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BOXX APEXX 2 Review: Peak Performer

The BOXX APEXX 2 workstation features plenty of ports and a hinged power supply that provides access to the CPU and RAM. Image courtesy of BOXX Technologies.

The BOXX APEXX 2 workstation features plenty of ports and a hinged power supply that provides access to the CPU and RAM. Image courtesy of BOXX Technologies.

It is always exciting to receive a new workstation from BOXX Technologies. The Austin, Texas-based company has been building computers since 1996 and its systems have consistently delivered peak performance. The APEXX 2 2401 is the first new BOXX workstation we’ve tested since we reviewed the 3DBOXX 4150 XTREME.

Like its predecessor, the BOXX APEXX 2 came housed in a custom-designed aluminum chassis measuring a compact 6.85 x 16.6 x 14.6 in. (W x D x H) and weighed just 18.75 lbs. The case is all black except for a brushed aluminum BOXX logo on the removable front panel and matching logo cutout on the top of the case. As in previous BOXX workstations, the front grille conceals a pair of 4 in. diameter cooling fans and holds a filter to trap dust before it can enter the interior of the case. On the APEXX 2, one of those fans is actually part of the CPU water cooling system.

Like the 3DBOXX 4150 XTREME, a single 5.25-in. drive bay above the front grille housed a 20X dual-layer DVD+/-RW optical drive as well as a panel containing two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, audio jacks for headphone and microphone, a round power button with bright-white LED power indicator, a blue hard drive activity light and a small reset button. A Blu-Ray RW drive is a $212 option.

The rear panel was also identical to the previous BOXX workstation, providing four additional USB 2.0 ports, four more USB 3.0 ports (including one that allows for updating the system BIOS), an RJ45 network connection for the integrated Intel 1218V Gigabit LAN and both DVI and HDMI ports for the Intel CPU’s integrated graphics. There were also six audio connectors (microphone, line-in, line-out, side, rear and center/subwoofer) as well as an optical S/PDIR Out port.

Improved Interior

Loosening a pair of captive screws and removing the right side panel revealed a compact but well-organized interior. In addition to the single drive bay with front panel access, there are also four internal drive bays — two 3.5-in. bays with quick-release drive mounts and two 2.5-in. bays. In our evaluation unit, one of those 2.5-in. bays contained an Intel 240GB SSD (solid state drive), an option that added just $47 over the 180GB SSD drive standard in the base configuration. BOXX offers other drive options, including SSDs up to 800GB and standard drives up to 4TB. The system’s integrated drive controller supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 configurations.

BOXX APEX 2 2401

  • Price: $5,111 as tested ($2,937 base price)
  • Size: 6.85 x 16.6 x 14.6 in. (W x D x H) tower
  • Weight: 18.75 lbs
  • CPU: One Intel Core i7-4790K (quad-core) 4.0GHz (over-clocked to 4.5GHz)
  • Memory: 16GB DDR3 at 1600MHz (up to 32GB supported)
  • Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K5200
  • Hard Disk: Intel 240GB SSD (four internal drive bays)
  • Floppy: None
  • Optical: 20X dual-layer DVD+/-RW
  • Audio: Onboard integrated high-definition audio (microphone and headphone on front panel; microphone, line-in, line-out, side, rear and center/subwoofer and S/PDIF out on rear panel)
  • Network: Integrated 10/100/1000 LAN with one RJ45 socket
  • Modem: None
  • Other: Two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 on front panel; four USB 2.0 and four USB 3.0 on rear panel; integrated DVI and HDMI video ports
  • Keyboard: 104-key Logitech K120 USB keyboard
  • Pointing device: Logitiech USB Laser Mouse
An air-cooled 550 watt 80 Plus Gold power supply tucked into the bottom rear of the case provides ample power for any expansion needs. Although the power supply covers more than half of the ASUS Gryphon Z97 motherboard, it swings clear after removing a pair of screws. The motherboard supports Intel 4th and 5th generation CPUs and is based on an Intel Z97 Express chipset. Our evaluation unit came with an Intel Core i7-4790K CPU, a 4th generation processor previously codenamed “Devil’s Canyon.” This quad-core CPU has a thermal design power (TDP) rating of 88 watts and features an 8MB Smart Cache. Although the processor has a base frequency of 4.0GHz and a maximum turbo frequency of 4.4GHz, BOXX boosts the base frequency to 4.5GHz. It then cools the CPU with an advanced liquid cooling system to ensure that the system runs cool and quiet.

The ASUS motherboard provides four memory sockets supporting 240-pin DDR3 DIMMs and accommodates up to 32GB of RAM. The base configuration comes with 8GB. Our evaluation unit came with 16GB, installed as a pair of 8GB 1600MHz DIMMs and adding $212 to the base price. The black rubber hoses extending from the CPU’s heat sink to the radiator on the front panel make it a bit more difficult to access the memory sockets, but users should have no difficulty installing additional RAM.BOXX Apex 2

The motherboard provides four expansion slots — two PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 slots, a PCIe 2.0 x16 slot, and a PCIe 2.0 x1 slot — and supports both NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFireX technologies. Although the Intel Core i7-4790K CPU includes Intel HD Graphics 4600, the base BOXX APEXX 2 configuration includes an NVIDIA Quadro K620 discreet GPU (graphics processing unit). BOXX also offers other graphics options from both NVIDIA and AMD, as well as NVIDIA Tesla boards. Our system came with an NVIDIA Quadro K5200 graphics accelerator. This high-end GPU, which includes 2304 CUDA parallel processor cores, added $1,866 to the overall system price. However, the thickness of the K5200 blocks access to the adjacent expansion slot, leaving just two of the other slots accessible.

