By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2004-09-06 Print this article Print

Sun Microsystems Inc.s latest high-end workstation, the Sun Java Workstation, offers powerful graphics and expandability, making it an ideal desktop system for todays engineers and developers.

The Java Workstation is powered by high-performance Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Opteron processors, which provided an immediate boost to 32-bit application performance in eWEEK Labs tests and offer a simple transition path to 64-bit.

The Sun Java Workstation comes in two models: the W2100z and the W1100z. The W2100z supports two Opteron 250 processors while the W1100z uses a single Opteron 150. The W2100z also supports faster Ultra320 SCSI drives and more memory compared with the W1100z. Both models shipped last month.

Sun Java Workstations are priced competitively with other 64-bit-ready devices: The entry price for the W1100z is $1,995, and the W2100z is priced starting at $4,695. Through the end of the year, Sun is bundling the Java Workstation with the Sun Developer Network. For a yearly fee of $1,499, developers can get a three-year subscription to Suns development tools (Sun Java Studio Enterprise, Solaris and support services).

The W2100z we tested, which lists for $8,700, comes with dual 2.4GHz Opteron 250s, 4GB of DDR (double-data-rate) PC3200 memory, a 73GB Ultra320 SCSI drive and an Nvidia Corp. FX3000 graphics card. The W2100z supports processor speeds ranging from 1.8GHz to 2.4GHz. With eight DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots, the system can accommodate 16GB of memory using 2GB DIMMs. This is a substantial capacity for 64-bit applications.

The Sun Java Workstations compete with other 64-bit-ready workstations, including Dell Inc.s Precision 670, Hewlett-Packard Co.s xw8200 and IBMs IntelliStation line. The W2100z offers similar chip sets and memory configurations as competitors, but the internal storage of the W2100z is limited to two drives, and RAID is not currently supported.

The W2100z can support six expansion bays, four internal bays for hard drives and two external bays for DVD-ROM/CD-RW drives, but the workstation currently can support only a maximum of two 73GB Ultra320 hard drives and lacks integrated RAID support. Sun plans to support four drives down the road. The W2100z supports only SCSI drives, and ATA 100 drives are the only option for the W1100z.

The W2100z has a standard midtower chassis with a plain but accessible design. The internal components are easily replaceable, especially the internal hard drive bays. The front panel offers easy access to dual USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0 ports, FireWire and audio jacks. The W2100z has five PCI-X slots for expansion cards and an 8x AGP slot for graphics. Four of the five PCI-X slots run at 100MHz, and one slot runs at 133MHz. However, the slots are laid out in such a way that one PCI slot is blocked when the system is outfitted with a high-end graphics card.

The W2100z we tested included a high-end Nvidia Quadro FX3000 graphics card with dual-display capabilities, a good fit for three-dimensional rendering or engineering design applications. The W2100z also supports lower-end cards for non-graphic-intensive applications.

In terms of operating system support, the W2100z currently supports Solaris 9 x86 Platform Edition for 32-bit applications and Red Hat Inc.s Enterprise Linux 3.0 for 64-bit applications.

By the end of fall, more 64-bit operating systems will be supported, officials said. Sun will add support for Solaris 10 x86 for 32-bit/64-bit, as well as Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux for 32-bit/64-bit.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at francis_chu@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms Desktop & Notebook Center at http://desktop.eweek.com for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.


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