HP introduces Pentium II Xeon workstations

Hewlett-Packard Co. last week announced two new Windows NT-based workstations aimed at mechanical designers, software developers, financial analysts and multimedia authoring professionals who require maximum2-D and 3-D performance.

The HP Kayak XW PC Workstation and the Kayak XU PC Workstation are based on Intel Corp.'s Pentium II Xeon processor, introduced earlier this month, and the 440GX Accelerated Graphics Port chipset, which accelerates graphics performance.

The new systems also feature HP's new MaxiLife embedded LCD monitoring system for tracking failure warning messages and system status.

"HP is flushing out its [Windows/Intel] line and putting systems together that are designed to be very competitive in the engineering space," said Marcia Brooks, the editor and publisher of Engineering Technology Advisor, a Milwaukee-based information technology analysis publication. "It was just a matter of time" before HP entered this market, she said.

Intel's Pentium II Xeon processor "supports more cache and, more importantly, faster cache," providing performance enhancements that workstation users can take advantage of, said Kathleen Tandy, HP's North American product marketing manager for the Kayak Workstations.

The Pentium II Xeon "is a maximum-performance product and will benefit the most demanding users who need every shred of performance" to do their work, said Andre Wolper, director of industry marketing for Intel's Workstation Products Division.

The XW workstation line can support up to two 400 MHz Pentium II Xeon processors and marks the first time HP has ported its Visualize fx6 graphics engine from its Unix-based workstations to a Windows NT-based platform.

The Visualize fx6 is 40 to 70 percent faster than the previous-generation Visualize fx4 graphics engine, Tandy said. To squeeze the extra performance out of the card, HP increased the number of geometry accelerators on the card from four to six, allowing the system processor to dedicate most of its power to the applications being run by the user rather than dedicating that power to the graphics.

"The XW is our new top-of-the-line professional graphics workstation," Tandy said. "The engineering community throughout the government has been very interested in this solution."

Other features of the XW include support for up to 2G of system memory, pre-loaded networking software and "try-and-buy" versions of X-terminal and Unix system software utilities, which aid in integrating the workstation into Unix network environments.

Support for up to 2G of memory is important for computer-aided design because users need the extra headroom for loading very large applications, Tandy added.

"Ultimate 2-D Workstation"

The XU is HP's "ultimate 2-D workstation," according to Tandy. The XU also features support for two 400 MHz Intel Pentium II Xeon processors and a 440GX chipset but additionally sports a new HP-designed motherboard.

"The XU is targeted primarily at the 2-D market and those who do primarily number-crunching," Tandy said. The XU will provide enhanced performance for analysts crunching data on things such as large financial portfolios or other projects involving calculation-heavy tasks, Tandy said.

The XU also differs from the XW in its choice of graphics engine, relying not on the fx6 but on the Elsa Inc. Gloria Synergy graphics card, which is based on Permedia-2 technology from 3Dlabs Inc.

However, "for people investing in this level of performance, they're also going to want to do entry-level 3-D as well," which is why the Elsa Gloria provides users with the flexibility to do either 2-D or entry-level 3-D graphics work, Tandy said.

Other features found on the XU include HP's FastRAID 2 for hardware acceleration, an enhanced UltraFlow cooling system, and Unix and NT interoperability software for integrating the system across both environments.

HP officials said the XW— including a single 400 MHz Pentium II Xeon processor, 128M of memory, HP's Visualize fx6 graphics engine and a 4.5G hard drive— will be available in September for an estimated street price of $12,000.

The XU can be ordered now, but it will not be shipped until August. The XU will be available for an estimated street price of $5,000 and will include a single 400 MHz Pentium II Xeon processor, 128M of memory, an Elsa Gloria Synergy graphics engine and a 4.5G hard drive.

Both systems will be made available on the General Services Administration schedule in the near future.

"The challenge for HP will be to make the market aware of all of the extra engineering work they've put into these systems," Engineering Technology Advisor's Brooks said. "It will be interesting to watch the market's perception of the quality of these systems."

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