Systemax Endeavor: Interior
Here’s where you can tell how much skill and time were put into the build process. There’s a lot more to like inside the case, as it turns out. Getting into the Endeavor’s innards is a matter of unfastening a pair of thumb screws. The workstation also ships locked. So, opening the case (or the front door, for that matter), requires one of the two bundled keys.
Taking a peek inside, you’ll see the Supermicro X7DA3+ motherboard—a dual-processor board—with one quad-core Intel Xeon E5310 processor installed. Should you ever need additional threading horsepower, simply drop another of the 1.6 GHz Xeons in and you’re good to go. The other socket remains covered, protecting the pins from getting bent accidentally. Systemax doesn’t do anything special with cooling. Intel’s reference copper heatsink is bolted directly into the chassis and covered by an Intel fan. It’s all standard boxed processor fare here, folks.
The E5310 isn’t one of Intel’s 45nm chips based on the Harpertown or Wolfdale cores (the 5400 and 5200 series, respectively). Rather, it belongs to the 5200 Clovertown sequence, manufactured on a 65nm process, equipped with 8MB of data cache, and operating on a 1066 MHz bus. Undoubtedly, Systemax is focusing principally on reliability here. However, we’d really like to see the company adopt some of Intel’s latest technologies. A chip from the Xeon 5400 family, plus Intel’s 5100 San Clemente chipset taking DDR2 memory would almost certainly deliver more value. Plus, it'd enjoy the benefit of a cheaper and more power-friendly memory technology.
Instead, the Endeavor makes use of FB-DIMM memory—lauded for its performance and scalability, but known to suck down quite a bit more energy. Two of the eight FB-DIMM memory sockets on Supermicro’s X7DA3+ come populated with 1GB modules. You can naturally order the workstation with more memory and, given the demands of most workstation applications, you’d be smart to do just that. With six memory slots left available, there should be no reason to run short on RAM.
The Supermicro board Systemax uses in the Endeavor is loaded with expansion capabilities, even if the system only ships with one slot populated. Be mindful of what you plug in after-the-fact, though, because the slots’ electrical characteristics vary. You’ll find two PCI Express x16 slots—one electrically wired to run at x16 and the other connected to four PCI Express lanes. You’ll also find three 64-bit PCI-X slots enabled through Intel’s PXH-V (which is attached to the ESB2 through its own PCI Express x8 link). Two of those are 133 MHz connectors and the third is a 100 MHz slot with zero-channel RAID support. Finally, a low-profile IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) lets you connect a management card for remote control of the workstation, even when the system is powered down. Notice that all of the core logic on the Supermicro board is cooled passively. For such a feature-laden motherboard, we're really happy to see R&D dollars going to cut back on noise.
It’s also worth noting that Systemax populates three of the chassis’s four internal drive bays with Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 SATA drives. Two 500GB models are striped together in a 1TB array, while a third 250GB drive hosts all of the operating system information and program files. Bear in mind, though, that the Supermicro board also comes armed with an Adaptec AIC-9410W SAS controller. Should you thirst for 24/7 loading and faster spindle speeds, there’s always the option to go with enterprise-class SAS technology instead.
The last notable system component is NVIDIA’s Quadro FX 1700 graphics card with 512MB of memory. Dubbed a mid-range product by NVIDIA, we actually weren’t expecting much from the card. Though the 1700 doesn’t get much press, it’s actually one of the latest professional cards from NVIDIA. It features PCI Express 2.0 compatibility, support for NVIDIA’s CUDA language environment, up to 32x FSAA (unique amongst the three mainstream models NVIDIA advertises on its Web site), a unified shader architecture, and Shader Model 4.0 support. Despite a 128-bit memory path to its 512MB of DDR2 onboard memory, the FX 1700 is a respectable performer, as we’ll see in the upcoming benchmarks.
A 3.5” floppy drive, dual-layer Lite-On DVD+/-R/RW burner and Silverstone ST75ZF 750W power supply round out the Endeavor’s spec sheet. All that remains is Systemax’s workmanship inside the Chenbro enclosure. Here’s where things come together nicely. The already-intelligent layout inside Chenbro’s SR10566 leaves plenty of room for cooling and cabling. Systemax ties back all of the exposed cabling, routing it together where possible, and sticking it to the sides and bottom of the chassis, away from fans. Although nothing that Systemax does here is particularly unique, it’s safe to say that the Endeavor is well-built both inside and out.