Introducing the Dell Precision T1600

We've spent a lot of time dissecting boutique gaming desktops, but there are entire other classes of hardware that we only rarely put through their paces. Today that changes with the first in what we hope will be many reviews of workstation-class desktop machines, and we're kicking things off with a mid-range workstation courtesy of Dell: the new Precision T1600. Designed for low power and high performance and equipped with an entry-level workstation graphics card from NVIDIA, we'll run it through our usual desktop gauntlet along with a couple of extra tests and see what Dell brings to the table.

Dell's Precision T1600 is pretty unassuming, but workstation desktops are exactly that: they're work horses, not show ponies. But inside this Micro-ATX mid tower is a decent amount of enterprise-grade hardware. Dell has made big strides with their new Precision T1600 series. There's the usual generational hardware refresh: the T1600 sports Sandy Bridge-based Intel Xeon processors along with a GF106-based NVIDIA Quadro graphics card. But Dell (not at all unlike HP) has also added a smattering of ISV certifications to this tower, including Autodesk's AutoCAD, Maya, and 3Ds Max. Strangely there's no certification from Adobe, whose production suite would likely benefit substantially from a system like this one. In fact, the NVIDIA Quadro 2000 card in our review unit is one of the frustratingly few cards actually certified for Premiere Pro CS5's Mercury Playback Engine (although anyone with an NVIDIA graphics card, 1GB of video memory, and access to Google can get MPE to work).

Dell Precision T1600 Specifications
Chassis Dell Custom
Processor Intel Xeon E3-1270
(4x3.4GHz + HTT, 32nm, 8MB L3, 80W)
Motherboard Dell Proprietary Motherboard with C206 chipset
Memory 2x2GB Hynix DDR3-1333 ECC @ 1333MHz (expandable to 16GB)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro 2000 1GB GDDR5
(192 CUDA Cores, 625/1250/2608MHz core/shaders/RAM, 128-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) 2x Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200-RPM SATA 6Gbps in RAID 0
Optical Drive(s) Optiarc DVD+/-RW Combo Drive
Networking Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet
Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Speaker, mic/line-in jacks for stereo sound
Front Side 4x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Optical drive
Top -
Back Side 2x PS/2
6x USB 2.0
2x Ethernet
3x DisplayPort (one disabled)
Serial
Speaker, mic/line-in
DVI-D
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 6.89" x 16.99" x 14.17" (WxDxH)
Weight -
Extras RAID 0
ISV Certification
Warranty 3-year basic hardware service with 3-year limited onsite service
Up to 5-year available
Pricing Starts at $629
Review system configured at $2,255

The review unit Dell shipped us is fairly beefy compared to its base spec, upgrading to the second-fastest processor they have available (the E3-1280 is 100MHz and $600 more) and the absolute best graphics card the tower ships with.

If you haven't ever checked out enterprise-class hardware before, a couple of things here are going to be pretty interesting to you. First is the Sandy Bridge-based Intel Xeon E3-1270. This chip is ostensibly an enterprise version of the desktop Core i7-2600, running at a nominal 3.4GHz and capable of turbo-ing up to 3.8GHz, but in this instance the integrated graphics have been disabled completely: if you take the Quadro out of the tower, there just won't be any video output. The flipside is that losing the GPU knocks the chip's TDP down to just 80 watts. The C206 chipset it's strapped to is also the server/workstation equivalent of the desktop H67.

There's also the NVIDIA Quadro 2000, a single-slot video card based off of NVIDIA's GF106 chip. It sports a full 192 CUDA cores and 1GB of GDDR5 strapped to a 128-bit memory bus, but clocks have been significantly curbed to hit the card's 62-watt TDP. The desktop GeForce GTS 450 (built on the same chip) has a nominal core clock of 783MHz (1566MHz on the shaders), while the Quadro 2000 runs at just 625MHz on the core and 1250MHz on the shaders. The GDDR5's memory speed has taken a massive hit, too, going from 3.6GHz down to just 2.6GHz. That said, there are reasons: the Quadro 2000 can be cooled using a single slot, it runs quietly, and more importantly it's optimized for workstation tasks the GTS 450 isn't designed for.

It's also interesting to see a RAID 0 setup come through here, something that's been a bit rarefied. Some enthusiasts swear by RAID 0 (yours truly, for example) while others don't see the point. While this striped RAID is still running off of mechanical drives, it at least provides a tangible boost over running a single disk. That said, it still can't really replace the performance of an SSD, but at least it can beat the capacity for a lot cheaper.

The rest of the system is going to seem fairly uninspiring, but try to remember: this is Dell's entry-level workstation. It doesn't need the biggest and best, it just needs to provide a sensible balance of price and performance for the intended tasks. I'll go ahead and gripe about the power supply, though: 265 watts isn't an issue for a computer like this, but the stated 65% minimum efficiency is frankly dismal. Even under peak load that wattage isn't liable to be a huge problem, but in a business environment every watt counts and that only becomes more and more important as the number of systems deployed increases. Dell is willing to offer an 85% efficient 320 watt power supply as a $50 upgrade, but frankly that seems miserly, especially when Antec sells a 380 watt, 80 Plus Bronze certified power supply for $45. That may be an off-the-shelf consumer product, but the point stands. Dell should simply eliminate the 265-watt PSU option and use the 320-watt model as the default.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • mrmj2u - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Two Dell T7500 machines under my desk right now...

