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.
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).
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.
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.
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,
Direct Volta Pro
one 4GHz Intel Core i7-4790K quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K5200,
|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|
|Operating System||Windows 7||Windows 7||Windows 7||Windows 10||Windows 7||Windows 8.1|
|SPECviewperf 12 (higher is better)|
|SPECapc SOLIDWORKS 2015 (higher is better)|
|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|
|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|
Numbers in blue indicate best recorded results. Numbers in red indicate worst recorded results.