Xi MTower CX Review
posted on May 13, 2016 | 4908 views

Finding a design workstation that is both affordable and high performing is challenging and, at times, takes one down a path of computing mediocrity and stifled productivity. However, once the word gets out that quality, affordability and computational endurance does exist and is available for everyone to experience, your worries of gaining a worthy CAD workstation companion should cease to exist. Thank goodness for Xi’s continued push to provide great digital performance.

Xi continues to satisfy the high standards needed by designers and engineers by pushing forward with the MTower CX workstation. The internal features of this desktop are configured for rigorous productivity, and the overall structure is styled for visual appeal, space efficiency and hardware accessibility.

When first unpacking the MTower CX to conduct the review, I didn’t expect to be dazzled by the visible inner workings of the computer’s components, but I must admit that I was. The see-through side panel enables a digital enthusiast like myself the ability to marvel over the internal hardware connections and lighted devices affixed to the motherboard.(See Figure 1.)

As an added bonus, a compact 15.6- x10.2- x12.6-in,cuboid-shaped box that houses the CX components stood as the ideal chassis size and is a great look for an office or home work area. The compact size of the unit minimizes the amount of desk space that is typically taken up by a computer of greater dimensions.

Nonetheless, the MTower CX chassis is still capable of supporting three GPUs if desired by the user. Also, I was able to easily remove and reassemble the side panels of the MTower CX when installing and testing alternative hardware components. For me, this is a major bonus, especially if you are someone who likes to reconfigure your workstation from time to time. I tend to do this a lot.

Figure 1. The Xi MTower CX workstation. (Image courtesy of Xi Computer.)
Figure 1. The Xi MTower CX workstation. (Image courtesy of Xi Computer.)


Dissecting the MTower CX Workstation 

Now, let me take a moment to discuss the configuration of the out-of-the-box Xi Mtower CX base model. As always, my first test derives from the question of how long will it take this computer to start. In a typical scenario, this is usually fairly fast with a new system then potentially slows down with the addition of multiple applications that tend to do their own thing after a while and couldn’t care less about your needs of “right now.” The result involves you waiting for several minutes for the startup. Now, of course, I did not have this problem with this new, polished MTower CX workstation. The startup was superfast and surprisingly quiet. Even after I loaded several design applications and after running the workstation for hours, the CX did not disappoint me.

The MTower CX’s computing performance is driven by a six-core/12-thread Intel Xeon E5-1650 processor, with a clock speed of 4.2 GHz and a sealed water-cooling, dual-fan radiator. The sixcores’ dual cooling complement and give an extra boost of processing power to the overall system. Also, the unit produced low heat and minimal noise—even after running continuously for many hours and when opening large files. Further, as an added bonus, 16-GBDDR4 of RAM is incorporated into the base model, which performs at 2,666 MHz and, as a standard, yields low power consumption.

The as-reviewed MTower CX base model was paired with a Quadro M4000 GPU, which performed at a solid level while I performed 3D modeling operations using Autodesk Inventor design applications. Yes, at this point the high-end, yet cost-effective, workstation has impressive power and stability. Stalling was not an option for this compact computing beast.

From my experience using this workstation, the configured Xeon processor, along with the Quadro M4000, 16 GB of RAM and onboard Windows 10 operating system was enough to give the XiMTower CX a top-notch performance rating for CAD modeling and reliability. However, I had to raise the stakes by testing the CX performance while under the influence of a higher- and mid-ranged GPU. I figured I would take advantage of the accessible CX chassis and pair the workstation with two additional GPU cards to see how the performance would vary. Both the Quadro M2000 and Quadro M5000 were added and tested. This takes a step above the M4000 and a step below. The results of each test are referenced throughout this review and illustrated in the benchmarking section.


Graphical Power

I had the opportunity to test the stability and performance of (three) NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards, which were inclusive of the M2000, M4000 and M5000. I must say that while each card varied in price and performance, all were good complements to the hardware configuration within the Xi MTower CX.

The lower-cost M2000, which is a mid-range graphics card, really held its own against the premium M4000 and M5000 giants. While the model rendering and design productivity wasn’t as robust as what I experienced when using the high-end M4000 and M5000 cards, it still got the job done in an efficient manner.

This is a necessary benefit that a designer, gamer or digital enthusiast needs from a workstation, along with efficiency, reliability and power—all of which are characteristics that each graphics card possessed. Each card paired well with the MTower CX’s onboard technologies and produced an impressive visual quality.

Further, the M4000and M5000 graphics cards carried a more substantial set of benefits, such as realistic 3D renderings, efficient response to user movement and overall visual aesthetics. As a result, the cost does rise slightly for these higher-end components, but this is expected from premium, highly-productive graphical processing units. Nonetheless, every design scenario that I used while operating the Inventor application remained stable when testing all three of the graphics cards. 3D part creation, along with the assembly of components and animation playbacks, was not a problem on the configured MTower CX.(See Figure 2.)





Figure 2. Autodesk Inventor part and assembly created on the Xi MTower CX. (Image courtesy of the author.)


