cameras & lenses

computers & cpus
dj gear
fans & heatsinks
lifestyle products

power supplies


active hardware

unique hardware
Virtual Hideout

e-mail us
hadbai ltd


Compaq W8000 1.7 GHz Xeon 10/10

DJ Voice 2001 Mark - 241

There's a saying that you won't get fired by your boss if you buy an IBM. The same is now true of Compaq, one of the world's largest computer manufacturers. This W8000, released June 2001, shows us why Compaq has such a good reputation. everything about it exudes attention to detail. There is also a cheaper W6000 which offers similar performance, but with less room for expansion and the motherboard chipset is slightly different as well. Turning the W8000 on, you find that it is extremely quiet. Even when the high speed SCSI is in motion you can only hear small ticks. Please note that the Live Drive! seen in the above picture is not included with the machine.

At the front there are two USB ports, a headphone out port, microphone in, the usual array of lights and also a network light, which indicates whether the computer is connected to a network. Inside the large case, there are 4 PCI slots and 2 64 bit PCI slots (for high speed RAID and SCSI cards). There is also a AGP Pro 4x slot filled by an NVIDIA Quadro2 MXR 32 MB card - there is a slightly cheaper Matrox 32 MB card. There is a more expensive graphics card available. It can comfortably run Windows at very high resolutions such as 1900 x 1200! It is truely amazing to see games like Unreal Tournament running at such a high resolution. It has an analogue monitor and a digital DVI monitor output, which can be used simultaneously. My review model came with no monitor (it costs extra). There are wide range of monitors to choose from made by Compaq, including cheap models and expensive LCD monitors. The network card, Ultra 100 ATA interface, Ultra 160 SCSI card (with a 68 pin external port) and a Soundblaster 128 are all integrated onto the motherboard, saving valuable PCI slots. The sound card is reasonable for office apps, but if your a musician I recommend buying a Yamaha or SB Live card. Installing my additional sound card was easy, since the computer seemed to automatically disable the motherboard sound card. On a riser card sits the 1 GB of high speed (and very expensive) 800 MHz ECC RAMBUS memory. Behind this there is a large cube, which is the Xeon 1.7 GHz processor and next to that there is a space another one, which you can install at any time in the future. The Xeon differs from an ordinary Pentium IV in that it has more cache, so it can handle multiple tasks better, which is why many servers are Xeon based. The processor(s) sit behind a transparent plastic cover which channels cooling air over them. The sheer size of the machine (seen below - the larger machine on the left is the Compaq and the smaller machine on the right is the Dell) means there is more room for air to flow. Good cooling is very important to maintain high reliability. The case is also large because the Compaq contains a larger motherboard for dual processors. Software preinstalled on the machine, warns you if the temperature of your system increases and also alerts you to any impending hard disk or other hardware failures. Other software installed includes Win2000 or WinNT if you prefer. I was not able to test out the machine with two processors however, I suspect the DJ Voice 2001 Mark would have been double that of the single processor machine, especially when running dual-optimised apps like Photoshop or Premiere.

This is an incredibly fast machine, even with programmes that I tested with it which aren't P4 optimised. This is simply because every component is of the highest quality and there are simply no bottlenecks within the system. The 18GB hard disk can read/write 30 MB/s. My Dell with a similar hard disk (but slower SCSI card) transfers 20 MB/s. Consequently running MiniDV video on it, through a DV500 poses no problem, and it should be able to handle higher standards of video without any problems. The CD-ROM is connected to the computer via an IDE interface.

Although this machine is mainly targeted at graphics professionals or office executives, it performs impressively with music apps. For example Sonar XL is a fine programme but on my 600 MHz applying several realtime filter and soft synths, brings the machine to its knees. On the Compaq, Sonar comfortably runs many filters and soft synths with the CPU running at 50% (rather than at 98%) and that is without any special DSP sound card. Adding an extra processor would significantly increase the number of filters and soft synths which could be run. With a 241 DJ Voice 2001 Mark it is quicker than my SCSI upgraded Dell (191 Mark). If you want outright power than buy this machine, especially if you plan to run power hungry apps like Sonar, Photoshop, Premiere etc. If you are only running Office, then go for a cheaper machine, since you won't be fully utlilising the power that this workstation has to offer. It is expensive but you get what you pay for (this machine costs $4500/£3000 - basically because of the 1 GB RAM). However, if you prefer you can opt for less RAM and a lesser graphics card to cut costs, and you can always upgrade it when memory becomes cheaper. For example another W8000 machine better suited for musicians costs £3000, but is configured with a 17" monitor, 512 MB RAM, same fast 18 GB SCSI disk, cheaper graphics card and two processors (£2600 for a single processor machine). Remember in the future you can easily slot in an extra processor to get an instant power boost with dual processor optimised apps - so this computer will effectively last longer than a similar single processor only machine. I can see many musicians and producers buying this machine, with a Yamaha or Terratec sound card, instead of getting a ProTools system (which costs even more and only accelerates the operation of special TDM plugins - unlike the Compaq which will accelerate anything you throw at it!) It will be interesting to see whether the Xeon is as successful as the P3 Xeon chip, given the arrival of dual processor capable machines running the Athlon MP.

I generally don't photograph the insides of computers, but I thought that most readers won't have seen a dual processor machine before. You can see the white square at the centre of the computer, which is a space for an extra Xeon and the plastic cover over it. The cooling system is totally enclosed and Compaq has told me that this is a unique design. They also say that the motherboard supports CPUs over 2 GHz, Intel's new generation of processors. This should decrease the long term cost of the machine, since upgrading won't require changing the motherboard or memory.