The SGI Buyer's Guide
guide tries to help you when you want to buy an used SGI. First
it will try to help you deciding which system fits best
to your needs and then it will point out important items you should
care about when buying a machine.
Where to get Affordable SGI Machines
Okay this answer is rather short, but I really don't know other
alternatives (except you simply know people who want to get rid
off used systems) to get an inexpensive used SGI. You may also
google a bit, maybe there
is a reseller somewhere in your country. But in most cases resellers
do take more money than you would spend on ebay - in exchange
you get better support.
Actually I know of the following SGI resellers (of course this
is only a random selection). When you consider getting a machine
from them, it would be best tp write them an e-mail and ask for
a specific configurations, as in most cases the prices on their
website aren't up to date.
See my SGI Vendors page for more
Selecting the Right System
- The Indigo
is a nice small box, but mostly for collectors.
The Indigo was a real break through for SGI on the desktop
workstation market. Although it really looks nice and can perform
comparable to an Indy (depending on CPU and graphics) it is
mostly something for collectors, because the price/performance
ratio is worse than with most other used SGI machines.
- The Indigo²
is a solid entry system, but you have to know about the details.
The Indigo² has many different flavours with different
processors and graphic options. A good Indigo² can be almost
as powerful as a single processor Octane, whereas a really bad
Indigo² isn't much faster than a good Indigo.
- The Indy
is a cheap entry system to SGI.
The Indy is the ideal starter system for people who want to
have a closer look at SGIs and IRIX, because the Indy is a really
inexpensive computer that even can have a webcam (the famous
IndyCam) attached. But for serious business, an Indy may be
- The Octane
is the powerhouse of the desktop SGI machines.
The Octane isthe most powerful and expandable desktop machine
from SGI that often appears on ebay.
It can have up to two CPUs, three harddiscs and even two graphic
cards. An Octane is the ideal development plattform with lots
of power and ressources.
- The O2 is
the well designed allrounder.
The O2 is a real allrounder - with its UMA architecture and
hardware texture mapping it is ideal for doing graphics business
and there is an inexpensive video option available that will
enable you to do even video editing. Plus it really looks great.
The MIPS CPUs which are used in SGIs offer a very high floating
point performance - this is just the thing needed for 3D graphics.
I would guess a MIPS CPU is as fast as an Intel CPU with 1.5 times
MHz, that is a 195MHz R10000 is about as fast as a 300MHz Pentium
II. Plus the memory of an SGI is really fast, because it uses
a dual channel system (doubles the performance) as opposed to
But you really have to consider that most affordable SGI boxes
in the second hand market are already 6 years or older, don't
expect miracles. On the other hand, for an 6 year old system,
an Octane performs amazingly well.
This is a very special section - in most ebay auctions you won't
get the IRIX CDs with the system, although IRIX is preinstalled
on the system. This has various reasons: First there are more
SGI systems out there than IRIX CD sets, simply because SGIs are
most used by big companies, which have hundreds of SGIs but only
need a dozen installation CDs. The second reason is that you don't
get a *license* with the CDs - the license is legally (not physically)
dongeled to your machine. That means you can install IRIX on your
machine, but that would not be really legal...
Of course there are also IRIX CD sets on ebay (don't get the
so called "IRIX Overlay Sets" with only 3 or
4 CDs - this is just an update, and you cannot use these systems
for installing IRIX on an empty disc. A full IRIX CD set has at
least 12!), but be prepared to spend another 100EUR on such a
set! On the other hand you don't need a set immediately, if you
buy an SGI with a clean IRIX preinstalled.
The current Version is 6.5.18, but you can upgrade any 6.5 release
up to 6.5.17 by downloading the upgrades from SGI. The upgrade
to 6.5.18 isn't free any more, but probably you won't need it
anyway, because most improvements are for the big servers.
Of course there are original SGI monitors.
- There is a general hint: Buy the system you want, don't buy
an entry system for upgrading it - this will cost much more many
in most cases, as the single parts get rather expensive compared
to a complete system.
- If you don't have IRIX CDs, ask the seller if he can install
IRIX onto the system for you. You might even ask him to install
all or most packages, because most simple IRIX installations do
not contain development tools (even if you are not a software
developer you may need these for compiling freeware)