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HP's Z400 Workstation Runs The Tom's Hardware Gauntlet

Benchmark Results: 3D Animation Tests

The 3D animation tests are currently centered on two products- Maxon’s Cinebench and LightWave 3D 9.6. This is partly due to availability and partly due to personal ability; we could create custom tests for LightWave and did so. We are also working on making versions of the tests for both Maya and 3ds Max.

The reported results are the average of three runs, and the tests are performed with Aero off, unless otherwise stated.

High Polygon Modeling Test

A very high polygon version of the Tom’s Hardware logo was created in LightWave, and this test duplicates one part of the process. A script is used to clone surface detailing across a part of the logo, and that script reports how long it took to run. This test isn't threaded, and the  processor should enjoy the benefit of Turbo Boost while it is running.

Note that with Hyper-Threading enabled, the results get worse, not better. This is just the first time we will see this, as the pattern is repeated later on.

High Polygon Rendering Test

This test consists of the Tom’s Hardware logo in its 1.68 million polygon-glory, with four example frames rendered from a 600 frame animation. The polygon count was deliberately targeted, as it is close to the number of polygons in a ‘hero model’ level of detail for television animation. As an example, the Battlestar Pegasus from the recent Battlestar Galactica TV series was about the same polygon count, but with vastly more texture maps. The rendering itself makes use of anti-aliasing (nine passes), photorealistic motion blur, ray traced shadows, and global illumination. Once again, these render settings are considered the norm in TV visual effects. The frames are rendered at 1920x1080.

Unlike the modeling test, the render test is very well threaded. On the average, a 10%+ performance gain is realized while rendering with multithreading on. The different frames of the sequence represent different problems for the renderer, and frame 500 shows the largest render time because it has the maximum number of polygons visible at the largest size on screen at the same time. In frame 600, meanwhile, the camera is at its greatest distance and stationary, so the frame differences for motion blur calculation become relatively small.

OpenGL Preview Test

Here we're measuring the time required to generate an OpenGL preview of the entire 600-frame animation for real-time playback at the animation’s actual frame rate of 24 FPS.

Note that this machine can’t push our model around in real-time. The animation was done with a low-resolution proxy object, and that was replaced with the high polygon object for the final lighting and rendering. This test is performed at both 1680x1050 and 1920x1080.

Once again, a process that is not well-threaded actually runs faster with Hyper-Threading turned off. Even the best time (33.32 seconds at 1680x1050) is 8.32 seconds longer than real-time. That should give you an idea of how high the system load is with this scene.

  • bitter
    So JF was right to say that HT should be disabled in some scenarios
  • haplo602
    hmm ... I wonder if you could make a D3D/OGL comparison test in some 3D modeling software ? I don't actualy know if any of them supports both APIs.

    BTW you dual PCIex16 comment is wrong. There were dual PCIex16 slots in HP workstations since xwX400 models (6400,8400,9400).
  • Draven35
    Some of the other models have dual x16 slots... but they are rare in baseline models. At some point we'll look at how well an SLI config works in workstation OpenGL tests.

    3dsMax uses Direct3D (and OpenGL), but prefers Direct3D (it is 'recommended' by Autodesk on my GTX 460-equipped primary machine...), but Maya does not, it requires OpenGL.

    As for whether HT should be disabled? Still questionable. If you're doing animation, and have HT off, you'll gain some interactivity when working, but as soon as you need a test render you'll be losing time. If your 3D application does multithreaded interactiivty tasks, then you're better off with HT on- for instance, the VPR interactive shading mode in Lightwave 10. Its largely dependent on how your software responds to what, and hopefully we'll have more answers on that with the next workstation we look at.
  • ares1214
    Nice cable managment...
  • Draven35
    It came that way! The other models in the z-series have better cable management even, specially with the shrouds.
  • HibyPrime
    Lets see.