    Dual Quad Core W5590 processord @ 3.33Ghz
    10TB HD Space using LSI RAID 9260-81
    24GB RAM...
    ATI Firepro V5700

    Ah but its still my work machine ;)
    Reply
  • zdzichu - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    I'm surprised to see ATX form factor. After all, traditional desktop from Dell (Optiplex) sports BTX board for a long time. Reply
  • Tor-ErikL - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    Good to see that Anandtech goes workstation ;)

    Our company has been using workstations for many years in our dellivery's. And we actually use them as gaming devices. The quadro 4000-5000 doesen't do that bad compared to geforce. However with quadro you will get a stable running card that lasts for 5 years, this is also true for workstations. I dont mind paying extra for that stabillity - in the projects we delliver hardware is only about 10% of the cost anyhow.

    Last time we tried geforce we bought 35 workstations and 35 geforce cards, turned out that about 25% percent of the geforce cards was failing after just a few weeks. So in the end the small ammount of money we saved by using geforce in the purchase, we ended up loosing big time due to replacement of defective cards.

    Hopefully we will see a review of the HP Z800 workstation. And i hope anandtech also compares graphic performance against game engines !! The difference between the old FX series and the new quadro series is BIG !

    The best target quadro card would be 4000 since this is good money for your buck compared to performance. It's also still single slot and with low power req's

    My own testing on quadro versus geforce shows that the 5000 card is not that bad compared to geforce 580 - And the quadro 6000 card would probably come close.

    Would love to see anandtech run all the new quadro cards against geforce, i think there is a myth tha says quadro is bad when it comes to gaming. Yes the quadro drivers are not optimized for games and the old FX series was crap. But dont judge the new quadros based on the old FX series. Same goes for Xeon CPU's !
    Reply
  • Tor-ErikL - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    Company's like us doesent care if a graphic card costs 300USD or 900USD, we tend to look at other aspects than price when we buy ;) Reply
  • Fozzie - Thursday, May 05, 2011 - link

    Sorry to say, but I've deployed several of these T1500/1600 series Precisions and the build quality is nothing like the 3400/3500. The 3000 series and higher are built like tanks with fantastic case design. The 1500/1600 series is more like a cheap Vostro version of a Precision with the outward appearance that is largely a plastic facade.

    Not that this is an issue that ultimately would probably decide or break whether to purchase this or not. Just an FYI.
    Reply
  • Etern205 - Thursday, May 05, 2011 - link

    be nice, if you spend a fortune on a machine to have at least a couple of USB 3.0 connectors in the front! Reply
  • Max- - Thursday, May 05, 2011 - link

    It's nice that Anandtech has decided to test workstations, but i think that the review still needs a lot of work. I work on broadcasting and all the computers we use are naturally workstations. Here's my comments on workstations benchmarking and on what i see important:

    Skip the game benchmarks completly, if you're buying a workstation for professional use it's completly irrelevant information

    Skip the comments about some parts costing more than what you can buy as components in PC shops. If you're buying workstations you're buying the possibility to have a tested system, that'll work and run when it's critical. Not only CAD people and engineers use work stations, TV-studios, broadcast in general, sound engineers etc. all use workstations.Price is rarely the #1 driving factor. But do keep comments about memory upgrades and other component upgrades costing too much from the manufacturer.

    Run tests with the GPU & CPU cores stressed to 100% for 24 hours. If i'm rendering something i don't want the computer to die from heat, i want to know that the product is solidly engineered and will keep running when left on to do work.

    If a workstation is configured in raid 0 it's not usable for critical situation. It's absolutely not possible for a workstation to die in tv-studios or sound stages for example. Raid 0 adds too much uncertainty. If you need the speed, you go SSD or use external storage, raid 0 is basically never seen. Raid 1 however, is.

    Video encoding, rendering, specviewperf are relatively good tests. But try finding some other tests as well. Many video codecs are single threaded, some can be encoded multi threaded. I want to know how the computer manages doing single threaded and multithreaded tasks on video encoding. I also want to know stuff like how many 100-200mbits/s videostreams i can simultaneously write on the HDD.
    Weirdly i also want to know how quickly the system boots up, since if something crashes the computer, every second waiting for it to boot up costs a lot of money.
    How many sound tracks can i write simultaneously on the HDD with ProTools? How badly does the speed degrade when the HDD gets full?

    Noise tests are very important as well. If the computer is not sitting in a machine room behind a KVM it'll be sitting close to the user. Noise can get really irritating very quickly, specially if there are many of the computers in the same space. Both load and idle tests should be done on noise. Saying things like "whisper quiet" take a completly new meaning when you put the workstation in a sound mixing enviorment for example, or a control room of any kind. What you take for "whisper quiet" in a home enviorment doesn't really mean a thing when reviewing workstations.

    The computer will in some cases be installed in racks in a machine room, or a soundproofed rack closet. What kind of rack mounting brackets does the manufacturer provide? How deep is the computer? Supermicro enclosures for example are often so deep that you need to make sure you have deep enough rack closets. How well does the enclosure circulate air from the front to back (or back to front) when mounted inside a rack closet?

    What kind of monitoring and managing capabilities has the manufacturer built in? Will i get e-mail alerts on failing parts? Will the BIOS be able to bootup the computer every morning at 7am for example? I might want to close the computer for the night, but i don't want to walk into a machine room to boot it up the next morning.

    How many network cards do i have? Can i use load balancing on the 2 integrates NICs? Having 2 is better than 1, since often some computers can sit on several separated LANs.

    When i open up the enclosure, is it designed so that when mounted with sliding rack brackets i can just pop the lid off and throw in a replacement HDD? I don't care if cables are neat or not, as long as i can access the system and replace a broken component if i have to.

    Power supplies might or might not be a issue. Heat generation is always an issue.

    Reliability is key when it comes to workstations in my opinion, and should be kept in mind when reviewing them.
    Reply
  • ochentay4 - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link

    you sir made the best comment in this article. i totally agree with every point you made. Reply
  • dhfkjah - Friday, May 06, 2011 - link


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