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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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