Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/6119/dell-precision-t1650-workstation-review-entry-level-catches-up-to-the-pack

This year has seen a revitalized Dell aggressively attacking HP on the enterprise workstation front. While HP has been content to recycle last year's models, Dell has made substantial strides in improving their desktop workstation offerings across the board. We had a chance to check out their T3600 this year and found it to be a demonstratively superior offering to the competing HP Z420, and today we have the T1650, a model that updates the lackluster T1600 with a new chassis and some new hardware.

In addition to being our first look at Dell's new entry level workstation, this is also our first look at Intel's new Ivy Bridge based Xeons. While the improvements from Sandy Bridge were underwhelming for enthusiasts and incremental for desktop-using consumers, on the enterprise side the combination of reduced power and thermal envelopes and increased IPC make Ivy Bridge a much, much better value proposition.

Dell outfitted our review system pretty close to as fast as it can get; we have the fastest video card option, the second fastest CPU option, and middle-of-the-road storage and memory options. You can get pretty close to it with their $1,679 top-end preconfigured machine, but our system does have some notable differences.

Dell Precision T1650 Specifications
Chassis Dell Custom
Processor Intel Xeon E3-1280 v2
(4x3.6GHz + HTT, Turbo to 4GHz, 32nm, 8MB L3, 69W)
Motherboard Dell Custom with C216 Chipset
Memory 2x4GB Micron Non-ECC DDR3-1600 (max 4x8GB ECC)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro 2000 1GB GDDR5
(192 CUDA cores, 625MHz/1250MHz/2.6GHz core/shaders/memory, 128-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) 2x Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 500GB 7200RPM SATA 6Gbps HDD in Striped RAID
Optical Drive(s) PLDS DVD-ROM DH-16D6S
Power Supply Dell Custom 80 Plus Gold
Networking Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC269
Speaker and mic/line-in jacks
Front Side Optical drive
2x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Top -
Back Side PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports
4x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
2x DisplayPort (disabled)
VGA (disabled)
Headphone and mic/line-in jacks
DVI-D (Quadro)
2x DisplayPort (Quadro)
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Extras 80 Plus Gold power supply
USB 3.0
Warranty 3-year parts and 3-year on-site service
Pricing Starting at: $549
Price as configured: $2,790

Our review configuration is on the quirky side (as they often are), but I do want to draw your attention to the Intel Xeon E3-1280 v2. While I'm not a fan of Intel's branding, with the "v2" designating an Ivy Bridge core, it's not really that much more nonsensical than any of their other branding. What we do get is a CPU without an IGP (thus subtracting 8W off of the TDP) but more interestingly, a CPU that actually turbos up to 4GHz on a single core. None of their desktop chips thus far have scraped the 4GHz barrier, but this Xeon can hit it and the next one up on the ladder can even hit 4.1GHz. Ultimately what we have here is what should wind up being the fastest single-threaded processor we've tested and a very respectable one under multi-threaded situations (though undoubtedly inadequate compared to the hexa- and octo-core Xeons we've tested).

The updated C216 chipset brings to the table the same difference Intel brought to consumer desktops jumping from the 6 to 7 series chipsets: USB 3.0 support. All four of the C216's USB 3.0 ports are accounted for, with two on the front of the chassis (along with two USB 2.0 ports) and two on the rear.

Handling graphics duties is the stalwart NVIDIA Quadro 2000, and that's as fast as it gets for the T1650. The system is only designed to support cards up to 75W (meaning no PCIe power connector), and the remaining graphics options are fairly underwhelming. AMD's new GCN-based workstation cards are unavailable; the fastest FirePro available is still using a Turks core. As a refresher, the Quadro 2000 is essentially a cut-down GF106 (GeForce GTS 450); it features all 192 CUDA cores, but the memory bus remains at 128-bit and all of the clocks have been reduced to conserve power.

Dell continues to employ a RAID 0 as a cost efficient means of increasing storage throughput without resorting to SSDs. Our review unit only features a DVD-ROM, but since we never use the optical drive in testing anyhow it's no great loss, and the upgrade to a DVD writer is a moderately inexpensive one.

