Boston Venom 2401-12T review

Top-of-the-range professional workstation

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Our Verdict

This is a winning combination of the latest Haswell-based Xeon processors, DDR4 RAM and Nvidia Quadro K6000 graphics which will be hard to beat – but it's far from cheap.

For

  • New Xeon E5-2600 v3 CPUs plus DDR4 RAM
  • Nvidia Quadro K6000 video controller
  • Roomy tower casing with liquid cooling

Against

  • High price tag
  • Large black tower casing is hardly a design icon
  • Storage side of the spec could do with attention

The latest addition to Boston's Venom workstation family, the Venom 2401-12T, benefits from an all-new Supermicro motherboard able to accommodate both the recently released Haswell-based Xeon E5-2600 v3 processors and ultra-fast DDR4 memory.

Add to that an Nvidia Quadro K6000 to look after the video and you have a high-end professional workstation very much aimed at digital design creatives, engineers and others looking for the ultimate in video processing capabilities.

Tower of power

Housed in the same large and imposing desk-side tower casing as the previous Ivy Bridge Venom, the new workstation is well-built and easy to service via a fully removable side panel. Power comes from a 1200W Platinum level PSU and there's plenty of room for expansion should the need arise.

The motherboard sits at the back of the tower and has two sockets able to take any of the new Xeon E5-2600 v3 family, which includes processors with 4 to 18 cores driven at clock speeds of up to 3.5GHz.

Promising to improve performance by up to 90% compared to previous Ivy Bridge Xeons, most of the new chips are aimed at the server market. However, the system we tested was fitted with a couple of 10-core E5-2687W v3 processors, the "W" indicating that the chip is designed specifically for workstation use.

It's easy to work out why as, although clocked at a "mere" 3.1GHz, the E5-2687W is rated at 160 Watt and, as such, would be hard to keep cool in a typical rack-mount server, especially in a dual-socket configuration. Workstation customers also have a habit of over-clocking their processors with the motherboard on the new Venom allowing the clock rate to be boosted by up to 4%.

Cool as a cucumber

Fortunately cooling is far less of a problem in a roomy desk-side tower, but just to be on the safe side Boston has opted for liquid cooling with the added benefit of quieter operation compared to conventional fans.

Support for DDR4 memory has also been added, courtesy of the new Intel C612 chipset, boosting memory bandwidth and, at the same time, reducing power consumption. And you get plenty of it, the Venom shipping with an impressive 128GB of ECC-protected RAM, clocked at 2133MHz and connected to each processor by four separate memory channels.

DDR4

The Venom uses quad-channel DDR4 RAM (lower DIMM) clocked at 2133MHz

As might be expected, the big tower case also has a decent amount of room for storage, although the standard specification is fairly modest, starting with a pair of conventional 2TB SATA hard disks configured as a RAID 1 (mirrored) pair plus a 240GB SSD for use, primarily, as a high-speed scratch drive. A Blu-ray re-writer is also included in the base spec which is finished off by six USB 3.0 ports to connect external devices and two Gigabit Ethernet ports for networking.

All about the video

The one thing we haven't mentioned is the video and, in theory, you can have whatever controller you like (GPU in workstation-speak). But, as befits a high-end workstation, Boston has opted for a top of the range Quadro K6000 from Nvidia to put inside this particular workstation.

Venom 2401 12T with Quadro 6000

The most important component, the K6000 GPU, is lost inside the Venom tower

Equipped with 2,880 CUDA processing cores and 12GB of dedicated video RAM, this beast of a GPU can handle just about any graphics-intensive task you care to throw at it, and display the results on up to four monitors using a mix of DVI and DisplayPort interfaces. On the downside it takes up two expansion slots, and at 225W it adds considerably to the power and cooling requirements, although the Venom certainly has the ability to meet both those requirements and handle additional graphics cards besides

We booted the Venom into Windows 7 for our evaluation and, to be fair, couldn't see much of a difference compared to a well-specified desktop PC when using Office and other standard productivity tools. But then that's to be expected, and it's with graphics-intensive applications that the Venom really shines, the combination of much faster processors, DDR4 RAM and the Quadro K6000 enabling the Boston workstation to turn in some impressive scores using Cinebench R15.

Venom 2401 12T Cinebench R15

The Venom 2401-12T scored highly running Cinebench R15

The workstation clocked in at 187.31 FPS in the OpenGL test, and the CPU recorded a score of 3193cb. See the full results in the above image.