Workstation Specialists WS102LE review

Need a fully fledged workstation but don’t have much in the way of space? Workstation Specialists thinks it has the answer.

Elsewhere, it's a well-put together system. That compact chassis is an Antec NSK1480, and although it's not very pretty, it's well designed and well-made. Hard disks are installed at the front of the chassis in a separate compartment (there's room for two here), each encased in a removable caddy isolated from vibration by rubber grommets. The single 5.25in bay, occupied by a DVD-writer (a Blu-ray writer is available as an optional upgrade) is damped in the same way.

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There's ample airflow through the chassis, with a single fan on the left cooling the hard disk bays, plus two fans to the right rear of the case helping out the processor and its stock Intel cooler. We like the way it's so easy to get into as well, with a single, lockable thumbscrew providing access to the interior. The system is also quiet enough not to need hiding away under a desk.

The WS102LE is also well stacked in the connectivity stakes. At the front you'll find two USB ports and a single eSATA socket, while at the rear there are twin DVI-I outputs, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and a further six USB sockets. The only surprise is the lack of FireWire ports.

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The only downside is that, inevitably in a chassis this compact, there's not much room for upgrades. You can fit one additional hard disk on top of the 10,000rpm 320GB drive that comes with the machine, plus one PCI Express x16, one x1, one x4 and a single old-style PCI slot. All four DIMM slots are occupied with 2GB DDR2 667MHz modules.

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It's a sound package, ideal for graphics professionals who don't want a noisy, bulky system whirring away under the desk. We'd perhaps like to have seen more hard disk space supplied as standard - but the limited space is a trade-off against the increased performance a 10,000rpm drive offers and the price compensates for that even further. At around a grand, the WS102LE is very cheap for a full-blown workstation. So, if you need a slimline machine for professional CAD/CAM work and your budget is tight, it's certainly one to consider.

Verdict

Well-priced, compact and quick, the WS102LE marks a successful debut for Workstation Specialists, and its mainly due to the space saving inclusion of workstation class graphics integrated onto the motherboard.

Processor: 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 Memory: 8GB 800MHz DDR2 RAM Motherboard: Asus P5N-VM WS motherboard Storage: 320GB hard disk, DVD-writer Graphics: integrated Nvidia Quadro FX 470 Connectivity: 2 x DVI-I out; 8 x USB; 2 x Gigabit Ethernet OS: Windows XP 64-bit Warranty: 3yr Dimensions: 390 x 410 x 100mm (WxDxH)

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