Benchmarking the MTower CX Performance

As an extended test of computing endurance and processing power for the MTower CX, I ran several benchmarks that were inclusive of Cinebench, SPECviewperf and PassMark. Several scores were generated to measure the systems performance while incorporating the Quadro M5000, M4000 and M2000 GPUs separately.

The Cinebench was generated for the reviewed MTower CX, testing both the CPU processing power and the performance of the connected graphics card. During the test, the workstation’s hardware configuration is pushed to the limit through several 3D scene renderings. The measured results reveal the overall scores. The higher the results, the greater the performance of the system.

The configured Intel Xeon processor, coupled with the Quadro M5000 GPU in Figure 5 clearly outshines both the M4000 and M2000. However, the lower-performing graphics cards are still productive and provide an intense user experience at a reasonable price. For instance, even though the mid-range M2000’s frames per second are the lowest at 156.42, the CPU score pushes slightly beyond the two high-end graphics cards to 1,203. As an added bonus, each of the tested Quadro graphics cards are built for multiple (four) monitor inputs, which are great for dual monitor users. See the Cinebench scores for each hardware configuration in Figures 3, 4 and 5. Also, both a visual and spec for each GPU model can be viewed on the NVIDIA site.

Figure 3. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M2000.
Figure 3. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M2000.
Figure 4. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M4000.
Figure 4. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M4000.
Figure 5. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M5000.
Figure 5. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M5000.

Next, the SPECviewperf 12.0 benchmarks were run to test and illustrate the graphics performance of the MTower CX. Each of the graphics card configurations for the Quadro M2000, M4000 and M5000 was tested. The higher overall composite scores illustrate the better-performing application performance, as measured through the rigors of the hardware test. See Figures 6, 7 and 8.

As illustrated in the SPECviewperf 12.0 results shown in Figures 6, 7 and 8, the score for each GPU configuration increases slightly with each model change. For instance, when the M5000 is paired with the MTower CX, the application performance is more superior than they would be with the M2000 or M4000 cards. When reviewing how the SOLIDWORKS and CATIA applications will perform, there is a significant elevation in the composite scores between the M2000 and M5000. However, you must keep in mind that there is also a significant cost difference between the two cards.

From my experience in using all of the graphics cards with the MTower CX and testing the reliability when modeling in Autodesk Inventor, I didn’t notice much difference between the M4000 and M5000. Also, while the M2000 didn’t produce the extreme 3D modeling experience as the high-end cards, it was still a reliable component for robust computing. In fact, the M2000 is considered to be a great graphics companion for desktop workstations when using Autodesk’s Inventor 2016 for medium assemblies. See NVIDIA’s recommended graphics solutions chart for Inventor.

Figure 6. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M2000.
Figure 6. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M2000.
Figure 7. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M4000.
Figure 7. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M4000.
Figure 8. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M5000.
Figure 8. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M5000.

The final benchmark that I ran was the PassMark test. It is a measure of several performance metrics such as processing speed, 3D and 2D graphics and memory. It also tests your hardware components and compares them to similar brands. Overall scores of 6,201, 6,284 and 6,464 were achieved, respectively, for the as-reviewed hardware configurations. See Figures 9, 10 and 11.

Figure 9. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M2000.
Figure 9. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M2000.
Figure 10. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M4000.
Figure 10. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M4000.
Figure 11. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M5000.
Figure 11. Xi MTower CX test for the Quadro M5000.


MTower CX Pricing Structure

The base configuration of the MTower CX is competitively priced at $1,339, which is a bargain when considering the hardware and compact chassis options. When adding the as-reviewed configured Xeon E5-1650 processor, along with the premium graphics card options that I swapped out for performance testing, the MTower CX prices come in at around:

$2,942.50

M2000 GPU

$3,246.74

M4000 GPU

$4,173.00

M5000 GPU

Now, the average desktop computer user may find reason to gawk at those prices, but the real power users know that top-notch quality, reliability and 3D performance doesn’t come cheap. However, Xi has still managed to pack an abundance of power into the MTower CX cube without going too extreme with cost. The designer, gamer or extreme computing enthusiast will definitely get their money’s worth out of any of the alternative configurations that I have tested. See the base pricing below.

PART#

DESCRIPTION

PRICE

00015

Xi MTower CX Workstation (Base Configuration)

$1,339.00

01055

SixCore/12 Threads Intel Xeon E5-1650 v3 @4.2GHzHi-Perf. Sealed Water Cooling Dual Fan Radiator, 15MB Shared L3 Cache5GT/s DMII140Ww/Artic Silver 5 Thermal Compound(2666MHz RAM, X99 motherboard anddual radiator supporting case only).

$799.00

02321

16GB DDR4 @ 2666MHz High Performance Aluminum Heat Spreader.

$89.00

04576

NVIDIA Quadro M4000 8GB DDR5 Maxwell Architecture PCIe 16x 2.04xDP 1.2,1x Stereo, 3D Pro SupportDX11-OGL 4.3, Shad.M 5.0-Supports four monitors.

