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Dell Precision T3600 Workstation Review


I have finally took delivery of the Dell T3600 Precision Workstation. It was high time I replaced my aging Dell Mobile Precision M90 which served me well for the past 5 – 6 years.

This is a single core Xeon E5 machine with variable options to choose from Quad, Six and Eight cores based on LGA 2011 socket. However due to budget constraints and not wanting to live on bake beans and living on the streets for the next couple of months, I have to be sensible in weighing performance/price.

Here are the configuration.

Xeon E5-1620 (Quad Core, 3.6 Ghz, 10MB Cache)
1 TB 7200 3.5″ Hard Disk
Dell PERC H310 Raid Card
8GB (4 x 2GB) DDR3 Non ECC 1600MHz Ram
Nvidia Quadro 4000 (2GB DDR5 SDRAM)
8X Slim DVD-Rom and 16X DVD+/-RW Drive
Windows 7 Professional 64bit
Standard 635W Base
5 Year Next Day Business Warranty
with the addition of Dell Ultrasharp U2412M (24″) LED monitor

more info at: http://www.dell.com/uk/business/p/precision-desktops

Impression

First impression out of the box, it looks pretty sturdy with powdered black/grey coated on the casing. It is pretty hefty but carrying it around was easy, thanks to the designed handles at the front and back of the case. The CPU was well packed but I still think it needs to be wrapped to keep elements out especially the obvious handle holes in the packaging. I cannot imagine if it was on a rainy day.

Anyway after inspection, there were some obvious scuff/dent which is minor and a broken rivet which holds the bottom and front plate of the chassis. Dell has been called to look into and hopefully would be resolved soon. Update: this has been resolved with Dell professionally with some pretty good discount back in my pocket. 

Other than that, all is good and booted up as per usual. There are not many bloatware on the system and most of them installed is of use. I believe the Precision models are intended to just get the ground up and started without much fuss.

The overall design looks the part and means business. It is not too big or intrusive either and compliments the work space. I do welcome the new design and is a pleasure to look at when taking a break.

Components

Booting up the machine, you will be greeted by a warm white glow emitting from the power button followed by the Diagnostic LEDs and HD indicator. These are cleverly masked away and you wouldn’t know it is there until it starts flickering. The Diagnostic LEDs are a series of 1 – 4 combination numbers that will indicate corresponding errors if found whilst booting up. Users will just have to look up the manual to see what the error means.

The Precision T3600 has RMT (Reliable Memory Technology) which maps out errors in the RAM and isolates the problematic areas. I will not even try to explain what it does but if you are interested, you could read up following the link below.

http://www.dell.com/downloads/global/products/precn/en/Dell-Precision-workstation-Reliable-memory-technology-whitepaper.pdf

And also with most workstations, it would take EEC Registered RAM. It would also accept non-ECC ram for budget concious users. I just decided to go with the standard 8GB non-ECC option for now and upgrade further down the road.

There are a fair amount of USB2 and USB3 ports at the back and front for easy accessibility. (4 x front, 6 x back). The components are mostly tooless which allows changing of parts relatively painless. Opening the case just requires unlatching the side handle.

The power supply is also modular and removable. Changing is easy should it fail and also keeping the internal cabling neat. On the plus, it also has a ‘health’ green LED indicator which doubles up as a handle to detach the unit. This makes trouble shooting easy in isolating problems.

My unit comes with the Dell PERC H310 Raid Card that supports up to 4 drives (SATA, SSD, SAS) but only 2 x 3.5″ bays are available internally. Supposedly you could add 2 drives on the optical bay, however my configuration had a 16X DVD+/-RW Drive instead and no option to remove it. The tooless bracket makes it easy to remove the drive in future.

The 3.5″ HD drive snaps on easily to the bracket and into the bay. In keeping it neat, the cabling is quite unique.

Overall it is not the neatest I’ve seen in comparison to other custom-built machines but it is still not too bad. I would think it will be a lot neater if they did not include the DVD burner and possibly doing something about the RAID card.

A nice surprise for me is the inclusive of an internal speaker which is tinny but does its job. I dislike cluttered desktop and the last thing I want is to plug in an external speaker with all the messy cables. Don’t expect booming bass because it doesn’t have any. It is good enough for the occasional youtube videos.

AirFlow, Noise and Heat

There are 3 fans mounted at the front which draws in fresh air through the angled vents. I was not sure what the fuss was when Dell were harping on the design. But having seen it up close now, it is quite a feat in the neat molding and functionality. The GPU were cooled further by streamlining the air flow through an air baffle. I think cooling is quite sufficient in this case (no pun) especially with quite a big mesh throughout the back.

The CPU has a large heat sink block and a fan that draws hot air out. Overall temperature is manageable at about 30-40 Celsius at idle/low tasks and full load at about 79 Celsius when working on some 3D intensive calculations.

