A dual-Pentium II Xeon workstation for graphics and high-end applications

Gateway has a solid system in its E-5250 450 workstation. The system I reviewed performed well and had plenty of I/O expansion capacity. Whether you need a graphics workstation or a desktop system for high-end applications, this workstation will meet your needs.

The E-5250 450 system has 450MHz dual-Pentium II Xeon processors. (Gateway also has released Pentium III and Pentium III Xeon systems in its 5200 and 5250 lines of workstations.) The E-5250 450's 3Dlabs Oxygen GLINT GMX 2000 Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) graphics card comes with 16MB of video frame buffer RAM and 80MB of local texture RAM. The card has several processors, including two 3Dlabs GLINT MX rasterization processors and one GLINT Gamma geometry processor. The board displays True Color resolutions up to 1920 * 1080. And Creative Technology created the custom Sound Blaster PCI64 audio card exclusively for Gateway's E-series PCs.

The amount of storage the E-5250 450 holds in support of digital-content creation and other disk-hungry applications is impressive. Removing three thumbscrews exposes the interior electronics. A rear-mounted cooling fan cools the two Xeon processors. Directly below the processors are four DIMM sockets, and above the processors is an AGP expansion slot. The system has five PCI expansion slots plus one shared PCI/ISA slot. Three PCI slots are available as expansion slots. The E-5250 450 has three drive cages. The upper cage can hold four half-height, externally accessible devices; the CD-ROM drive takes up one of these bays. The middle-drive cage can hold two 1.6" or three 1" high 3.5" hard disks. Three Quantum Viking II Ultra 1 Low Voltage Differential (LVD) 9GB hard disks filled the middle-drive cage on the system I reviewed. The bottom-drive cage can hold one 1.6" or two 1" high 3.5" hard disks.

I tested the E-5250 450 using Windows NT. I used AIM Technology's Workstation Benchmark services for overall system performance and the System Performance Evaluation Corporation's (SPEC's) Viewperf 6.1 to test OpenGL graphics performance.

I used AIM's two performance metrics: Peak Performance and Sustained Performance. The Peak Performance rating reflects maximum system throughput, measured as the highest number of application jobs the system can process in 1 minute. The Sustained Performance test incrementally increases system tasks and measures the number of application jobs per minute the system performs before the load unacceptably affects system performance. The Sustained Performance value measures maximum system capacity. (For an overview of AIM and its benchmark tests, visit AIM's Web site at http://www.aim.com.)

The E-5250 450's performance is stellar. AIM's Peak Performance metric measured 1746.1 jobs per minute. This metric is more than 20 percent better than the Peak Performance rating of Compaq's Professional Workstation 6000, which is also a 450MHz dual-Pentium II Xeon processor. Compaq's Professional Workstation 6000 was Windows NT Magazine Lab's previous champ. Even more impressive was the E-5250 450's Sustained Performance metric that clocked at 538.5 jobs per minute, which is 80 percent faster than Compaq's workstation.

Viewperf is an OpenGL performance benchmark program. The OpenGL Performance Characterization (OPC) project group defines viewsets as groups of individual runs of Viewperf that summarize an independent software vendor (ISV) application's graphics rendering capability. ISVs develop their own viewsets, and the OPC standardizes viewsets. I used the following viewsets to test the E-5250 450: CDRS, ProCDRS, Data Explorer (DX), and Lightscape Visualization System. (For more information about Viewperf and viewsets, go to http://www.specbench.org/ gpc/opc.static/ vp50.html. For more information about SPEC and the OPC, go to http://www.specbench.org.)

Viewperf results were good but not spectacular. Viewperf reports all results in the number of frames per second the card can render. The DX viewset, which measures data visualization capabilities, clocked at 20.58. This metric is 94 percent of the more expensive Intense3D Wildcat 4000 graphic card's metric. The Lightscape viewset, simulating global illumination effects, clocked in at 2.594, which is 80 percent of the Wildcat 4000's score.

The OPC group replaced the older CDRS viewset, which tested CAD-rendering performance, with ProCDRS, which is a viewset that renders a larger, more real-world model. To let you compare CDRS and ProCDRS results, I report both metrics this month, but in future reviews I'll report only the ProCDRS results. The CDRS clocked in at 132.2 frames per second, which is better than either the Wildcat 4000 or IBM's Fire GL1. This CDRS is almost as good as the Windows NT Magazine Lab's champion--­the Dell Precision WorkStation 610. The more difficult ProCDRS clocked in at 10.71, less than half the score the Wildcat 4000 posted. Of course, the Wildcat 4000 is about twice the price of the Oxygen GLINT GMX 2000 AGP. The less-expensive Fire GL1 also beat the Oxygen GLINT GMX 2000's ProCDRS score.

Gateway, Dell, and IBM all price their workstations similarly, and the E-5250 450's price is right in line with others of its class. The system is a solid performer and worth considering. The only alteration I suggest concerns the graphics card. If you use graphic-intensive programs such as CAD applications, you might want to select a card other than the Oxygen GLINT GMX 2000.

Gateway E-5250 450
Contact: Gateway * 800-846-4208
Web: http://www.gateway.com
Price: $11,889
System Configuration:
450MHz dual-Pentium II Xeon processors with 512KB of Level 2 cache, 1GB of Synchronous DRAM, Three Quantum Viking II Ultra 2 Low Voltage Differential 9GB hard disks, 3Dlabs Oxygen GLINT GMX 2000 Accelerated Graphics Port video card, 3Com 3C905B TXMBA 10/100 Ethernet card with Wake-on-LAN, SCSI CD-ROM drive, Creative Technology Sound Blaster PCI64 audio card, Boston Acoustics BA635 speakers