A Choice Workstation: The APEXX SE Workstation from BOXX Is Overclocked and Liquid Cooled
Andrew Wheeler posted on July 30, 2018 |

The aluminum chassis of the new APEXX Special Edition (SE) has an air filtration system that can be removed and needs 50 watts PSU power to run. The advanced liquid cooling system uses a larger radiator to keep next-generation CPUs like Intel’s 8th-generation Core i7 processors running overclocked and undercooked.

There’s also room for up to 64GB DDR4 RAM. Three GPUs can be installed inside (though certain power configurations may not work due to preset power constraints). For storage, the workstation fits three M.2 NVMe and multiple 2.5-inch SSDs or 3.5-inch high capacity hard drives.

The BOXX APEXX SE. (Image courtesy of BOXX.)
The BOXX APEXX SE. (Image courtesy of BOXX.)

If you’re using multiple GPUs for rendering in applications like SOLIDWORKS Visualize, V-Ray RT or Radeon ProRender, then having the two double slots and one single slot available on the APEXX S3 gives you options for adding your preferred GPUs.

Intel 8th-Generation Core i7 8086K LE

For designing complex 3D models in CAD software like PTC Creo, SOLIDWORKS or 3ds Max, the APEXX SE can run overclocked Core i7 8086K Limited Edition(LE) processors from Intel at a remarkably quick 5.0GHz maximum turbo frequency across all six cores. This means that design software like SOLIDWORKS —whether engaged in design, simulation or rendering workflows—runs faster (though GPUs account for the majority of horsepower in the case of the latter two).

The Intel Core i7-8086K is and LE CPU with six cores that BOXX has overclocked to run at 5.0GHz each. Without special tweaking from BOXX, the CPU likely runs at 5.0GHz on just one core, bringing into question how much better it is than the Intel Core i7-8700 CPU across all six cores. (Image courtesy of Intel.)
The Intel Core i7-8086K is an LE CPU with six cores that BOXX has overclocked to run at 5.0GHz each. Without special tweaking from BOXX, the CPU likely runs at 5.0GHz on just one core, bringing into question how much better it is than the Intel Core i7-8700 CPU across all six cores. (Image courtesy of Intel.)

In fact, workstation CPUs are not typically professionally overclocked to 5.0GHz—not even by companies like BOXX that specialize in such performance. But there is a special anniversary connected to the new Intel Core i7-8086K LE CPU that’s available in the APEXX SE. In fact, the Intel Core i7-8086K LE CPU is called “8086” to remember the x86 series processor, released 40 years ago.

The new trend in the CPU industry is the move toward six-core rather that quad core processors. This has an effect on the thermal design power (TDP) ratings of the processors. A TDP rating is a measurement in watts (W)of how much heat the computer’s cooling system can get rid of despite maximum usage. The i7 Core 8086K has a TDP of 95W, which means that it can dissipate 95 watts of heat without passing what’s known as the maximum junction temperature—the highest temperature of the CPU’s semiconductor.

In order for BOXX designers to overclock all six cores to 5.0GHz without exceeding the TDP, they had to tweak the company’s famous liquid cooling system a bit by adding a larger radiator on the APEXX SE. (Image courtesy of BOXX.)
In order for BOXX designers to overclock all six cores to 5.0GHz without exceeding the TDP, they had to tweak the company’s famous liquid cooling system a bit by adding a larger radiator on the APEXX SE. (Image courtesy of BOXX.)

By overclocking all six cores, BOXX sidesteps the relatively low performance with only one turbo core overclocked to 5.0GHz on the new Intel CPU, which isn’t very useful in terms of boosting productivity, simply because most workloads can’t take advantage of it. However, when all six cores are overclocked to 5.0GHz, both lightly threaded and multi-threaded workloads get a boost.

It’s worth noting that since all six cores of the Intel 8086K CPU are overclocked at a steady 5.0GHz, single-threaded applications like, 3ds Max, the Adobe Creative Suite, CATIA, and Autodesk Inventor and Revit will run noticeably faster on the CPU’s 12 threads, integrated graphics and 64-bit instruction set.

