When we talk about workstation systems, the elephants in the room are typically Dell and HP, with Lenovo still going strong in ThinkPad sales and Apple picking up the rear for content professionals. Yet there remains a fairly vibrant market for system integrators to produce more specialized workstations. Today we have one of those systems on hand, an octalcore beauty from DigitalStorm that they dub the Slade Pro.

I've tested workstations from other system integrators in the past and I'll admit that I've often come up a bit perplexed with their component choices. I was unimpressed by some of the enthusiast level selections iBuyPower made with their Professional Series, and Puget Systems sent me a Genesis II workstation with a consumer grade graphics card in it and an unwieldy price tag. DigitalStorm faces an uphill battle; they need to compete on quality and on price because by virtue of being a smaller boutique, they're just not going to be able to compete on enterprise class service.

DigitalStorm Slade Pro Specifications
Chassis Corsair Obsidian 550D
Processor Intel Xeon E5-2687W v2
(8x3.4GHz, Turbo to 4GHz, 22nm, 25MB L3, 150W)
Motherboard ASUS Sabertooth X79
Memory 4x8GB Corsair Vengeance Pro DDR3-1866
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro K4000 3GB GDDR5
(768 CUDA Cores, 810MHz/5.6GHz core/RAM, 192-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Samsung SSD 840 Pro 256GB SATA 6Gbps SSD

Western Digital Re 4TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) ASUS BC-12B1ST BD-ROM/DVD+-RW
Power Supply Corsair CX750M 80 Plus Bronze
Networking Intel 82579V Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC892
Speaker, line-in, mic, and surround jacks
Front Side Optical drive
Card reader
2x USB 3.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Top Side -
Back Side PS/2
4x USB 3.0
6x USB 2.0
6-pin FireWire
2x eSATA
Optical out
BIOS reset
Gigabit ethernet
Speaker, line-in, mic, and surround jacks
2x DisplayPort
1x Stereo
Operating System Windows 7 Professional SP1 64-bit
Dimensions 20.9" x 8.7" x 19.5"
Extras Card reader
80 Plus Bronze PSU
CoolIT closed loop liquid cooler
Warranty Lifetime tech support, 1-year parts, 3-year labor
Pricing Starts at $1,881
Review system configured at $5,869

The Intel Xeon E5-2687W v2 is the fastest octalcore processor in Intel's Xeon line at present. Boasting eight cores at a nominal 3.4GHz and able to turbo up to 3.6GHz on all eight or 4GHz on a single core, it strikes a good balance between optimized single-threaded performance and more heavily threaded workloads. Dissipating its 150W TDP is a closed loop liquid cooler with two fans in a push-pull configuration, and for a system like this, that cooler is actually a fairly smart idea.

I'm a little more circumspect about the ASUS Sabertooth X79 motherboard and Corsair Vengeance Pro DDR3-1866 memory. This isn't necessarily a bad configuration, but it's not workstation class either; a proper workstation motherboard and ECC memory would, I feel, have been the right way to go.

Graphics duties are thankfully handled by an NVIDIA Quadro K4000. This card is based on the GK106 chip that powers the GeForce GTX 660 and bygone GTX 650 Ti Boost. It employs a single slot cooler, but has been cut down from the stock 960 CUDA cores to 768 and runs at 810MHz, allowing the TDP to drop to a respectable 80W. The flipside is the lack of any kind of double precision performance, but for that you'd have to spend up on a much bigger and more expensive workstation card.

The storage subsystem is also a strong point. The Samsung 840 Pro SSD is a solid choice and at 256GB features a healthy amount of capacity. For mass storage, DigitalStorm equipped the Slade Pro with a 4TB 7200RPM workstation class drive from Western Digital.

Where I'm going to get fussy again are the power supply and warranty coverage. The Corsair CX750M is by no means a bad power supply, but HP went 80 Plus Gold across the board some time ago. One year parts coverage is also just not going to cut it in this industry; HP and Dell both start at three years. You could reasonably argue that DigitalStorm is trying to use higher quality parts, but that doesn't do you any good when you wind up being the unlucky one with a bad motherboard.

All in all, this isn't a bad build, but it does continue to suffer from the same reliance on consumer grade parts that other SI systems tend to.

