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Test System And Benchmarks

External Graphics Over PCIe 3.0? Netstor's NA255A, Reviewed
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Our test system is built around Intel's X79 Express chipset, with 8 GT/s transfer rates to each 16-lane PCI Express graphics slot. We're going to measure the performance of native connectivity and the TurboBox using one, two, and three GPUs in each solution. This should tell us whether there's any penalty for externalizing graphics, or for interfacing with the enclosure over a single third-gen PCI Express x16 slot. Part of our testing also involves comparisons between PCIe 2.0 and 3.0, quantifying the benefits of modern technology versus what came before.

As mentioned, we're using three Radeon HD 7970s cards for testing, all of which are set to AMD's reference core and memory clock rates.

A number of games should help us flesh out 3D performance, while LuxMark and GUIMiner stand in as OpenCL-accelerated benchmarks. Although we know that the TurboBox isn't a gaming-oriented product, a few tests at 1920x1080 and 5760x1080 should shed some light on its performance potential.

Test System
CPU
Intel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E), 3.3 GHz @ 4.25 GHz , Six Cores, LGA 2011, 15 MB Shared L3 Cache, Hyper-Threading enabled.
Motherboard
ASRock X79 Extreme9 (LGA 2011) Chipset: Intel X79 Express
Networking
On-Board Gigabit LAN controller
Memory
Corsair Vengeance LP PC3-16000, 4 x 4 GB, 1600 MT/s, CL 8-8-8-24-2T
Graphics
3 x Radeon HD 7970
Hard Drive
Samsung 470-series 256 GB (SSD)
Power
ePower EP-1200E10-T2 1200 W
ATX12V, EPS12V
Software and Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8
DirectX
DirectX 11.1
Graphics Drivers
Nvidia 310.70 beta
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Top Comments
  • 23 Hide
    slomo4sho , March 29, 2013 12:35 AM
    An expensive solution to inferior Mac hardware...
  • 23 Hide
    dagamer34 , March 28, 2013 10:55 PM
    Now if only we could get external GPUs via Thunderbolt (or it's future iterations) so that laptops wouldn't be forever gimped, we'd be in business!
  • 21 Hide
    adgjlsfhk , March 29, 2013 4:01 AM
    Quote:
    But what about someone working on a Mac Pro? Apple's more limited ecosystem means there is no such thing as a three- or four-way graphics array. This could be one of the only options for enabling multiple GPUs. If massive compute potential is important, you might need to swallow hard and consider Netstor's solution the cost of doing business in Apple's world.

    Or you could use the $2000 to ditch your mac pro that is years out of date and use the money to buy a pc that is better in pretty much every way.
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    ohyouknow , March 28, 2013 10:12 PM
    Interesting
  • 9 Hide
    MasterMace , March 28, 2013 10:26 PM
    This is a nice article. I wonder if Tom's can do a multi-cpu article as well.
  • 23 Hide
    dagamer34 , March 28, 2013 10:55 PM
    Now if only we could get external GPUs via Thunderbolt (or it's future iterations) so that laptops wouldn't be forever gimped, we'd be in business!
  • 14 Hide
    jupiter optimus maximus , March 28, 2013 11:00 PM
    Whooo whoo, if i had the money to burn, i would get this NA255A, remove the PSU bundle, replace it with a Seasonic 1000 Platinum, slap four GTX Titans, add a custom water-cooling loop, connect it to my main PC and have (if it works) three more NA255A's for each of the PCIe for the main PC with a grand total of 16 GTX Titans for massive GPU computation. All for a grand total of $13,800. Massive electric bill, here i come!
  • 9 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , March 28, 2013 11:11 PM
    PCIE signals scale poorly to long wires. So it is a technical achievement to have these signals travel over a meter of wire.
  • 16 Hide
    A Bad Day , March 28, 2013 11:18 PM
    dagamer34Now if only we could get external GPUs via Thunderbolt (or it's future iterations) so that laptops wouldn't be forever gimped, we'd be in business!


    There are some external GPU cases.

    The only issue is that the cheapest is somewhere slightly less than $400.

    Please explain to me how an aluminum box, a micro-PSU, and a Thunderbolt-to-PCIE adapter adds up to even $200...
  • 5 Hide
    A Bad Day , March 28, 2013 11:19 PM
    EDIT: And when I meant the cheapest, I meant the ones that are only sufficient for a 7750. Want to pair a 7970 with a ultrabook?