Performance Improvements in 3D Modeling and Rendering Applications like 3ds Max

3D modeling applications like 3ds Max don’t use multi-threading for viewports and other features. Multi-threading means using all processors and cores. Not every feature of 3ds Max can be programmed to work expeditiously by dividing up tasks among the CPU cores. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)
3D modeling applications like 3ds Max don’t use multi-threading for viewports and other features. Multi-threading means using all processors and cores. Not every feature of 3ds Max can be programmed to work expeditiously by dividing up tasks among the CPU cores. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Rendering is a multi-threaded workload in applications like 3ds Max and SOLIDWORKS Visualize. But if you are just engaged in design and have no use for faster rendering, will having all six cores overclocked speed up parts of the software like viewport display?

The short answer is yes, but it won’t be as noticeable as increases in rendering speed. The reason operations like frame rendering are easier to divide up among multiple CPU cores is because the operation of calculating and rendering a fixed-resolution frame is more easily subdivided to logical processor cores. Viewport screen redraws are difficult to subdivide in the same way because the changing nature of this real-time task causes artifacts or viewport “tearing.”

Faster Modeling, Simulation and Rendering Speeds in SOLIDWORKS

Overclocking CPUs helps increase the performance of typical SOLIDWORKS workflows like modeling and a majority of simulation operations (though some are multi-threaded)except for the Flow Simulation solver and PhotoView 360 rendering. If your workflow involves a little of everything—modeling, simulation and rendering, then a professionally overclocked Intel i7 Core 8086K may be worth the extra cost.

To begin with, finite element analysis (FEA) simulations and rendering in particular can give better performance with a higher core count CPU. If that is a major part of your workload cycle, then the benefits of having both an overclocked CPU capable of faster lightly threaded workloads and faster multi-threaded workloads should be pretty obvious.

Since chip makers like Intel are approaching the limits of Moore’s law in terms of manufacturing billions and billions of transistors at the same rate for each chipset, they are stuck in a catch-22: the cost to make improvements increases while the performance no longer reliably doubles. So, for SOLIDWORKS and other CAD software users, the main question for Intel is always: how much faster is this CPU than the previous generation?

In the case of Intel’s i7 Core 8086K versus the 8700K, there isn’t much of a difference besides the single turbo core running at 5.0GHz. However, with all six cores overclocked to 5.0GHz, the difference between the two is more noticeable: instead of 4.3GHz across all six cores, you get 5.0GHz across all of them.

In SOLIDWORKS, your workflow probably runs the gamut from any or some of the following: opening, rebuilding and saving assemblies of various size and complexity, performing motion studies, moving complex assemblies, FEA simulations, flow simulations and rendering. Without the overclocking of all six cores by BOXX, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone to suggest that the Intel i7 Core 8086K would be worth adding if you’re doing 3D modeling and design in SOLIDWORKS.

And it’s not just rendering—some simulation operations that use multi-threading include line generation, mass properties, body check, silhouettes, file conversion, file save, file open, and user interface activities like redraw and dialog box as well.

SOLIDWORKS Visualize is mutable in terms of using CPU cores, CUDA cores (on NVIDIA GPUs), or a hybrid that users run of just a single GPU or multiple GPUs. With an NVIDIA Quadro P2000 installed in the APEXX BOXX SE, SOLIDWORKS Visualize will work well with simple and complex assemblies, though extremely large and complex assemblies may push beyond the capability of the GPU and cause the system to revert to using the CPU, which is much slower at rendering. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)
SOLIDWORKS Visualize is mutable in terms of using CPU cores, CUDA cores (on NVIDIA GPUs), or a hybrid that users run of just a single GPU or multiple GPUs. With an NVIDIA Quadro P2000 installed in the APEXX BOXX SE, SOLIDWORKS Visualize will work well with simple and complex assemblies, though extremely large and complex assemblies may push beyond the capability of the GPU and cause the system to revert to using the CPU, which is much slower at rendering. (Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Cost

The cost will vary with different hardware components, but to give you an idea, a basic APEXX SE setup would come with Windows 10 Professional, the Intel Core i7-8086K LE processor, 5GB NVIDIA Quadro P2000 GPU, 16GB RAM, and a 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD, and would cost $4,081.

Bottom Line

Since BOXX is known for reliable and hyper-professional CPU overclocking, the APEXX SE is a premium product for designers, engineers and other professionals to consider. It is particularly well suited for users who are looking to boost single-threaded applications like 3D modeling, CAD, modeling and 2D image processing, as well as those who have simulation and rendering workflows mixed in on a regular basis.

BOXX has sponsored this post. They have had no editorial input to this post. All opinions are mine. —Andrew Wheeler


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