Home / Engineering Computing / BOXX APEXX 1 1401 Workstation Review: Mighty Mouse

BOXX APEXX 1 1401 Workstation Review: Mighty Mouse

BOXX Technologies

The BOXX APEXX 1 workstation from BOXX Technologies is less than 9 in. tall, yet packs plenty of power thanks to an overclocked quad-core CPU. Image courtesy of BOXX Technologies.

BOXX APEXX 1 1401

  • Price: $3,711 as tested ($3,111 base price)
  • Size: 4.7×9.6×8.8 in. (WxDxH) micro-tower (plus external power supply)
  • Weight: 7.6 lbs. (plus external power supply)
  • CPU: One Intel Core i7-6700K (quad-core) 4.0GHz (over-clocked to 4.4GHz)
  • Memory: 16GB DDR4 at 2133MHz (up to 32GB supported)
  • Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K1200 with four mini DisplayPort
  • Hard Disk: Samsung 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD (two internal 2.5-inch SSD drive bays)
  • Floppy: None
  • Optical: None
  • Audio: Onboard integrated 5.1 high-definition audio (microphone and headphone on front panel; microphone, line-in, audio-out and S/PDIF out on rear panel)
  • Network: Integrated 10/100/1000 LAN with one RJ45 socket
  • Modem: None
  • Other: Two USB 3.0 on front panel; six USB 3.0, one USB 3.1 Type A, one USB 3.1 Type C, two HDMI and one DisplayPort video ports on rear panel, 802.11AC wireless and Bluetooth
  • Keyboard: 104-key Logitech K120 USB keyboard
  • Pointing device: Logitech USB Laser Mouse
We have reviewed quite a few workstations from BOXX Technologies over the years, most recently the BOXX APEXX 2 2401 and 2402. But we have never reviewed anything like the APEXX 1 1401. In photos, it resembles a typical tower, yet this new system — billed as the world’s smallest workstation — is less than 9-in. tall and weighs just 7.6 lbs.

Our BOXX APEXX 1 came housed in a white case with black plastic strips along its four angled corners that serve as feet so it can be positioned horizontally. The system measured a mere 4.7×9.6×8.8 in. (WxDxH), 75% smaller than the APEXX 2. The APEXX 1 requires an external power brick, similar to a laptop computer. The 300-watt power supply included with the APEXX 1 is quite large, however, measuring 7.7×3.9×2 in. and weighing more than 2 lbs. That power supply connects to the rear of the case via a square 6-pin connector similar to those typically used to route power inside a conventional workstation.

An angled panel along the top front edge of the case provides headphone and microphone jacks, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, and a round power button along with a reset switch and indicator lights for power and hard drive activity. In addition to the power connector, the rear panel houses six more USB 3.0 ports, a USB 3.1 Type A port, a USB 3.1 Type C port, an RJ45 network jack, two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort for the CPU’s integrated graphics, a PS/2 mouse/keyboard port, S/PDIF out port, and three audio jacks for microphone, line-in, and audio-out.

The APEXX 1 includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The rear panel includes two screw-on connectors for a small external antenna. The antenna provided a fast, wireless connection to our LAN on either 2.4 or 5GHz bands in lieu of the gigabit Ethernet port.

Tiny Interior

A system this small obviously requires compromises, especially in expandability. The 6.5×6.5-in. ASRock motherboard only offers two 240-pin memory sockets and a single PCIe x16 expansion port. Although the Intel Core i7 CPU supports up to 64GB of memory, the APEXX 1 can accommodate a maximum of 32GB (which adds $521 to the base price). Our unit came with 16GB (included in the base configuration), installed using a pair of 8GB DDR4 2133MHz DIMMs (dual in-line memory modules).

Image courtesy of David Cohn.

The system’s small size warrants a compact interior. Image courtesy of David Cohn.