Futuremark and Application Performance
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  • wwwcd - Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - link

    Hmm I see specs of configuration with components with max $3300 price, not for $5,869.
    processor dealer price ~$1000-1100 depending on the volume of transaction; graphic card ~$400-450, all other hardware and software components ~$1400-$1800 depending on the volume of transactions.
  • ddriver - Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - link

    Ironically, you can get a 8core 32gb ram mac pro for 5899$. There is no mechanical storage, but it does come with a PCI-E SSD and a very convenient form factor.

    DigitalStorm apparently expects profit margins comparable to those of apple without going through the effort to engineer an actual product.
  • ddriver - Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - link

    Also, 1 year parts warranty? When there is hardly a part of this system that comes with at least 2 or more years of warranty? Those guys suck... so greedy and lazy...
  • ddriver - Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - link

    Let me guess what is going to happen if god forbid a part fails after that year... they will ask the consumer pay for a new one, but get a replacement from the part manufacturer for free - and cash in everything...

    Thanks but no thanks, considering there is nothing custom about this system, you are far better ordering the parts and building it yourself, you will save yourself half the money AND build a better system with more warranty... And even if you are clueless enough to not be able to build it yourself, there are plenty of people who can do it for substantially less than 3500$ LOL...
  • homer_pickett - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - link

    I agree... and either way it stand no chance to other desktops such as CybertronPC Borg-Q GM4213C. /Homer from http://www.consumertop.com/best-desktop-guide/
  • WinterCharm - Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - link

    Funny enough, the mac pro is a better deal than this pc. Hahahaha you know your pc prices are out of proportion when.... ;)
  • RhinosRule - Thursday, April 24, 2014 - link

    Mac Pro advocates should check this out:
  • ddriver - Friday, April 25, 2014 - link

    I did not put it because I advocate mac pro or apple, but as example of something shamelessly and ridiculously overpriced. And as much as I despise apple as a company, that video was lame. Who expect upgradeability from a system that is a:) small enough to hold in one hand and b:) powerful enough so you don't have to upgrade it? Only a complete idiot.
  • theduckofdeath - Friday, April 25, 2014 - link

    For someone not advocating it, you sure are surprisingly defensive about it... :)
  • akdj - Friday, April 25, 2014 - link

    Interesting you comprehended his statement that way when he specifically states, "I did not put it because I advocate MP or Apple, but as an example of something (reviewed rig) shamelessly and 'ridiculously' overpriced....and as much as I despise Apple as a company..."
    How is that defending Apple? ANY TECH GEEK reading this board that isn't giving Apple credit .(love em, hate em, doesn't matter) for the nMP design is an ignorant, uninformed doorknob. Period. It's an amazing change in workstation performance and as an owner of both Windows 7 workstations, older Mac Pros...and current, extremely happy new MP owner, I can honestly say with the rMBP, rMini, Air and new Mac Pro...as well as Apple's INCREASE in quarterly 'computer' earnings 'went up' while the entire industry is in decline. Again...love em, hate em, doesn't matter, they're innovation and clear vision of future computing, GPU instructions and PCIe storage with thunderbolt is a mind blowing achievement. While AMD FirePro cards aren't nVidia Quadro, they're outstandingly FAST for out workstation tasks...coloring, finalizing ans rendering of 4/5k RED RAW files, rendering, transcoding, editing and finalizing ...even in Premier/AE, it's a mind blowing experience...if you're an FCPx user, it's a night and day difference. Editing 4k/1080p feels like editing ProRes 480 files. Simply. Outstanding. Expect Dell/HP to transition form factors late 14, mid '15. My humble opinion. I use both Win 7 and OSx. Have for almost 30 years (starting on Apple IIe/c pre MS OS. How times have changed). My HP workstation from last year's batch of Xeon, ECC RAM, SSD storage, excellent warranty, etc...just over $9,200 when purchased. My $6,800 nMP runs circles around it (Bootcamp Win 7 or same tasks in OSx). Non 'believers' need do nothing but swing through an Apple store. Look at the form factor. Pick it up...then 'use' it for a half hour. Prepare to be blown away. With the progression of TB, won't be long before we can tie these guys together, utilize powerful, external GPUs....the next progressing is 40Gb/s, bi directional and HDMI 2.0 compliant. Couple of 4k displays simultaneously, editing and transcoding simultaneously, batch processing a couple hundred Nikon D800 RAW files, pick your poison. It's a MONSTER, the size of a kitten;)

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