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The APEXX 2 from workstation specialist BOXX Technologies is a purpose-built system designed specifically for tearing through CAD and rendering up a storm. Neither at the bottom nor the top of the range of configurations available for this model, the 2401 configuration is built around an Intel i7 4790K 4-Ghz CPU that is overclocked to 4.5 GHz and paired with the nimble NVIDIA Quadro K4200 graphics card. Click here for workstation features.
Loaded on the Inside
The high-frequency, overclocked i7 CPU actually outperforms the more sophisticated and expensive Xeon in the Cadalyst Systems Benchmark 2015 (C2015), which measures single-threaded performance. To keep system temperatures stable, the APEXX 2 2401 incorporates a water-cooling system that has the added benefit of almost banishing fan noise. A few times during testing, it was so quiet that I had to double-check to confirm that the system was powered up.
BOXX Technologies' APEXX 2 is a solid, hard-working machine, ready to take on any CAD or rendering project.
The NVIDIA Quadro K4200 is a very capable graphics card, especially if you work primarily in 2D CAD. Loaded with 4 GB of GDDR5 memory, the card handles both 2D and 3D tasks smoothly and efficiently. The Quadro K4200 is positioned right in the sweet spot for anyone primarily running 2D CAD; performance would drop significantly with a lesser card, and higher-end options simply wouldn't deliver meaningful advantages. If you perform more 3D work than 2D, consider upgrading to a higher end graphics card, such as the NVIDIA Quadro K5200.
Pairing an overclocked Intel Core i7 and a Quadro K4200 makes for a strong package, but those are stock components that are available from many vendors. Where BOXX Technologies makes the APEXX 2 2401 stand out is in the details of each subsystem. For example, a custom structural aluminum case with iron bracing may seem to be of minor importance, but the superior cooling properties of those materials lessen reliance on fans and the superior case integrity helps diminish system noise even further. In addition, cooler components are generally less prone to failure. There are standard fans within the case, but they are whisper-quiet, probably because they don't need to work very hard. There are two fans, one on the graphics card and a single 120 mm case fan.
Even the hard disk is quiet. BOXX Technologies included a blazingly fast and silent 240-GB Intel solid-state drive (SSD). As verified by the C2015 disk scores, you won't need to wait long for programs, drawings, and other files to open. Rounding out the drives in our test system was a 24X DVD burner.
There is no secondary hard drive behind that solid-state primary. For the price, I think that there should be, but basic storage is cheap and easily added. Anchoring the case is a 550-watt Seasonic power supply that should be more than adequate to handle everything you might want to add to the system.
Even though the APEXX 2 case is a compact mini-tower (16.6" x 6.85" x 16.6"), it does provide moderate expansion capabilities. There is room for a couple of 2.5" internal drives and three additional 3.5" drives (for a total of four). Although you won't need it for the system's intended uses, you can add a second PCIe x16 graphics card and there are open PCIe 16 (x4 electrical) and PCIe x1 slots. You can also add another 16 GB of DDR3-1600 memory, for a total of 32 GB.
The motherboard and case include a generous 12 USB ports: six USB 2.0 and six 3.0. The Asus Gryphon Z97 motherboard also includes a pretty decent Realtek ALC892 integrated sound card and 10/100/1000 Ethernet. If you like to make adjustments and tweak settings, the Gryphon BIOS can be a vast playground.
The system comes set to overclock up to 4.5 GHz — pushing beyond that will invalidate your warranty, and you don't want to do that! BOXX offers an excellent 3-year parts and labor warranty as well as on-site repair for the first year. New parts can be shipped within 24 hours, and the support desk is always available. You can even return the system in the first 30 days (there is a re-stocking fee of 15% of purchase price).
How Did It Do?
The APEXX 2 is an extremely well-balanced machine, as evidenced by our C2015 overall index score of 773. The system did well in every aspect, turning in a strong 1,882 in the 3D and 526 in the 2D drawing tests. The SSD hard drive really smoked the disk tests with a 358 score, and the CPU score of 325 is on par with what you'd expect from a Xeon CPU.
Even in the SPECViewperf 12 tests, where you'd expect the system to fall off a bit because it's built for non-threaded CAD (not visualization software), the APEXX 2 delivered strong scores, pulling 70.87 for catia-04, 57.27 for creo-01, 2.92 for energy-01, 57.82 for maya-04, 21.18 for medical-01, 37.66 for showcase-01, 64.29 for snx-02, and 108.16 for sw-03. With the exception of the snx-02 results, scores are strong and very competitive with a similarly configured Xeon-based system.
The APEXX 2 fell about 40% short in the snx-02 test. I originally ran the SPECViewperf tests using the driver configuration sent by BOXX. After finding and installing the most recent Quadro K4200 driver from NVIDIA — version 347.52 — scores jumped on some tests as much as 4% and remained mostly unchanged on others. The figures used in this review reflect the newer driver. Consider it a reminder to all of us to keep our drivers updated.
The BOXX APEXX 2 delivered strong scores for SPECViewperf 12, which focuses on graphics performance.
The Wrap Up
Raw benchmark results can be important indicators of performance, and BOXX Technologies has delivered an excellent performer for our tests, but the APEXX 2 2401 really shines when you look at the entire package. Excellent support and warranty policies combined with a system where every component seems well-chosen for one task — CAD — makes the relatively high price ($4,067 as tested) a good value. You can specify your own build, but why bother? BOXX has nailed this. Highly Recommended.