Peak Performance

We have come to expect great performance from every BOXX workstation and once again the BOXX APEXX 2 2401 lived up to our expectations. On the SPECviewperf tests, which focus solely on graphics performance, the APEXX 2 surpassed the performance of every other single-socket workstation we have ever tested on all but two of the Viewperf 12 datasets.

On the SPECapc SolidWorks benchmark, which actually runs SolidWorks 2013 and provides results more representative of actual CAD performance, the BOXX APEXX 2 out-performed all other systems equipped with a single CPU on all of the tests with the exception of the CPU composite.

On the AutoCAD rendering test, which clearly shows the advantages of fast CPUs with multiple cores, the BOXX APEXX 2 completed the test rendering in an average of 41.88 seconds, just 3.63 seconds slower than the current single-socket record holder, a system with the equivalent of 16 CPU cores compared to just eight in the BOXX workstation.

We also ran the SPECwpc workstation performance benchmark. Having now run this analysis on a total of eight systems, we are beginning to make more sense of the results obtained from this extensive assessment. The BOXX APEXX 2 scored at or near the top in most of the tests.

BOXX rounded out the system with a Logitech K120 104-key USB keyboard and a Logitech M500 USB laser mouse. Windows 7 Professional 64-bit came preloaded. Windows 8.1 is also available. BOXX Technologies backs the system with a three-year warranty featuring premium 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 the second and third years. Premium support during years two and three is available for an additional charge.

Like other BOXX workstations we’ve reviewed in the past, not only does the APEXX 2 deliver excellent performance, it does so at a very reasonable price. The BOXX APEXX 2 has a starting price of $2,937, which gets you the overclocked Intel Core i7-4790K CPU, 8GB of RAM, NVIDIA Quadro K620 graphics, a 180GB SSD drive, 20X DVD+/-RW drive and Windows 7. As configured, our evaluation unit priced out at $5,111. While that is much more than an entry-level workstation, the BOXX APEXX 2 delivers incredible performance, making it perfect for CAD and 3D modeling applications.

More Info

  • BOXX Technologies

Single Socket Workstations Compared

BOXXAPEXX 2 2401One 4.0GHz Intel Core i7-4790K 4-core CPU over-clocked to 4.5GHz, NVIDIA Quadro K5200, 16GB RAM Xi MTower PCIeOne 3.7GHz Intel Core i7-5930K 6-core CPU over-clocked to 4.32GHz, NVIDIA Quadro K5200, 16GB RAM Lenovo P300One 3.6GHz Intel Xeon E3-1276 v3 quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K4000, 8GB RAM Digital StormSlade PROOne 3.4GHz Intel Xeon E3-2687W v2 eight-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K4000, 32GB RAM HP Z1 G2One 3.6GHz Intel Xeon E3-1280 v3 quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K4100M, 16GB RAM HP Z230One 3.4GHz Intel Xeon E3-1245 v3 quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K2000, 8GB RAM
Price as tested $5,111 $4,985 $2,072 $5,804 $5,918 $2,706
Date tested 2/4/15 12/13/14 11/9/14 5/10/14 5/3/14 11/24/13
Operating System Windows 7 Windows 8.1 Windows 7 Windows 7 Windows 7 Windows 7
SPECviewperf 12 higher
catia-04 100.40 98.53 38.19 34.81 42.23 n/a
creo-01 77.69 86.66 34.31 33.15 30.82 n/a
energy-01 3.61 3.49 0.65 0.60 1.74 n/a
maya-04 74.68 72.18 32.31 31.28 33.79 n/a
medical-01 30.01 28.84 12.38 10.75 10.34 n/a
showcase-01 49.76 48.98 22.64 20.65 21.12 n/a
snx-02 83.03 150.42 36.79 34.12 40.37 n/a
sw-03 130.28 126.08 69.37 50.78 38.66 n/a
SPECviewperf 11 higher
catia-03 131.40 99.71 67.84 69.41 63.80 46.17
ensight-04 152.22 148.83 48.80 47.76 61.56 29.32
lightwave-01 107.01 100.99 88.54 76.90 82.76 87.98
maya-03 245.35 99.44 132.59 101.12 128.09 92.05
pro-5 27.19 18.19 21.34 16.29 17.18 20.25
sw-02 96.35 88.89 72.05 63.66 67.75 57.31
tcvis-02 106.96 78.64 55.66 54.26 58.99 38.78
snx-01 137.53 134.51 53.24 52.98 65.58 34.09
SPECapc SolidWorks 2013 higher
Graphics Composite 10.27 8.82 6.29 5.37 5.67 4.38
RealView Graphics Composite 12.08 10.03 6.88 5.90 6.16 4.69
Shadows Composite 12.12 10.05 6.89 5.85 6.13 4.68
Ambient Occlusion Composite 24.55 17.58 9.65 9.46 8.48 5.81
Shaded Mode Composite 10.25 8.95 6.17 5.30 5.55 4.75
Shaded with Edges Mode Composite 10.30 8.69 6.41 5.45 5.79 4.04
RealView Disabled Composite 5.37 5.28 4.39 3.70 4.08 3.35
CPU Composite 4.87 4.50 4.18 3.70 3.12 4.15
Autodesk Render Test lower
Time seconds 41.88 42.33 64.08 38.25 45.00 49.00

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.