It’s not a Mac – Windows Testing Part 2A

This is just a quick update than full blown testing, hence the “Part 2A” title instead of Part 3.

I left the Dell running all Monday night and it finally downloaded the Adobe Production Premium CS 5.5 package.  Installation went fine, then installation of the AJA Kona LHi drivers and the AJA Adobe CS 5.5 plug-in went perfectly fine.

After all installations everything appeared to work just fine, we had image from the system to our Flanders Scientific monitor via the Kona LHi.  And that was about the extent of it for today.   A new television pilot is occupying my days right now so as soon as I get that done, I’ll get busy with the Dell.

However, there IS a new wrinkle to our testing.  I was approached by another company to test out a fully customized Windows system.   We’re working out the details over the next couple of weeks and once everything is finalized, I’ll update with the details.   Will be nice to have two Windows systems to compare and contrast.

That’s it for now, short update!   More testing soon!


  1. Walter,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to keep us abreast of your workflow, testing and more when it comes to post/NLEs.

    Here’s to hoping that company is HP and the workstation is the Z820. In reading your first part of the review, regarding how the system “internals” are laid out, I think HP is the only other big workstation vendor putting efficient chassis design as a priority. (At least, looking at their promotional material.)

    We’re an all Apple shop too, and albeit much smaller than you, it’s time for a new workstation within the next couple of months for one of our suites and it behooves us to see what the Windows world has to offer, especially considering the Volume License versions of Adobe’s Creative Suite are platform agnostic – which makes the possibility of switching relatively painless.

    Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing.


    • Glad you’re enjoying the series. I’m looking forward to really hammering the system when my schedule opens up a little more.

      The fact that Dell was never mentioned by my colleagues is one of the things that really intrigued me about the machine when they reached out to me. How many folks had actually tried this machine rather than just relying on specs on a piece of paper? When given the opportunity to bring a machine in and use it first hand, I’ll always say yes because that’s so much more valuable than reading specs and making a guess.

      Since there’s no way for a manufacturer to let everyone test a machine, I’m glad to have the opportunity to share my experiences with everyone on here. Yes the inside of the machine is messy and kind of convoluted, but it’s going to come down to performance for value that will be the determination for me as to whether this is the type of workstation that can work alongside our Mac Pros.

      Soon I’ll be able to announce the other machine that’s coming in the shop as a custom manufacturer reached out to me and it’ll be great to have two machines to compare in the same environment. See this is why I’m so excited about going cross platform and moving away from an Apple centric workflow. There are SO many options available to the end user once you step away from Apple only so I can build machines to meet different budgets and different needs. Going to be exciting!

  2. Interesting times Walter … am looking at upgrading our aging HP xw8200 workstations and would not have given Dell a thought were it not for this recent series of blog posts.

    If money (and availability) were no bar then I’d likely stick with HP’s workstations, which offer incredible power together with the build quality we’ve come to expect from our Mac Pro’s … but it seems their higher end workstations are not easily available over in my neck of the woods – on a visit to HP’s local online store the best one can get is a stock Z400 whereas the US store allows the full selection of models together with all build to order options.

    After browsing your posts above I paid a visit to the local Dell online store and was pleasantly surprised to see their full raft of workstations available with all the BTO options. +1 for Dell right there.

    For what it’s worth, the original plan was to replace the systems with Mac towers and/or FCP and/or Media Composer and/or Premiere Pro … but after Apple’s spectacular fail with FCP 8 it’s unlikely we’ll need to factor a Mac only NLE for a while yet. Very much looking forward to your further reviews of the Dell system.


    • Very interesting times indeed. I did find one quirk that I have to figure out what I did wrong. Created a graphic in Photoshop on the Dell but when it gave it to one of my editors working on an FCP 7 project, it kept going in as a flattened image. Had to recreate it on a Mac to retain the layers. Weird.

      I’m looking forward to continuing my tests next week. Got called away on an emergency trip so I had to suspend my testing for a week.