All in all, the T1650 is as basic as Dell's Precision workstations get, but already I'm a bit uneasy. The chassis definitely has the stylistic improvements of its bigger brothers, but as you'll see in the build section, it seems some corners were cut to get the T1650 down to its low starting price.

Application and Futuremark Performance

Given the Dell Precision T1650 is capable of supporting the fastest quad core processors available (with the Ivy Bridge Xeons even eclipsing their desktop brethren in raw clock speed), it's reasonable to expect it will do well in most of our benchmarks. At the same time, PCMark probably won't be as kind to the T1650's lack of SSD; the difference will be made up in the CPU-centric benchmarks later on.

Futuremark PCMark 7

Futuremark PCMark Vantage

Futuremark 3DMark 11

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

Futuremark 3DMark06

It's definitely fast, though, and it shows an appreciable gain over last generation's Precision T1600 workstation. Note that the starting price of that system was $100 more than the T1650's, while that review configuration's CPU was basically maxed out and still $400 short of where we are with the T1650. Futuremark is going to render the difference between the two systems as efficiently as our more heavily CPU-based benchmarks will, though.

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R10

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R10

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R11.5

Video Encoding - x264

Video Encoding - x264

Single-threaded performance is as high as we've ever seen; it takes an awful lot of CPU to catch up to the Xeon E3-1280 v2 in our review unit. The E3-1280 v2 is as much as 13% faster than its predecessor and you'll see it draws less power in the process. At this point you really need to add cores to match the new Xeon's performance.

Workstation Performance

While the basic application performance was mostly in line with what I expected, the workstation performance of the Dell Precision T1650 is oftentimes eye-opening. SPECviewperf runs such a broad array of tests that oftentimes it can be difficult to pin down exactly what component helps where; still, it's helpful to see just how potent the new workstation is.

SPECviewperf 11 (catia-03)

SPECviewperf 11 (ensight-04)

SPECviewperf 11 (lightwave-01)

SPECviewperf 11 (maya-03)

SPECviewperf 11 (proe-05)

SPECviewperf 11 (sw-02)

SPECviewperf 11 (tcvis-02)

SPECviewperf 11 (snx-01)

The T1650 may have had a modest boost over the T1600 in desktop applications, but jump over to SPECviewperf 11 and it's a bloodbath. There are three major differences to account for here: the T1650 has twice as much memory as the T1600 did (the T1600 had only 4GB) and that memory is running at a higher speed, the E3-1280 v2 has both higher clocks and a higher IPC, and the drivers used on the Quadro 2000 are bound to be newer. It's still difficult to figure out how the Lightwave portion, a benchmark that up until this point seemed to be moderately GPU-limited, produces a score quite so high, though.

SPECapc Lightwave 3D 9.6 (Interactive)

SPECapc Lightwave 3D 9.6 (Render)

SPECapc Lightwave 3D 9.6 (Multitask)

When we run the separate SPECapc Lightwave benchmark, results are a little more in line with what we expect, but it's clear the T1650's Xeon v2 is still a demon capable of meeting or beating faster hexa-core systems like the T3600.

Build Quality

Where I do think the Dell Precision T1650 betrays its entry level roots is in the build quality. It's hard not to be disappointed with the T1650 when the T3600 and its brethren have such a vastly superior design. In fact, this is where it's clear just how incremental the T1650's build really is.

So above, we have the interior of the T1650 with everything in its very standard ATX position. This isn't a bad design, necessarily, but I chastised HP for recycling the previous year's chassis with the Z420 and now it's Dell's turn. The front fascia may be different for the T1650, but...

The picture above is the last generation T1600. What's changed? They moved the I/O cluster and swapped out the fascia. That's all. That's it. Compared to the brilliant design decisions and language of the T3600 (seen below)...

...it's very hard not to be disappointed. This isn't a design that can't be shrunk down to suit the T1650, but hitting a price point seems to have been more important. As a result, you lose the smarter airflow and easily replaceable power supply. Worse, you're still stuck paying $50 for an upgrade to an 80 Plus Gold power supply, something that comes standard in the bigger models. HP ships their competing Z220 desktop with 80 Plus Gold power supplies standard.

