This fast PC workstation just got faster

HP's Kayak workstations are already some of the fastest workstations available for Windows NT. With dual on-board 40MBps Ultra Wide SCSI controllers, HP's FastRAID controller running two 10,000rpm hard disks, and record-breaking use of Intel's 533MHz Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) with HP's Visualize fx4 OpenGL 3-D graphics card, these systems don't lack speed. However, with the introduction of Intel's 400MHz Pentium II processor and BX chipset supporting a 100MHz system bus, the fast Kayak just got faster.

Accompanying the beefed-up processing power, the latest Kayak workstations sport a modified front panel. HP replaced the cumbersome and often sticky power and reset buttons with horizontal buttons that actually work. HP also added the new HP MaxiLife LCD, which lets administrators access the system even when it's off. The MaxiLife display provides diagnostic information about the machine, and lets you see the steps the machine is processing while booting.

KAYAK Like its predecessors, the newest Kayak provides tool-free access to system components, HP's UltraFlow temperature-regulated cooling system, integrated 16-bit full-duplex audio, two Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports, two serial ports, and one MIDI port. Four DIMM slots support up to 1GB of Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM--the system I tested had one 128MB DIMM); one AGP; two PCI slots; one PCI/ISA combination slot (one or the other); one RAID port extended PCI slot for hardware-accelerated RAID; and one ISA slot. My one gripe with the Kayak is that once you add the Visualize fx4 graphics card, the FastRAID card, and an Ethernet card, only one PCI and one ISA slot remain open.

Performance Tests
The Kayak family includes the XW for high-end 3-D graphics, the XU for high-performance 2-D graphics, and the entry-level XA. To test the XW's 3-D graphics performance, I ran three viewsets from the Viewperf benchmark (for more information about Viewperf, see http://www.specbench.org). The CDRS Viewset score was 137.513, the Data Explorer (DX) score was 19.949, and the Lightscape score was 1.745. These scores aren't significantly higher than those I achieved on a dual 333MHz Kayak, which isn't surprising when you consider that the graphics card, not the CPU, processes OpenGL graphics. Still, I broke every published record that I know of for NT workstations and the Viewperf CDRS performance metric.

I also wanted to know how much faster the system performs with the 400MHz Pentium II processor and the 100MHz system bus. To find out, I ran AIM Technology's workstation benchmark tests using Pragma's TelnetD remote connectivity software. The AIM workstation test is multithreaded and comprises 73 system and subsystem tests, producing a comprehensive analysis of system performance. (For more information about AIM Technology, see http://www.aim.com.)

With a Matrox Millennium II 4MB PCI graphics card and a 400MHz Pentium II processor on my test Kayak, the AIM WNT Peak Performance score was 736 application jobs per minute. The AIM WNT Sustained Performance score, which reflects the number of applications the system can execute without unacceptably hindering performance, was 247.6 application jobs per minute. This score is significant when compared with the 231.6 sustained score that I achieved on a Kayak with two 333MHz Pentium II processors. Because the AIM tests are multithreaded (i.e., use dual processors) and the single-processor 400MHz Pentium II system scored 6.6 percent faster than its dual-processor sibling, I assumed the sustained performance boost came from the expanded 100MHz system bus.

When I compared the AIM scores from a single-processor 400MHz Kayak to those of a single-processor 300MHz Pentium II system with the 66MHz system bus, the faster processor and larger system bus performed 27 percent faster. Fitted with two 400MHz Pentium II processors, the Kayak XW received a 1197.3 WNT Peak Performance score and a 270.1 WNT Sustained Performance score. When I compared these scores with a peak score of 888.8 and a sustained score of 221 for a dual 333MHz Kayak with a 66MHz system bus, the newer Kayak showed 25 percent and 18 percent improvement, respectively. So the answer to the question, "Will I see better performance with a 400MHz CPU and 100MHz system bus?" is yes.

Kayak XW
Contact: HP * 888-688-4390 or 800-752-0900
Web: http://www.hp.com/kayak/xw/index.html
Price: $13,184
System Configuration: Dual 400MHz Pentium II processors, 128MB of SDRAM, Adaptec 40MBps Ultra Wide SCSI, FastRAID controller, 533MHz Accelerated Graphics Port, Dual 4.5GB 10,000rpm hard disks, 32X CD-ROM drive, OpenGL 3-D graphics card