NextDimension Review: Flexing Mobile Muscles

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The NextDimension means you dont have to choose a laptop if you want portability and you don't have to lug around a full-sized workstation if you want power. All images © NextComputing.

NextComputing knows the importance of portability. Thats why they're focused on providing their customers with the industrys highest-powered mobile workstations and servers. What does that mean to you? It means that you don't have to choose a laptop if you want portability and you dont have to lug around a full-sized workstation if you want power. If youre an end user in DCC, CAD or the oil and gas industry, NextComputing may very well have the mobile solution of your dreams.

Pricing and Configuration

NextComputing gives you a lot of choice when configuring a system. From operating system to video and memory, just about everything is customizable. The FlexTop system that I reviewed, NextDimension, included an Opteron 248 (2.2GHz dual core), 4GB RAM, a Quadro FX 3500 video card, 100GB SATA hard drive, a 17" LCD with 1920x1200 native resolution and soft carrying case. All this power and portability does come at a price, however. While this system carries a retail price of $11,500, an entry level system with Windows XP Pro 64, 2GB RAM, a single core Opteron processor, SATA hard drive, DVD-RW drive, three Gigabit ethernet ports, two external SATA ports and a 1920x1200 display costs $5,000. For $23,000, you get a fully decked out system with two dual core Opteron processors, 16GB RAM, 300GB hard drive, DVD-RW drive, Quadro FX 5500 video, three Gigabit ethernet ports, two external SATA ports, a 1920x1200 display, Windows XP Pro 64 and SuSE Linux, plus NextComputings new clip-on LCD monitor with 1920x1200 resolution. It's also possible to configure a lower cost server system, thanks to the onboard ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 video.

Performance

Unlike the other systems Ive reviewed for VFXWorld, the NextDimension has only a single dual core Opteron processor inside. But that doesnt mean its lacking in power; and if you need more oomph, you can always configure a system with dual processors.

xw9300 and NextDimension SpecViewPerf 9 test results

This time, Im using an HP xw9300 as a reference system. It includes two dual core Opteron 2.4GHz (280) processors, 2GB RAM and a Quadro FX 1500 video card. Heres how the two systems stacked up:

NextDimension

SUM_RESULTS3DSMAXSUMMARY.TXT03dsmax-04 Weighted Geometric Mean = 21.77

SUM_RESULTSCATIASUMMARY.TXTcatia-02 Weighted Geometric Mean = 26.12

SUM_RESULTSENSIGHTSUMMARY.TXTensight-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 18.64

SUM_RESULTSLIGHTSUMMARY.TXTlight-08 Weighted Geometric Mean = 21.04

SUM_RESULTSMAYASUMMARY.TXTmaya-02 Weighted Geometric Mean = 19.95

SUM_RESULTSPROESUMMARY.TXTproe-04 Weighted Geometric Mean = 24.88

SUM_RESULTSSWSUMMARY.TXTsw-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 29.85

SUM_RESULTSUGNXSUMMARY.TXTugnx-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 10.78

SUM_RESULTSTCVISSUMMARY.TXTtcvis-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 5.742

The 1

HP xw9300

SUM_RESULTS3DSMAXSUMMARY.TXT3dsmax-04 Weighted Geometric Mean = 20.67

SUM_RESULTSCATIASUMMARY.TXTcatia-02 Weighted Geometric Mean =26.58

SUM_RESULTSENSIGHTSUMMARY.TXTensight-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 16.03

SUM_RESULTSLIGHTSUMMARY.TXTlight-08 Weighted Geometric Mean = 25.72

SUM_RESULTSMAYASUMMARY.TXTmaya-02 Weighted Geometric Mean = 50.99

SUM_RESULTSPROESUMMARY.TXTproe-04 Weighted Geometric Mean = 23.93

SUM_RESULTSSWSUMMARY.TXTsw-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 26.56

SUM_RESULTSUGNXSUMMARY.TXTugnx-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 8.519

SUM_RESULTSTCVISSUMMARY.TXTtcvis-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 7.376

Initially, I was a little surprised by the fact that the NextDimension scored higher on several SpecViewPerf tests until I considered the fact that the NextDimension has a Quadro FX 3500 in it, while the 9300 just has a Quadro FX 1500.

Due to its diminutive size, the system can be neatly tucked away under a desk.

3ds Max

A hardware review just wouldn't be complete without them, so here are the results of rendering the Displacement & DOF.max and Light Gallery.max scenes in 3ds Max, with the HP xw9300 as a reference system:

Light GalleryHP xw9300 2:44NextDimension 5:45

Displacement & DOF.maxHP xw9300 12:21NextDimension 24:59

Obviously, the NextDimension lagged behind the HP xw9300 in the 3ds Max render tests, which is unsurprising since the latter is equipped with two dual core Opterons clocked at 2.4GHz.

Along with 3ds Max, the NextDimension is equally content crunching away in Maya or XSI. In fact, some high-end 3D software makers are using NextDimension systems to demonstrate their products.

Going Mobile, Getting Portable

Due to its diminutive size, the system can get warm and needs a lot of cooling, resulting in an abundance of fan noise. Its not much louder than a desktop workstation, but since the display is part of the system, it's a little more noticeable than it would be if it were neatly tucked away under your desk. Of course, the new clip-on displays can make that possible. It's also lacking audio and wireless networking, which would be nice to have in a portable system. But if you require portability and your laptop just doesn't have the guts, this may be what you're looking for. Only requiring one power outlet for your system is an added bonus.

Bryan Hoff is a multifaceted artist and writer. A web designer, digital artist and animator, his credits include television effects, online games, 3D corporate animation, Flash and traditional web site design. His writing credits include articles for LinuxWorld, Element K Journals, InformIT and VFXWorld, covering topics like Photoshop effects, Linux 3D graphics applications, Web and HTML design, RSS feeds and painting with a graphics tablet. Bryan has written ebooks on blogging and web site creation for beginners and is co-author of the book Moving from Windows to Linux.

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