    2GB Ram - Not even close to be considered a usable workstation. - Nevermind, I messed up. I didn't see the (x3)

    250GB main/2TB raid 0 - raid 0 setups in workstations are used for scratch disks, and thats it - storage is too risky. 2x 250GB in raid 0 makes much more sense cost wise as you'll never use more than 500GB on a scratch disk, with a 1TB for temporary storage. I say temporary because a workstation is just that, once the work is done (and during) it's backed up and rarely used again.

    Creative Labs X-Fi Titanium PCIe - Any Audio professional needing sound quality is going to be using almost exclusively external hardware. The analog outputs all anyone else is going to need.

    Who ever chose the specs for this machine needs to be shot.
  • MU_Engineer
    This was an interesting review, but the real machine to test would have been the dual-processor Z800. The big advantages of a workstation are better reliability and stability than a standard desktop and the ability to use multiple processors and more RAM than a typical desktop. Perhaps a Z400 vs. Z800 test would have been interesting as there were a mix of poorly-threaded and well-threaded applications in the test.
  • warezme
    This machine is pathetic. Any decently configured OC'ed quadcore i7 will run circles around this thing, ugh.
  • Draven35
    It was agreed to start with a z400... the workstation tests were actually developed on this machine, hence why it has a Gen 1 board. Mayhap we'll look at a z800 later.

    Most video editors use a RAID array for their video files unless they are just editing DV. HD footage shot on a decent quality camera would quickly overwhelm your proposed 500GB array- the raw P2 footage alone for my film project was 350 GB, and that's before the scratch files generated for color correction and transition renders- and the P2 footage is pretty strongly compressed for semi-pro camera footage. (40 Mb/s) If you're editing uncompressed 1080 HD, you're dealing with 124 MB per second of video. With a larger array, a system like this could be set up for editing uncompressed HD with the simple addition of a BlackMagic Decklink in one of its HD flavors, or the HD version of the Avid Mojo if you prefer to work in something like Media Composer. With the transition of TV to HD, more and more projects are being finished for HD in an attempt to future-proof them- which has actually been going on for about five years before the transition. If you want to see something truly horrible, look at the data rates required for 2k or 4k playback...

    HP doesn't sell their machine configured with any kind of professional audio interfaces. They submit their machines for certification by Avid, and the 'full' Pro Tools (Pro Tools HD) comes from Avid on a z800.The audio interface choice for the system was either the Creative card, or the onboard RealTek codec, because that's what HP had and could configure a system with.

    You'll find a surprising number (like, most) audio guys including musicians these days working with a mix of software and hardware, and the mixing is done on a computer, not on external hardware. There are audio interfaces with two, four, six, eight and more inputs... my personal music workstation has eight analog inputs, plus ADAT and S/PDIF in. (Note, I need more like twice that in inputs.) You need all these input to capture multiple instruments on completely independent tracks simultaneously , so that they can be given separate effects and the mix can be adjusted on each track. (That's right, you can capture all those tracks at the same time.) Some of these audio interfaces are an internal card , some are an internal card plus an external breakout box (M-Audio Delta series, MOTU 2408, etc), and most are USB or firewire external (Presonus, TASCAM, Echo, Digidesign, Focusrite, et al) boxes with all the hardware located within it. In addition, many have PCI or PCIe DSP accelerator cards from UAD or TC electronic for effects processing and synthesis.
  • cadder
    The big advantages of a workstation are better reliability and stability than a standard desktop

    I'm not sure I understand this. A machine built with the best enthusiast-class hardware should be basically 100% reliable. The most unreliable part is the hard drive. This machine uses Seagate hard drives, probably the most unreliable brand of drives. This machine also uses an HP motherboard, and HP is below average in reliability in their retail products. Should we expect the workstation components to be better? As for stability, it's using the same OS that everybody else has access to.

    All of our CAD machines here use i5/750 CPU's, aftermarket coolers, 8GB, Gigabyte motherboards, a Velociraptor or SSD for the boot drive, a WD Black for the storage drive, ATI FireGL video cards, Win7 Pro 64bit. The machines run at 3.5GHz 24/7 with no problems. I add 2 cooling fans to each case and that in conjunction with the aftermarket cooler keeps things running real cool.