This isn't a bad internal design, but it shows just how mild a refresh the T1650 winds up being. Something could've been done here to improve the product and it wasn't. Dell even has the price latitude to do so; HP's Z220 starts $400 more expensive (and indeed a comparable configuration to our review unit winds up being $300 more expensive), so why not take a small sliver out of that to deliver a more compelling product?

Noise, Heat, and Power Consumption

Whatever my disappointment with the aging internal design of the T1650, it's pretty tough to argue with the thermals, power, and acoustics. At idle the T1650 is beneath the noise floor of my sound meter (30dB), and even under load it only goes up to ~33dB. Is it a silent machine? No, but it's remarkably quiet and is going to be a perfectly fine citizen of any workplace.

Ivy Bridge may get hot in a hurry when overclocked, but as a workstation processor running at spec it's remarkably frosty. While I think the T1650's chassis still has room to improve thermals, a core peak of 67C under sustained load really isn't bad (especially when that core is peaking at 4GHz), and the Quadro 2000's 73C is perfectly reasonable for a GPU using a single-slot cooler.

Idle Power Consumption

Load Power Consumption

Of course, the power consumption is where the T1650's new processor gets really exciting. The new Xeon helps it idle at just 40W, 11W lower than the outgoing E3-1270. That's a much faster processor pulling a lot less power under both idle and load. You'd basically have to get rid of the dedicated graphics hardware to get power consumption any lower, making the T1650 and its Ivy Bridge-based Xeon a very attractive option for offices looking to deploy a substantial number of workstations. The power consumption savings most definitely adds up.

Conclusion: A Great Value That Could Be More

When compared to HP's competing Z220 workstation, Dell's Precision T1650 comes out looking awfully compelling. It's true you can probably get roughly the same performance out of a comparably-equipped Z220, but that Z220 is going to cost you more money in the long term. Given my mixed feelings about and experiences with HP's much-ballyhooed Performance Advisor software, I'd definitely be willing to pocket the difference between the Z220 and the T1650's pricetags. HP has become fairly complacent, but with the Precision T1650 it looks like the same thing is threatening to happen to Dell. Why should they fight any harder when their chief competitor can't get it together? Dell's already undercutting them by hundreds of dollars while offering arguably better build quality, why offer more?

At the same time, as a reviewer it's my job to ask for more where I see that it can be offered. This chassis should be put out to pasture and a new one built to bring the entry-level Precision model in line with the rest of the family, complete with the accoutrements that make them so compelling. The default 65% efficiency power supply needs to be killed stone dead; if perception is important (and I believe it is), Dell should just get rid of that option and bump the default price of the T1650 as they still have plenty of headroom at the entry level. I'd also like to see the swappable power supply of the higher end Precisions brought down to this price point, along with their memory technology. Dell made it abundantly clear that we don't really need 5.25" bays the way we used to, so why does the T1650 still have two? Because they're recycling the underlying chassis, that's why.

Enterprise users are going to continue paying dearly for upgrades, though. Our processor has an OEM price of just $623, but Dell tacks another $400 on to that upgrade price. $50 for a decent power supply is nearly as ridiculous, and our 2x4GB of garden variety non-ECC DDR3 is more than five times the cost of a retail kit. The upgrade prices are bloated to the kinds of levels that would make Apple weep with envy, but then you have to ask yourself just how many machines you need to deploy and then how much it would cost to order the kits of RAM separately and have someone install them, and then theoretically how much it would cost to troubleshoot systems if one of those kits turns out bad.

Either way, the parade of embarassment for HP doesn't seem to stop. Lenovo theoretically has a dog in this race, but it's telling that Dell and HP will mention each other in press conferences while Lenovo doesn't come up. Dell is continuing to attack the lucrative enterprise market with compelling products at lower prices while HP seems to be sitting still, and even if the Precision T1650 isn't a marked improvement over the T1600 in terms of design, the performance is there and at a lower price. If HP doesn't pay attention they may end up having the desktop workstation market slip through their fingers.

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