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Reviewing a new Interbreed

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ARCHITECH Intergraph's all-new Zx workstation is amazingly fast, no doubt. But it is also expensive and its performance leans heavily upon a plugged-in Wildcat graphics card.

Intergraph's first product from its new Zx family of workstations is an entry-level system. The Zx1 is built around standard components based on Intel's BX chipset. With forthcoming products, Intergraph will introduce its Wahoo technology, which promises more than twice the system output of current generic system architectures, along with the graphics power of Intense3D's Wildcat graphics.

Wahoo is a proprietary architecture that features a combination of AG Pro graphics and faster PCI and memory buses, and this is key to the promise of the family's performance.

Intergraph claims that Wahoo will boast 167 per cent greater memory bandwidth and 500 per cent more PCI bandwidth. Furthermore, the AG Pro slot, Intergraph claims, will see graphics performance double, provided, of course, you have an AGP ro-based graphics card.

For the moment at least, the only place you'll see the new Wildcat 4105 is inside a Zx1 box. Our review model also featured dual 600 MH zPentium III processors (though 700 and 733 variants are now available), an 18Gb Ultra2 SCSI hard drive and 256Mb of 100 MH z SDRAM , though the motherboard will hold up to 1Gb of memory.

For this component, Intergraph has teamed up with its pals at Intel and, as mentioned before, in the Zx1 the motherboard is based around the somewhat aged Intel BX chipset, though this wil change with future Zx models. Similarly, the Zx1 does not come in a Xeon configuration and at the moment,if you want a Xeon-based machine, you'll have to look to the older TDZ 2000 range, where the GX 1 offers dual Xeon machines built around the Intel GX chipset.

While the Zx1 might not offer the Xeon processor, and is based around a somewhat aged chipset, the future machines will see Intergraph unveil key proprietary technologies, which will form the core of the Zx family.

It is these core technologies that should differentiate these future machines in terms of being able to move large quantities of data through the system, allowing the playback of multiple streams of uncompressed digital video at a far better rate than with most of today's workstations.

When Wahoo emerges, this bandwidth will, according to the company,be sufficient to allow the real-time playback of even high-definition formats, such as 1080I or 720p formats for HDTV .Andif the Zx workstations are enviable for this factor, the graphics hardware available with the Zx1 is also another reason these machines are so desirable. From the less powerful options up, there's the Intense3D Pro 2200S, the Wildcat 3510 and the Wildcat 4000, all of which existed before the Siggraph launch. Above these cards are two new AGP 2x-based offerings, the Wildcat 4105 and 4110 solutions.

We received the 4105 as part of our test machine, which is built around a 3000- MF lops geometry engine along with 16Mb frame buffer and 64Mb of texture memory.

There are criticisms: Intergraph's new casing design, which it describes as 'sleek'. As is the case with pretty much every NT workstation vendor, it is actually very cheap-looking and lightweight.

Whilst this criticism concerns the aesthetics alone, I also experienced problems when I attempted to boot up NT in VGA mode, only to be faced with an error message claiming that the ntoskrnl, a crucial system file, was corupt, and I had no option but to restart at the graphics card's settings.

Now I may be a little tainted by experiences with my own TDZ 2000, but this does seem to me to reflect problems that do seem to occur only with this kind of proprietary workstation.

At £7000, this Zx1 is not cheap, but we did receive a fairly high-end configuration. On the other hand,if the Zx brand promises much, in this first product all Intergraph is really delivering for this sum is a great new graphics card inside a pretty standard machine. When all is said and done, you could put the Wildcat cards in any workstation.

PRODUCT Intergraph Zx1

CONFIGURATION TESTED Dual 600MHz PIII, 256Mb RAM, Wildcat 4105 graphics card

PRICE £7000 without monitor WEB www.intergraph.com

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