It’s No Mystery: The BOXX APEXX Enigma S3 is a Desktop Powerhouse Video Review
Michael Alba posted on September 10, 2019 |

The BOXX APEXX Enigma S3. (Image courtesy of BOXX.)

The BOXX APEXX Enigma S3. (Image courtesy of BOXX.)

When you need the processing power for the toughest of tasks—whether it’s ray tracing that architectural model, running that gigantic nonlinear analysis, or editing that beastly SOLIDWORKS assembly—you need a desktop workstation. Today, we’ll be taking a look at one such powerhouse: the BOXX APEXX Enigma S3.

NB: This review is sponsored by BOXX, but the results presented herein have been obtained directly by engineering.com.

The Specs

On the outside, the BOXX APEXX Enigma S3 looks a lot like the BOXX APEXX S3 that we reviewed last year. It’s got that same great aluminum chassis that feels both rugged and premium. The front has a honeycomb mesh for airflow, with the power buttons and a couple of USB and audio ports topping it off. Then it’s that aircraft-grade, Texas-made aluminum all the way round to the back, where the other numerous I/O ports reside.

The custom chassis on the Enigma S3 makes it easy to access the machine’s internals—to add or swap components, or simply to admire the circuitry. Simply loosen the thumbscrews on the back right side of the chassis, and the right-side plate slides off easily.

The Enigma S3 expands upon the standard S3 by offering a greater selection of GPUs and a bigger 1000W power supply (compared to the S3’s 750W). The Enigma S3 comes with two full bandwidth x16 PCIe lanes—twice as many as the S3. It also adds optimization for multi-GPU tasks.

There are two options for CPUs in the Enigma S3, both of which have 8 cores and a base clock speed of 3.6GHz. In either case, the CPU is liquid cooled to provide a quieter user experience. Here are the CPUs on offer (the asterisk denotes our review unit):

  • *Intel Core i9-9900K (8 core, 16MB cache, 3.6GHz up to 5.0GHz Turbo, 95W, vPro)
  • Intel Core i7-9700K (8 core, 12MB cache, 3.6GHz up to 4.9GHz Turbo, 95W)

The Core i9-9900K in our review unit was overclocked all the way to 5.0GHz, a service that BOXX provides to eliminate the stress of overclocking yourself (overclocking isn’t exactly a difficult procedure, but do it wrong and you could fry your chip). The frequency boost makes a big difference, too, as many professional CAD applications are single threaded. As such, the performance of these applications is directly tied to the clock frequency. More cores aren’t going to hurt—they help with multitasking and some applications certainly do take advantage of them—but they aren’t doing anything to speed up AutoCAD, SOLIDWORKS, Inventor and other CAD programs.

There are 18 different GPUs supported by the Enigma S3, and you can configure the workstation with up to three of them. That’s an unreal amount of graphics power. Our system had two NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000s, recently released graphics cards with NVIDIA’s latest microarchitecture. Here’s the whole list of supported cards:

  • NVIDIA Quadro P1000 (4GB)
  • NVIDIA Quadro P2000 (5GB)
  • NVIDIA Quadro P2200 (4GB)
  • NVIDIA Quadro P4000 (8GB)
  • NVIDIA Quadro P5000 (16GB)
  • NVIDIA Quadro P6000 (24GB)
  • NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000 (8GB)
  • **NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 (16GB)
  • NVIDIA Quadro RTX 6000 (24GB)
  • NVIDIA Quadro RTX 8000 (48GB)
  • NVIDIA Quadro GV100 (32GB)
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 (8GB)
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 (11GB)
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080TI (11GB)
  • AMD Radeon Pro WX4100 (4GB)
  • AMD Radeon Pro WX5100 (8GB)
  • AMD Radeon Pro WX7100 (8GB)
  • AMD Radeon Pro WX9100 (16GB)

The Quadro RTX 5000 card is the most powerful we’ve ever had the chance to test. It’s not the granddaddy of Quadro cards (that title goes to the RTX 8000), but the RTX 5000 is certainly no slouch, and the Enigma S3 dual wields a pair of them without breaking a sweat. The RTX cards bring real-time ray tracing into play, which enables photorealistic rendering at record speed. While this technology is still in the early stages, software players like Unity are already working to accommodate the RTX hardware.

The two NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 graphics cards in our Enigma S3 review unit.
The two NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 graphics cards in our Enigma S3 review unit.

The Enigma S3’s memory can also be configured in a variety of ways:

There are likewise many options for storage, with primary storage being given to two M.2 slots that can be configured with 512GB, 1TB or 2TB SSDs. For secondary storage, there are two 3.5-inch drive bays that can be configured with 240GB, 480GB, 1.6TB, 2TB or 4TB SSD, or 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10TB of hard drive storage. Each bay can also be split into two 2.5-inch drives. We had the minimum of 512GB of SSD storage in our review unit, but the system can be maxed out with a hearty 24TB SSD/hard drive combo.

The Enigma S3’s Seasonic power supply unit (PSU) provides 1000W, so configurations that exceed this total power budget will not be possible. The GPU power budget is 700W. If you’re unsure whether your desired configuration will make the cut, you can test it out on BOXX’s website. The PSU itself has an external toggle that can be used to switch between two modes: Hybrid and Normal. In Normal mode, the PSU’s fan will run continuously; in Hybrid mode, the fan will turn on only when the PSU gets sufficiently warm. We kept our review unit in Normal mode for the duration of testing.

The Enigma S3 boasts a wide selection of ports. On the front are two USB 3.1 ports and an Audio Out/Mic In. On the back are four USB 3.1, two USB 3.0, one USB-C, two Ethernet, Audio Out/Mic In/Line In, an HDMI, and a DisplayPort. The two RTX 5000 cards in our review unit add an additional four DisplayPorts and one Thunderbolt each.

