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IBM IntelliStation M Pro
New case design, minuscule power button highlight this update By John Virata

IBM is known for making very good quality high end workstations with very functional engineering aspects. The company doesn't just put together systems with off the shelf components, but rather it puts together systems that are actually engineered at IBM. Sometimes they score a hit, sometimes they miss. The company does sell a lot of entry level class workstations, systems that aren't the fastest or with the highest end components, but serve the purpose in many corporate situations when a lot of workstations are needed to fill a specific need.

The IBM IntelliStation M Pro system we had in for review fits in that entry level category. The M Pro is based on the 3.6GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor running Microsoft Windows XP Professional. It features an 800MHz front side bus, the Intel 955x chipset and 2MB L2 cache.

The IntelliStation M Pro  came equipped with an NVIDIA Quadro FX 1400 graphics card with 128MB memory, 2GB PC 4200 444MHz ECC DDR2-SDRAM, and a single U320 SCSI 10,000 RPM hard drive. ATI and 3Dlabs solutions are also available, as are SATA hard disk drives.

The front of the system features an HP CD-RW/DVD drive, two USB 2.0 ports, a single 4 pin 1394 FireWire Port, microphone port and headphone jack. There is also an additional available external drive bay for a second 5.25-inch optical drive and two 3.5-inch drive bays, one of which is occupied by the single hard drive. It also features a Broadcom NetXtreme 57xx Gigabit Integrated network controller as well as well as the Adaptec AIC-7901 Ultra320 SCSI controller.

The system features two PCI slots for expandability. Access to the inside of the system involves turning a key at the back, depressing a button on the side, and sliding the system's side wall back. No screws need to be removed.

The hard disk drive cage supports two hard drives and is connected to the chassis by a single screw. Remove the screw, and the hard drive cage is easily removed from the system. For a compact system such as this M Pro, the hard drive cage is a simple, yet elegant piece of engineering.

The drive cage

The motherboard itself is limited for an entry level system. You can add just two hard drives, and perhaps a second PCI card, even though there are two different PCI slots available. Everything is a tight fit.

The system features four memory slots which are located at the top of the motherboard, easily accessible.  It supports up to 8GB memory. A single main fan is located in the front of the system to provide cooling. The system is powered by a 400 wattpower supply. The CPU itself is covered in an IBM labeled heat sink for further heat dissipation. The internal wiring is zip tied and sits right in the middle of everything.

We've run our usual suite of DMN benchmarks on the IBM M Pro The results are below.


Results in minutes: seconds
After Effects Version used: 6.5.1
IBM IntelliStation M Pro
3.6GHz Intel Pentium 4 CPU
2GB DDR400 ECC RAM Windows XP 32.bit
After Effects : Animation   .06
After Effects : Data Project   2.57
After Effects : Gambler   91
After Effects : Source Shapes   4.09
After Effects : Virtual Set   2.55
Maxon CineBench 2003 Rendering Time (lower is better)   84.0
Maxon CineBench 2003 Rendering (CB-CPU score -- higher is better)   314
Hard Disk Speed C: 66MB/S Read, 67MB/Sec write
Adobe Photoshop Guassian Blur   .05

First Impressions
The IBM M Pro, as configured is priced at $3,387 with a 19-inch monitor. This configuration is your basic no frills entry level system that is inexpensive and features IBM's three year warranty support. Other than this, the system is par for the course for entry level Intel workstations. The fit and finish of this unit is average, and some of the engineering on this unit could use some re-engineering. IBM has changed the case design with this rev of the M Pro. I think the other case was a better design. For instance, while the tool less design of the system is well implemented, the power button is recessed into a crevice that requires you to use a pencil eraser or a similarly sized implement to turn the computer on.

Power button should be re-engineered.

This may sound nit picky but really it isn't. The button should be easily accessible to the finger, which is by far the most widely used instrument to power up a computer. The hard drive cage on the other hand is a marvel of engineering. Slightly more refined than the other IBM drive cages we've seen in other IntelliStation workstations, the drive cage in this unit is simplified elegance. A single hand turn screw is all that is used to hold the cage to the system chassis, and once the screw is removed, the drive cage slides out for easy access. The system itself is very quiet. If you are running CAD applications such as Dassault's CATIA or other design tools, this particular M Pro is a good entry point to run those high end applications. If you are going to run the complex 3D applications, you might want to consider a graphics card upgrade to further enhance your user experience. For more information, visit www.ibm.com/intellistation.

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at jvirata@digitalmedianet.com

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