By Tor Rolf Seemann
Issue: April 1, 2004


PRODUCT: Boxx Technology's SDBoxx [pro]



· Six RAM slots

· Custom configured for maximum throughput

· 10-bit, 4:2:2 serial digital I/O

My mind was early set at ease when booting the system. As the bios loaded, I was greeted with the "All is Well" status report. Phew! I can't say that all my reviews have started off so splendidly. It was hard to contain my enthusiasm as I have heard so much about these "boxes" from other post professionals, and a sordid group of game developers I knew in college. You've got to admit, its not every day that a Dual Xeon DP 3.2 GHz (1MB cache) with 2GB RAM lands on your doorstep… or at least not my doorstep.

Out of the box, I noted that the Boxx workstation is quite box-ish. Strong metallic surfaces meet a stern aluminum grid on its facade, flanked by a smooth black quick-release chassis. This is the Hummer H2 of PCs - designed for industrial use, deeply rooted in form and function. From the bottom up this company makes workstations for industry folk like us. It's not just an "E-Machine" with a whiz-bang board in it. It's clear that a lot of thought has gone into optimizing every component to get the high level of performance us digital content creators desire when working with motion graphics, 3D animations, or a highly-composited edit. One word of caution, however, when you power up the system - look away or have ready a pair of welders goggles. There's a white LED light that ignites with the power button that will fry your retina like a Kitchen Fresh drumstick. This isn't just a status light, this is a nuclear ball of illumination!


Once I regained sufficient vision to continue the evaluation, I discovered that the SDBoxx [pro] bundle I received included XP Professional, an Nvidia Quadro FX 100 128MB DDR graphics card, Gig-E, a Pipeline Digital ProVTR, and to top it off: a Bluefish 444 Wild Blue A/V board to capture and output uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 serial digital signals, with six channels of AES/EBU digital audio. Footage is captured into QuickTime V210 files. All this bundled with Adobe's Video Collection (Standard), which includes a full version of Premiere Pro. There's even room for up to 500GB RAID3 internal storage. The word "pristine" comes to mind when I scope out the innards of this Boxx. Cable ties, board stabilizers, the whole internal structure has the feel of a carefully-landscaped lawn - or a picture of my office with all the random papers on the floor and desk Photoshop'd out. What I'm trying to say here is, nice work Boxx Tech, you could eat off this motherboard!

With all that going on inside, it's good this system comes with three cooling fans, a 550 W power supply, three 64-bit PCI-X slots and two 32-bit PCI slots. This Boxx can be rack mounted into 4RU of space or positioned desk side. Either way, you have both 1394 and USB ports on the front and back. While I had a chance to commune with the SDBoxx [pro], there are many other flavors to choose from, like the 3D Boxx, the RenderBoxx, GameBoxx, CineBoxx and of course, the long anticipated HDBoxx [pro]. And all those can be custom configured online at www.boxxtech. com. I keep begging them to make a TorBoxx - but so far no luck. They smile politely and mumble something about the cows coming home? Or was it sheep? I don't remember. Some farm animal.

What I wasn't expecting to find was that the disk throughput on this machine obliterates any other system I've worked on. Toss in the two gigs of PC2100 ECC Reg DDR RAM and you have a render powerhouse that will leave your head spinning. It gobbles up frames from my Adobe After Effects output and begs for more. With WYSIWYG NTSC (or PAL) viewing on the Bluefish card, working in AE is as much of a realtime experience as I've encountered… getting closer and closer to my personal fantasy of AE as NLE. Some guys picture themselves on a tropical island tickling Paris Hilton… I think about seeing my compositions in their full NTSC glory as I create them - bit-by-bit, pixel-by-pixel. Anyway, I think I'll go put some black electrical tape over that LED before someone else gets hurt.