Centered on the motherboard beneath a BOXX-labeled liquid cooling system is an Intel Core i7-6700K quad-core CPU. This Skylake processor, with a rated speed of 4GHz, is overclocked to 4.4GHz. The processor includes an 8MB Smart Cache and Intel HD Graphics 530. A pair of hoses connects the cooling fan to a radiator that takes up half the rear panel.

The small interior space also limits graphics board choices to only half-length, single-slot small form factor GPUs (graphic processing units). While the base configuration comes with an NVIDIA Quadro K620 GPU, our evaluation unit was equipped with a Quadro K1200, a graphics card with 4GB of discrete GDDR5 memory and 512 CUDA (compute unified device architecture) parallel processing cores. The K1200 features a 128-bit memory interface and 80GB/sec memory bandwidth, and provides four mini DisplayPort sockets. That GPU added $211 to the cost of our APEXX 1. Less expensive AMD FirePro W2100 and W4100 graphics cards are also available.

The base configuration also includes a 256GB SSD M.2 PCIe drive. For our evaluation unit, BOXX increased this to a 512GB M.2 drive, adding $390 to the cost. Removing the left side panel reveals an additional pair of 2.5-inch drive bays that can accommodate SSD SATA drives and BOXX offers choices ranging from 120GB ($139) to 1.2TB ($1,871).

BOXX offers an optional external USB DVD/RW drive for $45, but similar drives are available for less.

The Mouse That Roared

As we have come to expect from BOXX, the APEXX 1 1401 performed extremely well, although its mid-range GPU resulted in somewhat compromised graphics performance. On the SPECviewperf tests, the APEXX 1 simply could not match the results of other tower workstations equipped with higher-end GPUs and even lagged behind mobile workstations using the latest NVIDIA mobile graphics cards.

For our SOLIDWORKS tests, we have recently begun using the SPEC SOLIDWORKS 2015 benchmark. This new evaluation performs nine graphics tests and two CPU tests. The BOXX APEXX 1 is only the second workstation on which we have run this new benchmark, although we have also used it for recent reviews of several mobile workstations. With its overclocked CPU, the APEXX 1 turned in very good results, even surpassing the Xi MTower CX on the CPU-specific tests.

BOXX Technologies

The rear panel of the BOXX APEXX 1 provides plenty of connections, including both DVI and HDMI ports for the integrated Intel HD 530 graphics. Image courtesy of David Cohn.

On the AutoCAD rendering test, which shows the advantages of fast CPUs with multiple cores, the BOXX APEXX 1 completed the test rendering in an average of 46.3 seconds, equal or better than many other quad-core systems we have tested.

We also ran the SPECwpc workstation performance benchmark. The APEXX 1 held its own well against more conventional workstations, even garnering top scores on test components that favor fast disk I/O thanks to its M.2 PCIe drive.

BOXX Technologies backs the system with a three-year warranty featuring next business day on-site service with 24/7 phone support during the first year and depot repair service with weekday daytime phone support during years two and three.

The BOXX APEXX 1 delivers excellent performance. With a cost as configured of $3,711, our evaluation unit was also attractively priced. BOXX says that the APEXX 1 is perfect for space constrained production environments and we agree, with one caveat. During our testing, when subjected to heavy compute loads, the sound level of the APEXX 1 went from barely audible to 52dB — about equivalent to a large electrical transformer at 100 ft. While not as loud as some systems we have tested, those were more likely to be placed beneath as desk whereas the APEXX 1 might very well be positioned closer to ear level. That concern aside, the BOXX APEXX 1 delivers a lot of bang for the buck. If space in your engineering office is at a premium, the BOXX APEXX 1 just might save the day.