    $400-$500 for a slightly longer box with a slightly more capable PSU.
  • 23 Hide
    slomo4sho , March 29, 2013 12:35 AM
    An expensive solution to inferior Mac hardware...
  • 2 Hide
    Vatharian , March 29, 2013 2:48 AM
    Good X79 workstation mobo with 7 PCI-e slots, and 4 K20x-s on each of them. That's a TON of computing power, and if you don't want to deal with high-speed networking multiple boxes, that's nice. Of course only if this thing can actuallty work in pairs or more and in some way circumvent the 15 gpu limit in bios memory mapping. Can this thing be turned on with working machine?
  • 21 Hide
    adgjlsfhk , March 29, 2013 4:01 AM
    Quote:
    But what about someone working on a Mac Pro? Apple's more limited ecosystem means there is no such thing as a three- or four-way graphics array. This could be one of the only options for enabling multiple GPUs. If massive compute potential is important, you might need to swallow hard and consider Netstor's solution the cost of doing business in Apple's world.

    Or you could use the $2000 to ditch your mac pro that is years out of date and use the money to buy a pc that is better in pretty much every way.
  • 18 Hide
    abbadon_34 , March 29, 2013 5:00 AM
    slomo4shoAn expensive solution to inferior Mac hardware...

    Mac/Apple users either don't care about or don't under price/performance . My guess, they won't care about the price, just that it doesn't come in pretty colors.
  • 1 Hide
    cozmium , March 29, 2013 5:04 AM
    Would have been nice to see some Nvidia hardware thrown in to see how they get on.
  • 8 Hide
    bjaminnyc , March 29, 2013 5:42 AM
    cozmiumWould have been nice to see some Nvidia hardware thrown in to see how they get on.


    What additional conclusions could be drawn concerning internal vs external throughput?
  • 9 Hide
    bunz_of_steel , March 29, 2013 6:04 AM
    imho
    Apple users are a select group of users, alot of high school kids and girls use them. Not trying to be funny just an observation. If you buy into the Apple thing you have to do things their way and on their terms. Apple has always been cost prohibitive and too restrictive for me personally.
  • 2 Hide
    A Bad Day , March 29, 2013 7:06 AM
    bunz_of_steelimhoApple users are a select group of users, alot of high school kids and girls use them. Not trying to be funny just an observation. If you buy into the Apple thing you have to do things their way and on their terms. Apple has always been cost prohibitive and too restrictive for me personally.


    My sister's thoughts when buying a 13" Macbook:

    "If it's light, not battery draining, durable, and works, then it's good enough."
  • 6 Hide
    downhill911 , March 29, 2013 7:08 AM
    Tomshardware Please please review this one! Thanks :-)

    ViDock 4 Plus Overdrive (Two 6-Pin/320W/329mm) $279US Plus $30US Worldwide Shipping
    http://www.villageinstruments.com/tiki-index.php?page=ViDock
    Unboxing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymYbE3JawLk
  • 4 Hide
    loops , March 29, 2013 9:00 AM
    2k?

    7990 x 2?

    Still have one PCI slot open for my phone modem card :) _
  • 6 Hide
    basketcase87 , March 29, 2013 9:44 AM
    jupiter optimus maximusWhooo whoo, if i had the money to burn, i would get this NA255A, remove the PSU bundle, replace it with a Seasonic 1000 Platinum, slap four GTX Titans, add a custom water-cooling loop, connect it to my main PC and have (if it works) three more NA255A's for each of the PCIe for the main PC with a grand total of 16 GTX Titans for massive GPU computation. All for a grand total of $13,800. Massive electric bill, here i come!

    $13,800? Check your math- I think you forgot a few titans.
    4x NA255A @ $2200 = $8800
    16x Titan @ $1000 = $16000
    4x Seasonic 1000 @ $230 = $920
    Total of $25,720 before adding the custom water loops.
  • 5 Hide
    kylerg , March 29, 2013 10:19 AM
    Three Radeon HD 7970's and Nvidia 310.70 beta drivers? Am I missing something here?
  • 3 Hide
    sna , March 29, 2013 10:29 AM
    this box should be 200$ max

    the PLX chips are being used in motherboards long ago , and the whole motherboard with PLX chip is 300$ only .. as a matter of fact the PLX chip is 50$ only

    add 50$ for case and power and 50$ for board and cables and 50$ profit

    what 2200$ ?

    I hope Asrock or Asus make such boxs soon for 200$ and with SLI option as well. ...

    who needs a stupid useless Thunderbolt when u can have native external PCIe 16 ?

    next stop add that port to a notebook .. one to one PCI 16 x no PLX chip... and notebooks will be desktops
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