I have also noticed increased in GPU heat once a second monitor is plugged in. On a single monitor it is averaging at about 50-60c on low and about 60-70c on dual monitor. The jump is quite significant at about 10-20 Celsius more. Apparently this is quite normal as it worked harder to keep up with performance. At full load whilst working on MARI, painting 4k textures on high polygon character, it did went up to about 84 celsius max.

I did not notice the fan kicking in at high load and the overall ambient sound is acceptable. My M90 laptop is louder in comparison.

The image below is based on 2 monitor setup.

Idle/low workload

On load

CPU and GPU Performance

Just for comparison sake I did the usual benchmark with CineBench 11.5 and SPECviewpref11 to see where it stands.Since it is meant for 3D work, I did not really bother with Futuremark although I do know it could game well if I wanted to. The drivers were stock as provided by Dell.

The CPU a single Xeon E5-1620 (Quad Core, 3.6 Ghz, 10MB Cache) based on Sandy Bridge is not the quickest when it comes to multiprocessor rendering. The next step up to Six and Eight core would be ideal and the limit would be the size of your wallet. Unfortunately mine is not that big. However its performance is still pretty admirable.

I guess sometimes we are so driven by stats, we forgot to see how it performs with real world applications. I am happy to say it runs perfectly with Maya, MARI, Mudbox with no issues. I was pushing more than 200 mil poly at Subdiv6 with no problems. One of the reasons for getting a workstation card was due to stability on the long run. I have had countless frustrating issues with Maya and game cards.

Conclusion

Overall it is quite an impressive machine, well-built and designed. Some key design decisions were thought out and serves its purpose. Comparatively the Dell Precision T3600 is keenly priced to its competitors or even custom-built.

However I wished the upgrades weren’t that expensive and the option to add more than 2 Hard Disks rather than just being made available for the Precision T7600. I do find it strange that it wouldn’t allow me to mix 1 x SSD 2.5″ and 1 x SATA 3.5″ HD in the online configuration. I am pretty sure it would as advice by Dell reps.
I would definitely be adding an extra 240Gig SSD drive and upgrading the RAM to 32 or 64 gig in future. Now the question, should I go ECC or not?

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19 comments on “Dell Precision T3600 Workstation Review

  1. Edan
    September 9, 2012

    Great read — I am thinking of getting this system for video editing. I do some After Effects work, but nothing as graphic intensive as yours. I mostly work in Premiere with multple tracks of HD. After reading your review, it seems as if this will be more than enough computer for me.

    • kelvw
      September 9, 2012

      Thanks – It’s a pretty good machine for AE and Premiere. I’d recommend adding a Solid State Drive as primary boot and more RAM. I’ll be posting an article on SSD installation pointers particularly with this machine as it’s not as straight forward.

      • Edan
        September 9, 2012

        I already own a Samsung SSD and 32GB of DDR3 RAM from my current PC which I will install into any new PC I buy. My current PC is a 1st gen Core i7 consumer desktop from Dell. It served me well, but I think I’ve pushed it as far as I can go. When you say the 3600 is “pretty good,” it doesn’t come off as a 100% ringing endorsement. :-)

  2. robert
    September 19, 2012

    Thanks for this review! Now I really want to get one of those T3600s. One question though: I plan to keep my current video card which has two 6 pin power connectors – does the dell PSU support this?
    It would be great if you could help me out – there doesn’t seem to be much info online about that PSU.

    • kelvw
      September 25, 2012

      Hi Robert,
      Apologies for slow response, I still haven’t got around checking the connectors. I’ll open up the case and see what I can find over the weekend. It’s been a busy week.

  3. Jeff
    November 16, 2012

    Robert,

    We use the T3600s in my office. The PSU does come with the two six pin connectors! Be aware, though, of one thing: the side of the case has an obtrusive handle that sticks into the inside of the computer a bit. It the video card you use now has the 6 pin connectors at the spot where the handle protrudes into the case (aconnectors on the top edge of the card near the middle of the card), the handle will be in the way of you closing the case with the video card hooked up to power. You’d need to either run the computer with the case side off, cut the handle somehow, or get a different video card.

    • Robert
      November 17, 2012

      Thanks for the info! The card I have has the power connectors on the back. It should be double height of a Quadro 4000, maybe an inch longer.So I hope there won’t be a problem.

      The machine is on it’s way now already – really looking forward to it :)

  4. Great post, loved the internal pictures. I’ll be ordering a t3600 if my finance dept ever gets around to approving it. I’ll be doing a pretty similar config with the 3.6ghz and 8gb of non-ECC. One difference, I have a GTX580 from my current system I need to move over. Does the t3600 have have the power connections I need? I need one 6 and one 8 pin connector. I think the t3600 has two 6pin GPU connectors. Any idea if a 6 to 8 pin converter would cause trouble? The 580 is a pretty power-hungry card.

    Thanks.

