business workstation use.

    I'd buy one again, quality, fit and finish, component selection... all as good as you can get.
  • Anonymous
    interesting article, even more interesting is i have worked extensively with at least 3 of the named blue chip companies mentioned in the intro and i have yet to come across one of these beast, and i have worked in departments which are given the high performance gear. i would be interested in how the companies planned to utilize such raw power

    in reality a 100% boost in performance does not equate to a 100% boost in productivity, you are still limited by the user and his work flow, a faster machine does not mean you can reduce head count, dude A is still going have to finish his job (all be it slightly faster) and dude B still has to finish his job, dude A is not going be doing his and dude B's job just cause he got a faster machine

    where this kind of power becomes useful is if you got big numbers to crunch (3d rendering, FEA) and even then you'll be better served by a high density setup like a blade server. The only real use for such a machine would be for bespoke jobs whereby a person might need to spot check some work his been doing, but that's not a daily occurrence and you dont give everyone a machine like this just in the off chance they need to spot check their work once a while, in reality this would be a single shared machine that would not be creating production data, in which case an overclocked machine makes sense
  • Niva
    Sure you can build it, but this is for professionals who don't have time to build systems and would rather buy the product and the support the comes with it. Boxx is a very good company.

    On a sidenote I like their case/chasis. Good performance in the end.
  • d_kuhn
    Their chassis is all metal, layout is great, capacity is great. It includes things you don't get in low end cases like dust filters on the fans and room for redundant PS setups.

    Mine has been running 24/7 nearly since I got it (however old Opteron 250's are), maybe 6 or 7 years. It still boots faster than non-SSD systems today (15k SCSI RAID, stupid fast in its day and still very respectable).