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Orbital Computers' C2000 Scores an A- in ConnectPress Test Drive
I recently got to test drive Orbital Computers’ C2000 desktop workstation, and the first thing I noticed after I powered it up is how quiet the machine is. Black and silent like a smaller version of the Monolith from the movie “2001,” the only clue I had that it was running was the blue light on the power button. The noise reduction is achieved with a clever design where the computing components are housed in a specialized case with sound deadening material on each of its panels. There are also added dust filters to all of the intake ports and two silent-series case fans.

The overclocked workstation was released in April of 2014 by Orbital Computers, and features an Intel Core i7 6700K, 4.40 gigahertz, four cores and eight threads, a 14 nanometer Skylake processor with an eight megabyte L3 cache. The processor is enhanced by a NVIDIA Quadro M4000 with eight gigabytes GDDR5 VRAM and 1664 CUDA Cores, running OpenGL 4.5 an DirectX 12.

Orbital Computers' C2000 front-view


The machine I received was a model with 16 gigabytes of RAM but it can be equipped with up to 64. It also includes a 400 gigabyte solid state hard drive.To keep all of that computing power cool the C2000 comes with a Noctua Dual-Fan Silent Air Cooler. A water cooled solution is also an option, but is not recommended by Orbital.

I asked Danny Payne, owner, Orbital Computers, why the company discouraged water cooled solutions and he explained that for higher-end workstations a fan is a much better option because it has fewer moving parts than a water pump and is less likely to experience an equipment malfunction. He said such a failure would probably cause the CPU to shut down almost immediately. Though for customers who prefer water cooling they keep it as an option.

I wanted see what all of these specifications added up to in the real world, so I used two systems to test what the C2000 was capable of. The first was to generate a series of benchmarks using the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation's (SPEC) SPECviewperf 12 benchmark software. I also tested the machine myself using SOLIDWORKS 2016 online edition and Luxion's Keyshot 6.0.

The benchmarking tool generated a series of composite scores measuring the C2000's frame rate while running several well known CAD solutions including, Dassault Systemes' CATIA V6 R12, PTC's Creo 2.0, Dassault Systemes' SOLIDWORKS 2013 and Siemens PLM Software's NX 8.0.

For the CATIA V6 benchmarks the C2000 demonstrated a geometric mean of 87.43 frames per second, after running a number of sample models ranging from 5.1 to 21 million vertices.

Testing against Creo 2.0 the workstation averaged a geometric mean of 76.08 frames per second and in this case the models ranged between 20 and 48 million vertices.

With the NX 8.0 benchmark SPECviewperf 12 ran a series of test models ranging from 7.15 and 8.45 million vertices and earned a geometric mean of 76.47 frames per second.

SOLIDWORKS 2013 showed the best results by far, coming in with a geometric mean of 127.36 frames per second on a series of models that ranged from 2.1 to 21 million vertices.

I experimented myself using SOLIDWORKS 2016 by building a 3D model from scratch, and then adding simple elements such as holes and fillets. Even though I was running SOLIDWORKS over an internet connection I never noticed any lag or drop in the frame rate. With each step of the tutorial the model formed elegantly and smoothly, as if I was running it locally.

Even more impressive, the C2000 maintained its reputation for stealthy performance during the test. I barely noticed the fans spinning at all and the only evident noise came from the sound of the repeated mouse clicks from me creating the model using a 3Dconnexion's 3D CadMouse.

In addition I also experimented with Keyshot 6.0, a high-end rendering solution that distinguishes itself from its competition by being 100 percent powered by the workstation's CPU. This means that not only does the rendering happen in real time but it scales in speed as the workstation adds more cores.

Orbital Computers' C2000 internal-view


For the test I downloaded a pair of models, an opaque tube and a luxury car, from GrabCAD's community of open source 3D renderings and then imported them into Keyshot. In Keyshot I experimented by adding textures, lighting effects and backgrounds to both designs and watched as the system worked to adapt to each change.

This time I could see the software beginning to tax the C2000, as a few particularly challenging tasks such as combining liquid and opaque textures with the background effects, caused the workstation to lag for a few seconds at a time. I was even able to put enough pressure on the CPU cores that I heard the fan noise became noticeable, increasing from nearly silent to roughly the sound of a loud whisper. However the C2000 handled most of the tasks pretty seamlessly, with only a few seconds of slowdown at most.

All and all I found it to be a powerful machine that could keep up with the tasks at hand, all while making hardly much of a peep.

The C2000 starts at $2000 while the model used for this review runs $3,843 (including warranties and shipping). You can learn more at https://orbitalcomputers.com/.

John Myers graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.A. in Communications and Journalism. He began writing about the mechanical computer-aided design (MCAD) and product lifecycle management (PLM) industry in 2006 and over the last nine years has covered topics as diverse as additive manufacturing, finite element analysis (FEA), data translation and migration, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), building information modeling (BIM) and the growing alternative energy industry. He currently resides in Albuquerque, NM with his wife where in his free time he enjoys reading, writing and pandering to his dogs.


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Published 2016-01-18 00:00:00