IBM's first Pentium III system offers solid performance

The IntelliStation M Pro, a midrange workstation, is IBM's first Pentium III system. IBM has positioned the M Pro to target CAD, electronics design, digital content creation, and power users. The system I tested in the Windows NT Magazine Lab had one 500MHz processor with 512KB of Level 2 cache; however, the M Pro is also available as a dual-processor system. The Intel 440BX AGPset chipset supports the M Pro, and the workstation sports a 100MHz bus, an Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) socket, and support for up to 1GB of Error-Correcting Code (ECC) Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM).

The M Pro's side cover slides off after you open the rear-mounted lock and release a tab on the side panel. A plastic shroud directs air to the processor from a rear-mounted cooling fan. Four DIMM sockets sit below the processor and directly above the AGP socket. The system has five PCI slots, one of which is a shared PCI/ISA slot. Another PCI slot supports an Adaptec RAIDport adapter.

The M Pro incorporates plenty of expansion capacity. Two external 5.25" drive bays sit above two external 3.5" drive bays. The system mounts two internal 3.5" drive bays so that the power and ribbon cable connections face the case's open side, for easy access. The internal system is well designed, and all expansion slots accept full-length cards.

To assess the M Pro's processing performance, I used the AIM Technology Workstation Benchmark's WNT Peak Performance and WNT Sustained Performance metrics, two key measures of system performance. WNT Peak Performance measures a system's point of maximum throughput. WNT Sustained Performance calculates a value for the system's maximum acceptable load. To ensure consistency in our use of AIM benchmarks in the Lab, we always install the Matrox Millennium G200 graphics adapter in each workstation we test. (For more information about AIM Technology and its benchmark tests, go to http://www.aim.com.) The M Pro's WNT Peak Performance score was 756.6 jobs per minute; the WNT Sustained Performance value was 233.1 jobs per minute. These scores are respectable for a single-processor system.

I tested two graphics solutions IBM offers in the M Pro: the IBM Fire GL1 and Intense3D Wildcat 4000 graphics cards. The IBM Fire GL1 is an advanced 3-D graphics solution that Diamond Multimedia Systems manufactures using IBM technology. The IBM Fire GL1 card doesn't perform geometric calculations. The Intense3D Wildcat 4000 is a higher performance 3-D graphics solution that performs geometric calculations.

To assess the M Pro's OpenGL graphics performance, I ran four viewsets from the Viewperf benchmark: Data Explorer (DX), Lightscape, CDRS, and ProCDRS. (To learn more about Viewperf, go to the OpenGL Performance Characterization—OPC—project Web site at http://www.spec.org/ gpc/opc.static.) The DX viewset measures data- visualization capability. Lightscape tests global illumination effects. The CDRS and ProCDRS viewsets test modeling and rendering in CAD applications. In past Lab workstation reviews, we've relied on the CDRS viewset. However, the OPC project discontinued the CDRS viewset in the Viewperf benchmark in February and now uses the ProCDRS viewset. The ProCDRS viewset uses a much larger model than CDRS used and is more representative of real-world applications. Viewperf reports results in the number of frames per second a tested card can render.

The M Pro with the IBM Fire GL1 card achieved a DX score of 16.40 and a Lightscape score of 1.809. In the CDRS viewset, the system scored 193.9—the highest CDRS score that a single-processor workstation has achieved in Lab testing. The system scored 19.48 in the ProCDRS viewset. These Viewperf scores are outstanding.

Although the M Pro with the Intense 3D Wildcat 4000 scored a disappointing 60.2 in the CDRS viewset, the system's ProCDRS score was 22.1. The DX score was 21.79, and the Lightscape score was 3.226.

IBM has a solid performer in the IntelliStation M Pro. Models start at less than $3000. This workstation is worth your serious consideration.

IntelliStation M Pro
Contact: IBM * 800-426-7255
Web: http://www.ibm.com
Price: $4553 with IBM Fire GL1 graphics card; $6632 with Intense3D Wildcat 4000 graphics card
System Configuration: 500MHz Pentium III processor, 512KB of Level 2 cache, 256MB of Error-Correcting Code Synchronous DRAM, Seagate Cheetah 9GB 10,000rpm SCSI disk