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.

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  • ddriver - Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - link

    LOL, genius config - spend the extra money on a premium price RE (raid edition) drive and put it sole in the system... Why RE drive sans actual raid?
  • ddriver - Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - link

    I guess to try and justify that ridiculous, dare I say criminal profit margin on the system, by using unnecessarily expensive components...

    You can use that money to build an identical if not better system twice over...
  • Strunf - Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - link

    hmm RE is the entreprise class of WD, it comes with a 5 years warranty and that tells a lot about how confident they are in it.

    I don't think you should cut corners on something like an hard drive.
  • ddriver - Thursday, April 24, 2014 - link

    WD "blacks" also come with 5 year warranty. As do raptors. RE is considered enterprise because enterprise is considered RAID. But if it is regular PC system pretending to be enterprise in a desperate attempt to justify a ridiculous profit margin that doesn't even have actual raid, there is really no point of a RE drive, except to perhaps indicate very little thought was put into putting the configuration together, and what little was there was how to make it appear to be more worthy of its price tag, to the brilliant decision that an unnecessarily expensive hard drive not even put to its actual purpose will contribute to that image. If it is to be a single drive, a black or raptor is a much better fit, considering the lack of ECC memory and a bunch of other factors, plus they can work in RAID and improve redundancy too. I would definitely go for RE if I begin with the intent of a RAID array.
  • otherwise - Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - link

    I am curious if they turned TLER off. You do not want TLER on for a single drive since you want to let it take as much time as it wants to recover from errors. This drive has it on by default, because, well, RE=RaidEdition (originally); and for a RAID setup TLER is a feature you want.

    If TLER is still on, it's just another item on the list that shows these guys don't really know what they're doing.
  • Flunk - Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - link

    Putting a Xeon on a consumer board is a complete waste, the only reason you need to pay the premium for Xeons is their support of the higher-end workstation boards and ECC ram. EVERYTHING ELSE IS LITERALLY THE SAME AS A Core i7. Putting a Xeon on a consumer board is just like throwing out money and I feel they're only doing it to advertise this as a "workstation".

    Intel's Xeon line has always been extremely overpriced with very little differentiation from the consumer lines. They just hold back on support for multiple processors, ECC and some instructions to make sure that those who can afford to spend more, have to.
  • zanon - Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - link

    This. I got to "not ECC" and just stopped reading, that's not a workstation that's a bad joke. Spending $4K+ on a system with a very expensive Xeon processor and they don't even bother with a workstation board and memory? Hahaha, no.
  • puppies - Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - link

    Can you get me some of these magical 8 core i7s pls.
  • mrcaffeinex - Thursday, April 24, 2014 - link

    LOL I was wondering the same thing.

    There are flaws with the component selection and especially the price, but I do not question the Case, CPU, HDD, SSD, or Video Card choices. In my experience the WD RE drives, whether used in RAID or not, are excellent workhorses that run forever. The same has been true of the Samsung SSDs that I have used.

    The CX750M is not a bad PSU and it is semi-modular, but I understand the complaint when there is this much of a price premium for the system. I would have expected at least a Gold if not a Platinum PSU in this price range.

    Perhaps the initial markup is one of those ploys where they offer a 15% discount on the MSRP, but set the MSRP so high that they still make a significant profit per unit? Plus, I would have to imagine that the demand for this level of system must be pretty low.

    Depending on the source cited, Macs seem to represent anywhere between 5 and 10% of the PC market. As far as I know, this includes all of the Mac product line, of which Mac Pros are a fraction of sales. I would imagine that for any of the other OEMs, these high-end workstations represent a similarly small percentage of their total sales, even if you limited things to only include other high-end non-workstation units. DS's volume discount on components is probably not that great due to the limited numbers being sold.
  • akdj - Friday, April 25, 2014 - link

    "Depending on the source cited, Macs seem to represent anywhere between 5 and 10% of the PC market. As far as I know, this includes all of the Mac product line, of which Mac Pros are a fraction of sales." Well over 10% in the states, japan and Europe...closer to 20%. Sales of computers OSx style are UP! Opposite for PC (Window's sales for all OEMs). Try ordering a new MP. Just go to apple.com, configure your rig, get to check out and see the wait time for shipping. They can't make enough right now!

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