The SGI Fuel is a midrange graphics workstation produced by Silicon Graphics between 2002 and 2006. The Fuel replaced the single-processor configurations of the SGI Octane, but not as commonly believed the SGI O2. Indeed, the O2 remained around as the preferred low-end MIPS workstation for a year or two even after the high-end Octane had been replaced by the Tezro. In some ways the Fuel was a misfit - too expensive for the entry-level market but not quite high-spec enough for the most demanding jobs. Nevertheless, the Fuel saw significant use in most of the traditional SGI markets. Notably, it was also the first SGI to include USB ports, though these work only for keyboards, mice and audio devices - mass storage support is conspicuously absent. (IRIX does, however, include support for Firewire mass storage devices)


  • Production dates: 2002-2007.
  • Application architecture: MIPS4
  • Processor: 1 MIPS CPU, either R14000 at 500 or 600MHz with 4MB of cache, or R16000 at 600, 700, 800 or 900MHz. The R16000s also had 4MB of cache except for the 900HMz variant, which had 8MB.
  • RAM: 4 DDR SDRAM DIMMs, up to 2GB of RAM. It may be possible to use larger RAM modules to go up to 4GB.
  • Graphics: V10 or V12 VPro graphics cards. The V10 features 32MB of RAM while the V12 has 128MB. Both graphics options can be fitted with a dual-head option, allowing one card to drive two monitors. DVI-I output is standard on both cards.
  • Hard Drives: 2 bays for Ultra160 SCSI disks. 18, 36, 73, 146 and 300GB capacities available, larger disks supported. Smaller disks are also supported in theory, though nothing smaller than an 18GB disk was ever shipped as a factory default.
  • Optical Drives: 2 5.25" bays for SCSI CD or DVD-ROM drives. A SCSI CD-RW option was also available, and a number of third-party drives work. With an ATA-SCSI converter, it's possible to add DVD writers, too.
  • Audio capabilities: None. PCI or USB audio options can be added. For PCI cards, both the M-Audio Revolution 7.1 and the Creative Labs Audigy2 ZS work.
  • Expansion:
    • 4 64-bit/100MHz PCI-X slots available.
  • External ports:
    • 2 USB ports for keyboard and mouse
    • 2 RS422 high-speed serial ports, DB9 male (460kbps maximum)
    • 1 RJ45 Fast Ethernet port
    • 1 68 pin Ultra160 SCSI port
    • 1 IEEE1284 parallel port

What the Fuel can do

Most anything that can be said about the Octane applies to the Fuel too, in this category. The two systems are actually largely equivalent, except for tasks that benefit strongly from a second processor. The Fuel, however, is lighter, less power-hungry and not quite so loud. It makes an excellent machine for amateur CGI artists and 3D animation enthusiasts, or for dyed-in-the-wool Unix afficionados. It's quite capable enough for more serious work, too - Boeing, Raytheon, Ford and NASA still use a number of Fuels for engineering, design and simulation.

So, what operating systems can it run?

The Fuel is currently limited to running IRIX. Some work is being done to get Linux and NetBSD booting on it, though for the time being that's still in experimental stages. Also, there's still no open-source driver for the VPro graphics chipset.

Finding one, and how much you should expect to pay.

Fuels are pretty inexpensive for what you get. A modestly configured system, with a 600MHz R14k CPU, V10 graphics, 1GB of RAM and a 73GB disk can be expected to cost between $100 and $300. Higher-spec configs command a bit more, especially systems with the 900MHz R16k or with V12 graphics. The dualhead option, even on a V10, is worth a fair bit, too, since unlike the Octane, you can't just add a second V10/V12 card. Even at that, though, a fully-loaded Fuel rarely commands more than $700, unless there's special software, like Maya or ProEngineer already installed.