Professional Workstation SP700

Parallel architecture provides performance

Bloodlines run strong and deep in racehorses, monarchies, and now Windows NT workstations. The Professional Workstation SP700, Compaq's latest entry in the high-end 3-D CAD/computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) NT workstation market, is a second-generation system incorporating Compaq's Highly Parallel System Architecture. The SP700 has a 533MBps Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP), a 100MHz system bus, and support for 100MHz Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM). The SP700 has two memory controllers and two PCI controllers, both hallmarks of Compaq's parallel architecture.

The test system Compaq delivered to the Windows NT Magazine Lab includes two 450MHz Pentium II Xeon processors with 512KB of Level 2 cache; one 128MB SDRAM DIMM accompanies each processor. The Lab's test SP700 came with a Mylex RAID array PCI controller. This card operates three of the system's four 4GB 10,000rpm hard disks. For performance, the SP700 places NT on a root disk and rolls the other disks onto a nonparity stripe set. The Lab's test SP700 has four hard disks and a 32X CD-ROM driveā€”one full-size device bay remains open for expansion.

The SP700 is the first high-performance workstation Compaq has introduced with a 533MBps AGP slot. The AGP slot sits at the bottom of the motherboard, whereas the four PCI slots and one shared ISA/PCI slot are located on a sliding horizontal backplane that connects to the motherboard by what looks like an oversized ISA connector. The backplane is part of Compaq's new tool-less access design.

The SP700 has two banks of four DIMM slots mounted next to each processor. The Lab's test system has two 128MB DIMMs, one for each of the system's two Pentium II Xeon processors. According to Compaq, this design lets its multiprocessor systems scale better than other systems by allowing twice the number of simultaneous transactions and twice the memory bandwidth of either the Compaq parallel architecture or the Intel GX (Xeon or Slot 2) design. But doubling a system's memory bandwidth, simultaneous transactions, and number of PCI buses doesn't necessarily double the system's performance. Rather, doing so prevents bottlenecks from occurring. Judging from the results the Lab's SP700 test system achieved on AIM Technology's WNT workstation benchmarks, the Compaq engineers have made bottlenecks an endangered species.

AIM Technology's two most important values of system performance are the WNT Peak Performance and Sustained Performance metrics. The SP700's WNT Peak Performance score of 1442.3 jobs per second is the highest Peak Performance score I've achieved with a test system in the Lab. The SP700's WNT Sustained Performance metric is 298.6 jobs per second. (The Lab conducts all AIM performance tests using Pragma's TelnetD communications software, a 4MB Matrox Millennium II PCI video card, and a monitor resolution of 600 * 800 with 16-bit color depth. For more information about AIM Technology and its benchmark tests, go to

To test the SP700's OpenGL graphics capabilities, I used the CDRS, DX, and Lightscape viewsets from the Viewperf benchmark. The SP700's CDRS score was 94.736, its DX score was 10.694, and its Lightscape score was 1.424. (For more information about the Viewperf benchmark, go to The SP700's Viewperf scores are respectable. However, the CDRS Viewset accounts for half of the total Viewperf score out of five viewsets, and the Lab's SP700's CDRS score was roughly two-thirds that of the current Lab CDRS NT workstation champion, the Dell Precision WorkStation 610. But when you consider that the SP700 belongs to the first generation of machines in which Compaq has incorporated a proprietary 3-D OpenGL graphics option, the system's CDRS score is nothing to look down on. And don't expect to look down on this loaded system's performance, either.

Professional Workstation SP700
Compaq Computer * 800-345-1518
Price: Starts at $3587
System Configuration:
Two 450MHz Pentium II Xeon processors with 512KB of Level 2 cache, 256MB of Synchronous DRAM, Four 4GB 10,000rpm hard disks, 32X CD-ROM drive, Integrated 10/100Mbps Ethernet, Mylex RAID array PCI controller
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