      • Walter–

        That PC to Mac Photoshop bug has been present for many years–I first discovered it when making menus for DVD Studio Pro–I never found a workaround other than to recreate it on a Mac. Looking forward to more of your insights. Thanks.

  3. Walter-

    Does your move to Avid mean that you are abandoning testing the Dell or the other PC you mentioned? Avid is cross platform; can you see you using a PC to run it? We’re about to pull the trigger on an equipment upgrade for our production team and I am interested on the real-world tests on the Dell unit.

    • Not at all, the Dell is already running Media Composer 6 perfectly fine and we are working to move it into full time production hopefully this week. We’re just waiting to get it hooked into the Small Tree SAN so it can work alongside the Macs.

  4. I also agree on the great quality of the Z800 but I might be a little biased because I own one with dual 6-cores, 24GB ram, Quadro FX3800, etc.

    I must say that HP’s business support is better than any other tech company I have ever dealt with. To me, that is extremely important.

    I needed a new PC when Intel first released their 6-core Xeons; so, I looked at HP, Dell, a few custom builders and building it myself (I have built many many PCs over the years). The downside to building your own PC is tech support. If you have a problem, but you don’t know exactly what piece of hardware is bad, good luck calling the motherboard /the video card / ram / PSU manufacturers. Each one will try to blame another part in the PC which happened to me with a faulty video card but PNY blamed the ASUS mobo and vice versa.

    Most of the *custom* PC builders focus on games; so, I wasn’t impressed by many even though their systems were good quality. As Walter and others know, editing video requires more specialized systems.

    I just hope this *custom* builder isn’t the company that begins with an “A”. I have debated the owner many times about the various components in a PC and why there are benefits to Raid and dual Xeons whereas he thinks everyone in the video industry *only* edits video so a Premiere Pro benchmark is the only determining factor in choosing the CPU, Ram & gfx card. When I pointed out that all motherboards have a much shorter life span with a highly overclocked CPU, he said it doesn’t matter because people tend to upgrade every couple of years. FYI, an example is the ASUS P6T board which states an expected life span of its VRM (voltage regulator) at 65 C is 500,000 hours and 5,000 hours at 105 C. While it might not get to 105, it can get much hotter than 65 with an overclock from 3.4GHz to 4.5GHz. Sorry about the diatribe.

    I didn’t like Dell because their workstations weren’t as well designed as the Z800, not to mention that HP’s “Z” line is geared towards the video and animation industry. Also, the Dell’s (7500 model I think) didn’t have a good setup of the PCI Express lanes. One of the main reasons why I do not like Apple at all is due to how they limit the PCIe slots to just 4 when most other Xeon boards come with 7 (HP Z800 has 6 PCIe and a PCI with 4 x16 and 2 x8). In my Z800, I have this and I can’t complain, except maybe about BMD’s drivers:
    1) Siig Expresscard adapter for downloading SxS cards
    2) Quadro FX3800 (gives me 10bit output with Premiere to my Eizo CG243W over Displayport)
    3) Areca 1680ix raid controller and BBU
    4) BMD Decklink Extreme 3D
    5) Nvidia to be determined for use with Resolve

    My favorite part about buying the Z800 was the 25% taken off without even asking. I requested a quote and received it with 25% off which closed the deal. I have helped a few other people buy Z400’s and Z800’s and they all got 25% off without asking. Also, I bought the Reg/ECC Ram myself online for $500 versus the $1800 at the time from HP. FYI, you incur a slight performance penalty for Registered ECC ram versus regular desktop ram, but you are safeguarded against data corruption caused by bad ram, which I have experienced (an hour long XDCAM EX file got corrupted from bad OCZ ram). For long renders, the 5% penalty is worth it for the data safety.

    • I just hope this *custom* builder isn’t the company that begins with an “A”. I have debated the owner many times about the various components in a PC

      The company is ProMax and it’s their ridiculously powerful ProMax One

      I’ll be testing that after NAB.

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