If you're looking for the ultimate in business desktop performance, you should definitely put the new HP xw4400 workstation on your shortlist. HP's workstation line is designed to deliver the highest levels of performance and expandability. Unlike a standard business desktop, the xw4400 uses a high-performance chipset, built-in RAID support, high-end memory and storage capacities, and a large number of I/O slots, making it ideal for demanding work such as CAD and computer aided manufacturing, digital content creation, and data analysis.
The xw4400 workstation that I reviewed was equipped with a 2.67GHz dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo processor with Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology support; 2GB of RAM; a 160GB, 7200rpm Serial ATA (SATA) hard drive; an NVIDIA Quadro FX 1500 graphics card; a dual-layer DVD+/-RW with LightScribe Direct Disc Labeling; and a 1.44" diskette drive. For convenient access, the xw4400 provides two USB 2.0 ports on the front of the unit plus headphone and microphone jacks. An optional IEEE 1394A port is available. On the back of the unit there is a Gigabit Ethernet adapter, five USB 2.0 ports, one serial port, one parallel port, three standard audio ports, and keyboard and mouse ports. Inside the small but surprisingly heavy convertible minitower case, the xw4400 provides a 460-watt power supply and six full-length slots: one PCI Express x16 graphics, one PCI Express x16, one PCI Express x1, and three PCI slots. The xw4400 supports a maximum of 8GB of Error-Correcting Code Double Data Rate 2 SDRAM in 4 DIMM slots?a real plus for users looking for a 64-bit workstation. In addition, the xw4400 supports as many as 4 SATA drives for a maximum of 2TB of disk storage.
The out-of-box experience was good; after I responded to a few setup screens and the End User License Agreement, the system was up and running in about a minute. Unlike some of the server units we've reviewed recently, which sound a bit like vacuum cleaners, the xw4400 was whisper quiet?so quiet, in fact, that it was hard to tell that the system was running when it was mounted under the desk. One nice feature of the system was having a number of useful utilities preinstalled, including the HP Backup and Recovery Manager, the OpenView Radia Management Agent, the HP Performance Tuning Framework, HP Client Management Solutions, and HP Insight Diagnostics.
When I ran the system to perform typical office and .NET development tasks, the performance was extraordinarily snappy. For instance, the xw4400 took Windows XP from complete power off to up and running in about 30 seconds. I ran SiSoftware's Sandra 2005 diagnostic utility on the xw4400 and on a high-performance 3.0GHz Athlon 64?based system with 1GB of RAM and a similar SATA drive configuration; the xw4400 tested approximately 10 percent faster than the Athlon system overall?no mean feat.
To test Windows Vista compatibility, I loaded the x64 Vista Release Candidate 1 onto the xw4400 system. The install worked flawlessly and, surprisingly, all of the required drivers were present, including the 64-bit audio and network driver. I've never experienced an x64 OS installation that went more smoothly. The xw4400 provided full support for Vista's Aero UI, and Vista's Windows System Assessment Tool gave the xw4400 a performance rating of 5.1.
If you're looking for the ultimate in desktop performance, expandability, and quality, the xw4400 workstation is a great choice?especially if you're interested in going with an x64 version of Vista or XP. It's more expensive than your typical business-class desktop, but, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.