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
DVI-I
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.

Futuremark and Application Performance
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  • Katline - Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - link

    Just got the Nexus wireless charger from Amazon and they are going absolutely crazy with the discounts with these brands. If you don't have a promo code, you can use this one: http://amzn.to/1iyFZfq - before they take it down. Reply
  • cadman777 - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    I bought a 'custom workstation' from Digital Storm, and had problems w/it from day-1. Due to my heavy work-load, I could not afford the down-time, which is why I contracted w/DS to build my machine. But after 2 years of headaches and problems, the computer finally quit working while troubleshooting w/their 'techs'. Turns-out, they selected uncertified RAM and never set the values properly in the BIOS. Plus, they stuffed an eATX m/b into an ATX case, and jacked-up the ESATA connectors/cables @ the edge of the m/b against the recess in the case. Also, it took an EVGA (the m/b mfgr) tech to figure out what was wrong w/the build. So, besides the wrong RAM, and a too small case, their builders and tech were incompetent. As for 'Warranty Support': They gave me the run-around time after time until I took matters into my own hands and figured out how to fix the problem. After $1000 out-of-pocket, and over 100 hours of tech 'troubleshooting' between the 2 companies, plus 6 months of broken work computer, I'm all the worse for the wear. Would I recommend DS? Nope. Would I buy from DS again? You're kidding me, right? I learned that if you want the job done right, DO IT YOURSELF. As far as Digital Storm is concerned: BUYER BEWARE! Cheers ... Chris Reply

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