More Info

Single-Socket Workstations Compared

BOXX APEXX 1 1401
one 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K 4-core CPU over-clocked to 4.4GHz, NVIDIA Quadro K1200, 16GB RAM
BOXX APEXX 2 2402
one 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K 4-core CPU over-clocked to 4.4GHz, NVIDIA Quadro M5000, 16GB RAM
Xi MTower CX
one 3GHz Intel Xeon E5-1660 v3 8-core CPU over-clocked to 4.1GHz, NVIDIA Quadro M5000, 16GB RAM
Digital Storm Slade PRO
one 3.1GHz Intel Xeon E5-2687W v3 10-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro M4000,
32GB RAM
Computer
Direct Volta Pro
one 4GHz Intel Core i7-4790K quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K5200,
16GB RAM
Xi MTower PCIe
one 3.7GHz Intel Core i7-5930K 6-core CPU over-clocked to 4.32GHz, NVIDIA Quadro K5200, 16GB RAM
Price as tested $3,711 $5,806 $4,997 $6,187 $4,441 $4,985
Date tested 1/30/16 1/30/16 1/25/16 10/18/15 7/12/15 12/13/14
Operating System Windows 7 Windows 7 Windows 7 Windows 10 Windows 7 Windows 8.1
SPECviewperf 12 (higher is better)
catia-04 34.95 133.05 126.16 78.54 103.66 98.53
creo-01 33.45 108.3 107.44 65.60 91.62 86.66
energy-01 2.56 11.44 11.65 6.31 3.73 3.49
maya-04 31.22 101.53 97.68 63.79 75.92 72.18
medical-01 11.41 45.12 45.78 25.99 31.33 28.84
showcase-01 18.99 60.37 61.65 42.26 49.76 48.98
snx-02 28.47 121.01 219.48 74.62 152.32 150.42
sw-03 70.56 158.22 149.88 110.74 134.67 126.08
SPECapc SOLIDWORKS 2015 (higher is better)
Graphics Composite 5.17 7.65 5.89 n/a n/a n/a
Shaded Graphics Sub-Composite 2.86 4.19 3.16 n/a n/a n/a
Shaded with Edges Graphics Sub-Composite 3.92 5.57 4.22 n/a n/a n/a
Shaded using RealView Graphics Sub-Composite 3.56 5.45 4.32 n/a n/a n/a
Shaded Edges using RealView Graphics Sub-Composite 6.17 9.01 7.20 n/a n/a n/a
Shaded using RealView and Shadows Graphics Sub-Composite 4.51 6.77 4.97 n/a n/a n/a
Shaded Edges using RealView and Shadows Graphics Sub-Composite 7.20 10.29 7.67 n/a n/a n/a
Shaded using RealView and Shadows and Ambient Occlusion Graphics Sub-Composite 7.78 14.87 11.94 n/a n/a n/a
Shaded with Edges using RealView and Shadows and Ambient Occlusion Graphics Sub-Composite 11.63 21.17 17.69 n/a n/a n/a
Wirefram Graphics Sub-Composite 4.17 4.19 2.98 n/a n/a n/a
CPU Composite 6.75 6.09 5.87 n/a n/a n/a
Autodesk Render Test
Time in seconds (lower is better) 46.30 41.70 25.30 47.33 50.83 42.33
SPECwpc v2.0 (higher is better)
Media and Entertainment 2.84 3.52 3.84 3.67 n/a n/a
Product Development 2.46 3.06 3.38 3.89 n/a n/a
Life Sciences 2.96 3.65 4.19 4.46 n/a n/a
Financial Services 1.53 1.54 2.59 2.55 n/a n/a
Energy 2.70 3.17 4.37 4.57 n/a n/a
General Operations 1.93 1.99 1.78 1.47 n/a n/a

Numbers in blue indicate best recorded results. Numbers in red indicate worst recorded results.

About David Cohn

David Cohn has been using AutoCAD for more than 25 years and is the author of more than a dozen books on the subject. He’s the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies, a contributing editor to Digital Engineering, and also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA. Watch for his latest CADLearning eBooks on AutoCAD 2015 on the Apple iBookstore, at Amazon, and on the CADLearning website. You can contact him via email at david@dscohn.com or visit his website at www.dscohn.com.