HP debuts tech models

Hewlett-Packard Co. this week will unveil a slew of models for its technical computer line many of which are powered by new 3-D graphics subsystems based on the popular OpenGL graphics standard.

Although this week's announcements primarily cover HP's Unix product line which uses HP's reduced instruction-set computing (RISC) chips the company also said it would bring the same capabilities to personal workstations based on Intel Corp. processors and Microsoft Corp. Windows NT.

The new models are targeted at such applications as mechanical design and analysis (MDA) and visualization as well as electronic design and analysis said Patty Azzarello marketing manager for HP's Workstations Systems Division.

Coupled with the company's forthcoming PC workstation announcements "HP is providing an unbiased Unix-Windows NT choice for our customers " Azzarello said. "Most of our customers are looking at a continued Unix investment in their engineering departments but most of them are looking at what is the appropriate role for NT " Azzarello said.

New workstations include two models in the entry-level B-class family - the 2-D B132L+ and 3-D B180L - and three models in the midrange C-class family - the C200 Visualize EG C200 Visualize fx4 and C240 Visualize fx6.

The Visualize fx graphics subsystems are based on the OpenGL standard which is supported by many third-party application developers. Each new model brings increasing levels of geometric- and texture-mapping acceleration.

The Visualize fx2 is a 24-bit accelerated 3-D graphics subsystem which makes it possible to do true-color rendering of 3-D images. It comes with two geometry accelerators for faster graphics processing. Pricing for the B180L with fx2 begins at $16 500.

The 48-bit C200 Visualize fx4 provides a smooth rotation of images because it can process more than one view at a time said Norton Ewart an HP product marketing manager. This approach "is a highly preferred method for viewing complex images " Ewart said.

The fx4 also comes with four geometry accelerators extra memory and algorithm accelerators for texture mapping. These capabilities make the fx4 a good platform for visualization and analysis required for visual simulation and other Defense Department applications he said. The C200 Visualize fx4 starts with a list price of $29 500 which includes 128M of memory a 4G hard drive and a 20-inch monitor.

The fx6 adds two more geometry accelerators - about a 50 percent gain in graphics throughput HP said - and a second texture-mapping accelerator for dual-processing capability. A C240 Visualize fx6 packaged for MDA applications has a list price of $60 500 while a configuration for electronic-design applications costs $46 000. All models are available now.

"This is the first time HP has had a full range of OpenGL processors " said Tom Copeland director of workstation research at International Data Corp. The new graphics subsystems appear to have "outstanding performance " particularly for MDA applications he said.

The latest announcement is "a wonderful incremental performance boost for their existing lines " said Richard Fichera vice president of research at the Giga Information Group Cambridge Mass. "In a sense it's kind of boring it's just very good technology being well executed " Fichera said.

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