$739.00

05015

No monitor (credit).

($100.00)

03199

256GB Solid State Drive Samsung SM951 M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 2150/1200MB/s Seq.R/W 512MB Cache Buffer <.3ms seek Shock Resistant 1500G. (Not to be used as boot drive on ECC RAM based systems.)

$189.00

32129

Optional 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s Seagate Barracuda 64MB Cache NCQ ST1000DM003

$99.00

17012

HDD Std Ctrl. accordingly to motherboard and HDD type selected.

Incl. w/ Base

06067

No internal optical drive bay available for this model.

Incl. w/ Base

41031

No optical drive selected.

Incl. w/ Base

10001

No external speakers option.

Incl. w/ Base

12022

On-Board Dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet LAN accordingly to motherboard specifications.

Incl. w/ Base

13001

Logitech USB Corded Black Windows Standard Keyboard.

Incl. w/ Base

14010

Logitech USB Corded 2+ Wheel Mouse Black Optical. (For best CAD use, we do recommend an upgraded mouse from our selection other than a basic.)

Incl. w/ Base

16118

Genuine Microsoft Windows 10 Professional 64-bit fully installed, configured and updated, includes original DVD media and COA (subject to drivers support availability on some devices/features).

$159.00

22340

ASUS X99-M WS mATX Intel X99 Chipset-2xPCIe 3.0 x16-1xPCIe x8 on x16-1xPCIe x1-64GB Max Quad Ch.DDR4 3200(OC)/2133-2xGbE LAN-BT 4.0+WiFi 802.11ac-1xM.2 Socket3(SATA & PCIE Mode)-8xSATA 6Gb/s RAID 0/1/5/10-HD Audio-8CH-2xUSB 3.1/8xUSB 3.0/2.0-Micro ATX

Incl. w/ Base

44051

850W Rosewill Glacier 850M 80 Plus Bronze Certified Single 12V+ Rail Silent 135mm 2 Ball-bearing Fan 82-87 percent efficiency Active PFC PSU

Incl. w/ Base

27283

Xi MTower CX Compact Cube 2x12cm, Quiet Fans High Airflow -2xFront USB 3.0-HD Audio-Internal bays only: 3x3.5 in-3x2.5 in-Micro ATX Motherboards only(supports Dual 12cm Fan Radiator for O.C.)-Dim.(DxWxH): 15.6x10.2x12.6 in.

Incl. w/ Base

18001

Standard Xi Warranty with Express Advance Parts Replacement, Lifetime Tech Support, Three Year Labor FOB Xi, One Year on system parts. Manufacturer warranty on software, monitors and external accessories.(Freight both ways paid for parts only inside U.S.and CA).

Incl. w/ Base

47006

Read Me First Leaflet, helps you getting started and answers FAQs about your new system.

Incl. w/ Base

47007

Resource Media DVD — Warranty, User's Guide info and Device Drivers for the preinstalled Windows OS, if applicable.

Incl. w/ Base

47020

Intel Inside Brand Processor Label affixed to the new PC.

Incl. w/ Base

47022

Certificate of Authenticity label for the preinstalled Microsoft Windows OS purchased with new PC. The Windows Product key sticker is affixed to the right side of the system (on rackmounts can be found on rear/left/top panel), if applicable.

Incl. w/ Base

47028

Shipping box andpackaging material — Keeping the original box and packaging for your system at least up to the warranty period is highly recommended.

Incl. w/ Base


Conclusion

Overall, Xi’s MTower CX provides an impressive, top-notch computing experience that would be more than fitting for any designer, engineer, 3D animator or robust data analyst. The compact design of the workstation structure is suitable for desktops and offices with limited spaces, but don’t let the size of the chassis fool you. The MTower CX is packed with an abundance of power and is built for high productivity and design efficiency. Additionally, the MTower CX has many benefits as a base model, but it can be configured to extend the performance to extreme heights. Some of the additional system components include:
  • (6) USB 3.1 connections
  • (2) USB 3.0 connections
  • (2) rear Ethernet connections for networking
  • Front and rear headphone and microphone inputs
  • Several rear expansion slots for hardware additions
  • Several rear monitor input options

Xi’s MTower CX is a top-notch CAD workstation and would be a great companion for anyone seeking a stable computing experience. For more information on the MTower CX, visit the Xi Computer product webpage. Also, feel to leave a comment below to discuss your best CAD workstation configuration experiences.

Xi Computer Corporation has sponsored this post. They have no editorial input. All opinions are mine. —Alexander Murray

About the Author





Alexander Murray is an instructional designer and developer for a mid-sized organization in Central Ohio. Murray is also an adjunct engineering technology instructor at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio, and has more than 14 years of engineering design and training experience in both the mechanical and civil industries. His education includes an AAS in mechanical engineering technology; a bachelor of science in industrial technology from Kent State University; a master of science in industrial and systems engineering from Ohio University; and he is currently completing a PhD in instructional technology from Ohio University.

Recommended For You