IBM claims fastest Unix workstation

Big Blue says additions to its entry-level RS/6000 44 P Model 170 Unix workstation will make the machine the fastest in its class.

John G. Spooner
John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
2 min read
IBM on Thursday proclaimed itself fastest of the fast in low-end Unix uniprocessor workstations.

The company announced a pair of additions to its entry-level RS/6000 44 P Model 170 Unix workstation, which the company says will make the machine fastest in its class.

The machine gets its speed from a faster 450MHz Power3 II processor and IBM's new high performance GXT6000P graphics board.

IBM's Model 170 workstation is designed for graphics-intensive activities such as product design work. Airplane manufacturers could use the machine for flight simulations to test new aircraft features, while automakers could use the Model 170 to design new cars.

IBM backs up its top-of-the-heap claim with graphics benchmarks from Standard Performance Evaluation.

IBM claims to be faster in several key benchmarks that make up the SPECviewperf suite of workstation performance benchmarks. SPECviewperf was created under Standard Performance Evaluation's banner as a measure of 3D capabilities for workstations.

"We're excited about bringing this type of performance to our workstations," said Jim Larkin, spokesman for IBM's E-Server product line. "It gives us a big boost in a key area for us, entry-level workstation systems."

As part of a new, more aggressive marketing strategy, IBM reps spent time criticizing workstation rival Sun Microsystems, comparing Big Blue's machine head-to-head with Sun's Sun Blade 1000.

So what is it that IBM says makes Model 170 faster?

The Model 170 sports a new and faster 450MHz Power3 II processor from IBM's Microelectronics Division. The chip offers 64-bit addressing and uses IBM's copper metal manufacturing process.

Generally, a 64-bit computer system such as the Model 170 can address larger amounts of memory than a standard 32-bit computer, such as a desktop PC. Larger amounts of memory equate to better performance in high-end applications, such as computer-aided design work performed by workstation customers.

Meanwhile, IBM's GXT6000P graphics board, priced at $6,000, offers nearly three times the performance of its successor, the GXT3000P board, thanks to beefed up components.

Entry price for the base Model 170 is $10,495. For that price, customers receive a Model 170 with a 300MHz Power 3 chip, 256MB RAM and a 9GB hard drive.

The latest Model 170 pairs the 450MHz Power 3 chip with up to 2GB of RAM, a 146GB hard drive and the graphics board for about $30,000.

Customers can also upgrade their Model 170 workstations purchased previously to the new 450MHz Power3 II chip and GXT6000P graphics board, according to IBM.