Cerise Eight-Core Workstation Review

Serious 8-Core Drive

It used to be that the best way to guarantee best performance in a computer for editing was to build it yourself. Don’t get us wrong – it’s still fun to build systems from time to time, but what if you need to just start editing instead of spending quality time with a screwdriver? That’s why there are high-end system integrators like Cerise, building solid systems by hand to serve the requirements of pro digital photographers and video producers.

We got our hands on Cerise’s Eight-Core Workstation, an impressive piece of iron ready to rock and roll.

Hardware

Cerise took great pains in selecting parts for this workstation. There’s a massive Silverstone case (including cheese-grater ventilation), an outstanding Intel S5000XVN motherboard and processors and a burly 700W Seasonic power supply with active power factor correction and 80 Plus certification. (Read: it’s very efficient and could save on the electric bill). There’s a 3Ware RAID controller with four Seagate enterprise-class hard drives, configured as a speed-optimized RAID 5. (As a result of the disk array speed optimizations, we strongly recommend using an uninterruptable power supply, or, for slightly less, adding 3Ware’s battery backup unit to protect cached writes if some strange power thing happens). Under the hood is a cleanly-assembled system, with a thoughtful cable layout.

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After you press the power button, there is a funny little delay of about a second before everything starts coming alive. Then, you’ll hear a couple of beeps and some odd little fan speedups and slowdowns before the system settles down to its usual quiet self. (Most of the system fans are 120mm in diameter, which keeps the system quiet). It boots from a 1TB, 7200rpm Hitachi SATA hard drive (formatted size: 931.5GB). The array formats out to 698.46GB.

Software

Our contact at Cerise indicates they are hesitating on pre-installing Windows XP Service Pack 3, since most of its improvements are security-related, and most video editors should not leave their editing workstations connected to the internet anyway. We opted to install SP3, and then we defragged the boot drive, to eke out as much performance as this machine is capable of.

Driver- and firmware-wise, the system configuration was rather conservative, rather than bleeding-edge. (A BIOS update is available for the motherboard, as well as new graphics and sound drivers, but the conservative approach dictates you shouldn’t update drivers unless you really need to). The only driver we updated was the mouse driver. By default, Cerise configured the workstation to automatically snap to the OK button when a dialog box appeared. Preferring to have full mouse control at all times, we opted to install the driver that came with the Logitech mouse that happened to be on our test bench. That solved our problem.

Our machine arrived with a basic set of software: Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 and Adobe Reader. Our Cerise contact tells us that, by the time this machine is widely available, it will offer a wide array of video editing and disc authoring software, preinstalled at time of purchase, at competitive prices.

Performance

Testing with HD Tune 2.55, the boot drive performed at an extremely respectable 69.2MB/sec average data transfer rate, with a minimum of 41.5MB/sec and maximum of 82.9MB/sec. Access time was 13.6ms, with a burst transfer rate of 167.7MB/sec.

The array turned in some amazing numbers – average data transfer rate blew away the boot drive at 103.8MB/sec, with a minimum of 83.9MB/sec and maximum of 110.5MB/sec. Access time was 13.1ms, with a burst transfer rate of 135.5MB/sec. CPU utilization was a paltry 0.8%, barely more than the directly-attached boot drive’s 0.7%.

Adobe Premiere CS3 ran buttery-smooth on the system. Unless you’re using the newest, most processor-intensive codecs, you’ll never wait long to render video on this system.

Benchmarks handily beat our previous top performer, a Mac Pro with two dual-core Xeon 5160 processors, both on a MIPS and MFLOPS basis, according to Sandra, a utility by SiSoftware that analyzes hardware. Sandra’s score for this system, on processor arithmetic, was 67819 MFLOPS and 79181 MIPS.


The Bottom Line

There’s a price premium here compared to building this system yourself. However, with all the custom components and associated configuration times, you are going to break even in time spent. RAIDs, for example, are time-consuming to format. Besides, if you bought these components by mail-order, you’d have to pay shipping – but Cerise offers free ground shipping. And, in the rush to hit the power button, you’d probably forget to clean up all the cable runs – but Cerise wouldn’t. So you pay your money and take your chances, but for all you get, Cerise has a very powerful contender for your editing system dollar.

TECH SPECS

OS: Microsoft Windows XP Professional

RAM: 4GB, DDR2-667, ECC, fully-buffered

Processor: Intel Xeon E5410 (quad-core), 2.33GHz

Chipset: Intel

Number of Physical Processors: 2

Video Editing Software Included: Roxio Easy Media Creator 9

Analog Video Capture Card Included: No

Hard Drives: Boot: Hitachi 1TB, 7200RPM (formatted capacity: 931.5GB); Array: 3Ware 9650SE-4LPML RAID controller with 4 Seagate 250GB, 7200RPM drives (formatted capacity: 698.46GB)

DVD Burner: Plextor PX-800A

Disc Authoring Software Included: Roxio Easy Media Creator 9

Multiple Monitor Connections: Yes

Strengths

  • Great component choices
  • Speedy disk subsystem

Weaknesses

  • A little pricey, but comparable when you consider time spent building a similar system

SUMMARY

Hands-down, one of the speediest video editing machines we’ve seen.

Charles Fulton is Videomaker’s associate editor.

Cerise

338 Clubhouse Rd.

Hunt Valley, MD 21031

www.cerise.com


$4,152 as configured

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.