The Enigma S3’s ports.
The Enigma S3’s ports.

The price of the Enigma S3 varies wildly depending on the configuration. BOXX lists the starting price as $4,179. If you max out the specs, the Enigma will cost you almost 10 times as much at $40,332. Fortunately, you won’t need to go to that extreme—our review unit configuration came in at $8,994, and it’s plenty powerful for most use cases.

The Performance

With its 5GHz overclocked processor and dual Quadro RTX graphics cards, the BOXX APEXX Enigma S3 is a force to be reckoned with. It crushed the SPECviewperf 13 benchmark, a test of a computer’s performance in graphics-intensive applications. This benchmark evaluates popular CAD programs, including SOLIDWORKS, Siemens NX, PTC Creo, CATIA, Maya and more. Here are the Enigma S3’s results in each category, averaged across three iterations of SPECviewperf 13:

Viewset

Test1

Test2

Test3

Average

3dsmax-06

233.16

233.93

235.19

234.09

catia-05

317.2

318.66

344.83

326.90

creo-02

348.76

281.17

348.56

326.16

energy-02

57.23

56.61

56.31

56.72

maya-05

369.16

370.26

367.26

368.89

medical-02

105.86

105.62

105.73

105.74

showcase-02

139.37

139.65

139.61

139.54

snx-03

506.18

506.34

494.99

502.50

sw-04

198.31

198.73

198.47

198.50

For the sake of reference, here’s how these results compare to two other powerful computers we’ve reviewed this year: the Eurocom Sky X4C and Dell Precision 7530. Note that those are both mobile workstations, not desktops, so the difference in performance is greater than it might be for a desktop competitor. Still, even the beefed-up Sky X4C gaming laptop (with the same CPU as the BOXX) pales in comparison to the Enigma S3.

SPECworkstation, another SPEC benchmark, tests a computer’s overall workstation performance for different industry segments, including Product Development, Media and Entertainment, Energy, General Operations and more. Just as with the graphical benchmark, the Enigma S3 performed astoundingly well in SPECworkstation. Here are the Enigma’s results compared to the same mobile workstations as before:

It’s no competition, despite the similar CPU specs in all three machines. It’s inevitable that a desktop workstation will be more powerful than a laptop, but the extent to which the Enigma S3 outperforms these computers is surprising nonetheless.

The final benchmark we ran was PassMark PerformanceTest, a general test of a computer’s performance. Again, the Enigma S3 smashes the competition.

The Enigma S3 takes the cake in all categories, although some of the scores aren’t too far off from those of the Eurocom. The two computers share the same CPU, but the Eurocom’s processor wasn’t overclocked and so was capped at the base speed of 3.6GHz.

Finally, we put the Enigma S3 to a more practical test with a seat of SOLIDWORKS 2019. The CAD software ran well for smaller parts, opening files quickly and manipulating them easily. However, with larger models, even the 5GHz clock wasn’t enough to enable a seamless experience. For example, a large STEP file of a Mercedes-Benz AMG GT took almost five minutes to open. Our attempts to rotate and edit the model were often exercises in patience, as selecting too many faces at once would inevitably cause the software to halt.

Testing SOLIDWORKS 2019 on the BOXX APEXX Enigma S3.
Testing SOLIDWORKS 2019 on the BOXX APEXX Enigma S3.

We also ran the SOLIDWORKS Performance Test, which benchmarks how well the application runs on a given system. The tests give a time score, with a lower score indicating a faster hardware runtime. Here’s how the Enigma S3 fared:

SOLIDWORKS Performance Test

Test

Description

Result (seconds)

Graphics

Measures the ability to rotate, zoom and pan models smoothly

8.1

Processor

Measures how long SOLIDWORKS takes to complete CPU-based activities

20.9

I/O

Measures how long SOLIDWORKS takes to open and save files

21.2

Overall

Sum of Graphics, Processor and I/O scores

50.2

Rendering

Measures the time needed for PhotoView 360 to complete a rendering

5.3

RealView Performance

Measures the lag of rotating, zooming and panning large models

6.6

Simulation

Measures the time needed to run a static analysis design study

44.5

Here’s how these results compare to other systems submitted by SOLIDWORKS users:

While the Enigma S3 is well within the top range for RealView, Graphics, and Render, it’s off the mark in CPU and I/O (the Simulation score is not available for comparison, for some reason). It’s not clear why this is the case—we expected the overclocked i9 to easily be among the top CPUs.

We also tested out SOLIDWORKS Visualize, which far more than SOLIDWORKS can take advantage of those dual Quadro RTX 5000s. Accordingly, Visualize was a smooth experience the whole way through. Even the larger test models presented no problems. We could rotate, change materials, and complete renders quickly and with no frustrating system freezes.

Testing SOLIDWORKS Visualize on the BOXX APEXX Enigma S3.
Testing SOLIDWORKS Visualize on the BOXX APEXX Enigma S3.

With Great Power Comes a High Price Tag

Professionals in engineering, architecture and creative media swear by their BOXX workstations, and it’s easy to see why. The BOXX APEXX Enigma S3 is a phenomenal desktop workstation that’s equal to the most demanding tasks. It’s easily the most powerful computer we’ve reviewed this year (though most of our previous reviews were for mobile workstations, so take that with a grain of salt).

The price for that power is, well, the price of the Enigma S3. At just under $9,000, the Enigma S3 as configured in our review unit does not come cheap. Here’s the price/performance comparison of our 2019 reviews:

Overall, the BOXX APEXX Enigma S3 is an excellent option for any professionals who rely on their computers to perform at top speed (and with BOXX’s professional overclocking, perhaps even faster than that).

This review has been sponsored by BOXX and NVIDIA. All opinions are those of engineering.com.

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