SUMMARY: Comments on the SparcStation 4?

From: Henrik Schmiediche (
Date: Mon May 13 1996 - 13:38:35 CDT

Here are some comments I received on the SparcStation 4. Thanks
to all who responded!

  They are pretty good for some applications--they are fast, but the
video performance is awful. Most X-terms and any other Suns video are
much faster, so if there are any graphic intensive applications, go to
a Sparc 5 instead.

  The 17" LC monitors that I received were actually 15.9" diagonal
viewable area, (but this is not much different from the Sony monitors
- which did use to be called 16"). However the main disadvantage is
that they are only 1024x768 resolution.

Another thing to remember with the SPARC 4 is that the frame buffer is
only CX not GX (or better). I.e it provides pixel acceleration (and this
only with Solaris 2.4 or later), but not the full performance of the
TurboGX. Also, the SPARC 4 does not come with audio, you have to order
an extra module (approx US$200 list price). This sits on the CPU boars,
but does NOT use the S-BUS slot.

    Editors Comment:
    A post on the Sparc 4 framebuffer I recently saw says:

     ok> setenv fcode-debug? true
     ok> setenv output-device screen:r1152x900x94
     ok> reset
    This will make the framebuffer run at 1152x900 at 94 Hz.
    This works fine with the 17" entry-level monitor.

    I have not verified this!

Don't think of using them as servers for any service. If they should
ever lose the mains AC power, they need to be _MANUALLY_ re-powered on!

I would get a SS20 or SS5 add a Megatek card to have 2 seats... can use pretty
much any monitor with the Megatek Esprit cards and the performance is
good... Total cost would be less and one would have a better setup...

I've used both monitors in real life conditions.

For the use [most] students are get from the stations ... go for the
low end monitor. They won't notice the difference (quality) as much as
you do (budget). Unless they spend more than a couple of hours a day
on the system.

We've got several ss4's here. CPU/speed wise they're basically ss5's.
They don't come with audio (which may or may not be importaint to you.
It's another ~$150), and you have to get 4.1.4 if you don't want to
run Sol2 on it (because of the graphics adapter). For what you want,
I'd say they'd more than do as super x-terminals.

(commenting on the entry level monitor) It's a Nokia (447L, I
believe). It'll do 768x1024 at 76Hz or 1152x900 at 66Hz (which is too
slow a refresh rate, IMHO) [see note above on setting the Sparc 4
framebuffer to 94hz]. It's not bad for a lab, but I'd much rather
have the trinitron monitor on my desk.

We have very good experiences with our SPARCstations-4 (110 MHz). We
use them in the standard configuration with 32 MB RAM, and the
performance is okay. I would recommend the 20 inch monitor.

Can't speak for the monitor but I have installed a dozen sparc 4 in
the last 4 months (out of 300 sparcs that range from sparc 1s to
Ultras). I have designers and engineers running CAD applications very
successfully. One user went from a sparc 10 model 30, 48MB, 2-424MB
disks to a sparc 4-110, 64MB, 1 GB disk and received a noticeable
performance improvement. This user also uses a high end cad package,
ProEngineer. If you can live with the limited upgrade-ability of the
sparc 4 (ie small power supply, and 1 sbus slot) for the $s it is a
great machine.

Henrik Schmiediche, Dept. of Statistics, Texas A&M, College Station, TX 77843
E-mail:  |  Tel: (409) 862-1764   |  Fax: (409) 845-3144
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