  5. Mafeer CM
    February 7, 2013

    Hai,

    how is this system for working auto desk 2013 products like auto cad, 3ds max and maya rendering. our main purpose is rendering 3ds max and maya.

    below the specs which i received from one of my vendor, could any evaluate this,

    Model – Del™ Precision™ T3600
    Base – Standard 635W Base
    Processor – Intel® Xeon® Processor E5-1620 (Quad Core, 3.60GHz Turbo, 10MB)
    Memory – 16 GB
    HDD – 1 TB
    Graphics – 2 GB NVIDIA Quadro 4000 (2DP & 1DVI-I) (1DP-DVI & 1DVI-VGA adapter)
    Operating system – Windows 7 Professional (64Bit) English

    Thanks

    • kelvw
      February 8, 2013

      The quad core you’ve listed is adequate however Since you’ve mentioned rendering, you should consider six or eight core processors to speed up your renders. You didn’t mention what kind of renders you would be doing, 16GB is again adequate but ideally 32GB or more would be relatively safe.
      The system works absolutely fine with maya and 3ds max since day 1.

  6. Rand Soellner
    March 26, 2013

    Hello Folks, I’m and Architect and am seriously considering this to run: Revit 2013 LT, AutoCad 2013LT and Lumion, as well as normal MS Office. The E5-1620 appears to the the right value pricepoint before a more significant jump in price and for the 2600 series, many of which are not as fast.
    If I do order a T3600, it will be with 32GB ECC 1600 RAM, and probably dual 2TB HDDs in RAID 1 and with a new nVidia Quadro K4000 (3GB). No one can touch Dell for this price for these specs. yes, we all want more options, but when you do that, you bump up into the more expensive T7600 series and that may increase the cost by another $400 or $500. Only you can make those choices. The T3600 is a lot of power in a mid-sized package. And you know; I have two aging Dells still working here, 24/7. once is an 11 year old XPS, the other a 7 year old 690 Precision. Still going strong after all this time. Dell does make a solid machine. And their support is the best, provided by Americans who speak American English, and who will remotely diagnose and fix your machine at just about any time, day or night. hard to go wrong with a Dell.

  7. kwramm
    March 27, 2013

    got my T3600 4 months ago and it’s an awesome machine. Replaced the Quadro with a gamer card because I do game development. I added a USB3 card for 4 extra USB ports, a Dell ethernet card and a Asus Sonar PCI sound card.

    I had to return a Soundblaster X-Fi PCI-E card though because of sound artefacts. Might be an issue with the PCI-E interface and Creative’s drivers.

    Stability and speed are awesome. Build quality is really nice.

    Negatives:
    – very few power cables inside. Dell doesn’t give you anything extra here and I had to buy a couple of Y adapters myself. There’s no molex connectors either.
    – front audio connectors do indeed introduce background noise
    – the extra SATA ports on the mainboard remain non functional
    – Boot time is long due to the Perc card’s initialization. However the system is extremely stable so you only need to boot once.
    – Wakeup from sleep has some issues in Win 8
    – Not enough HDD slots inside. I have a SSD, a huge storage HD, a backup HD and a blue ray player. So I had to tape the SSD on top of the power supply. It would be great if I could remove the slim-line DVD instead though, but there’s no cover to cover up the open slot.

    Still, it’s a heck of a machine and I would buy it again.

  8. Andrea
    March 31, 2013

    I’m considering to buy a T3600. Has someone measured power draw both in idle and in full load (CPU)?
    And regarding the absence of molex connectors, Kwramm, how you managed to bring power to extra devices you added? (I.E. usb3 card have typically molex connector..).
    Thanks!!

  9. kwramm
    April 1, 2013

    found the sata-to-molex adapter on taobao (Chinese ebay, but I’m in China), and a sata-Y-power-cable too. I think the real ebay should carry them too. I have the feeling they’re not very common though since they require a male sata power connector on one side of the cable.

  10. Andrea
    April 5, 2013

    Someone tried to use a 6-to-8 pins adapter for more power hungry video cards?

  11. Chris Rodinis
    June 28, 2013

    Watch an overview of the T3600: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99VvEY58m9g

  12. DCF
    August 31, 2013

    Note that the PERC H310 can run up to 8 drives (not 4).

  13. Gingerboi
    December 4, 2013

    Hi kelvin,
    I have a similar Dell T3600 Intel xeon e5-1620 with 3.6ghz//32gig ram // Amd V5900 Firepro. So far it has been a Very stable system however i have not used it much as the system fans are VERY loud and or on full blast even when idle. I have opened up the system and disconnected 2 of them and the system is whisper quiet. I was wondering if you take a closer picture of the fans as in picture 15. I think the fan labels in my fan assembly are Nidec fans. I would like to compare them to yours before I ring Dell Technical support. Also from your pictures it doesn’t seem there is a thermal sensor installed in yours (as show in picture 15). None in mines either!

    Ps: Thanks for the review and the pictures are invaluable even after all this time so please keep them online…….

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This entry was posted on July 16, 2012 by in Technology and tagged , , , , , .
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