Peeking Inside the New Precision Line

Dell held a press event in San Francisco, California on Friday, April 20th to unveil their revised Precision line-up and featured guest speakers from both the mechanical engineering industries and the motion graphics industries as well as guests from NVIDIA and Intel. The new Precision line is a very big deal to Dell, and it's clear they went back to the drawing board after their last generation. When a big company like Dell is genuinely hungry for marketshare, the end users always benefit the most, and that seems to be the case with these new towers as Dell tries to claw more customers away from HP.

It's very easy to be cynical about a product launch where the vendor talks about how powerful their new system is, because in the strictest sense it's not really their hardware: it's the combination of hardware from other vendors that is so powerful. Fundamentally vendors use what's available, and what's available from Intel and NVIDIA right now is impressively powerful. That's especially true when you're talking about leveraging six- and eight-core processors based on Intel's Sandy Bridge-E architecture, and NVIDIA's Maximus and SLI technologies.

Where Dell is scoring big with the T3600, T5600, and T7600 towers is in the chassis design and in their Reliable Memory Technology secret sauce. Dell still doesn't have anything like HP's Performance Advisor on the software side, but RMT is arguably more valuable since uptime is in some cases even more critical than raw performance.

Each of the towers sports the same fundamentals in the chassis design. There are two large aluminum handles that make it easier to carry, but the top can also be removed and have rails attached so that the towers can be installed in a rack-mounted orientation. There's a direct front-to-back airflow design that takes advantage of tower-style coolers on the processor, allowing the system to be acoustically and thermally efficient while remaining stackable.

The interiors are also much, much cleaner than the previous generation, and drive bays are now toolless along with, get this, a toolless power supply. The PSU appears to be fundamentally modular but also a proprietary design (with all the pro's and con's associated with that); if the PSU in a system fails, you can actually pull it out of the back of the system then slide a new one in and have the system back up and running in under a minute, no rewiring required. While on the one hand this leaves you at Dell's mercy for getting replacement units, on the other hand the tremendous value in retained uptime and lack of service time may very well make up for it. Besides, when you're paying for enterprise class workstations, features like this are what makes a design better than the competition.

Recognizing that optical drives are becoming less and less important, Dell specced the new line with slimline drives instead of full-sized 5.25" drives. They maintained the 5.25" drive bay, though, and that allows the end consumer the flexibility of configuring the system with either an optical drive, a quad of 2.5" drive bays, or whatever else they might need in that bay. It's a nice touch.

Finally, as I mentioned on the previous page, Dell has their own patented technology called RMT, or Reliable Memory Technology, which maps and isolates bad memory pages whenever there's a page fault, allowing the end user to continue using the rest of the DIMM and thus maintaining precious system uptime. Only when a DIMM has seven or more faults will the system suggest that you outright replace the stick.

The differences between the four Precision lines (T1650, T3600, T5600, T7600) really can be broken down simply. The T1650 is the entry level, single-socket, average-powered system. The T3600 is the first step up; it supports the fastest graphics cards available as well as running dual GPUs, but remains a single-socket system. The next step up is the T5600, which switches over to a dual-socket configuration, offers four DIMM slots per socket, and is able to support two PCI Express graphics cards (or theoretically a GPU and an NVIDIA Tesla card for Maximus). Finally, the big daddy is the T7600, which features two sockets and eight DIMM slots per socket, with support for up to three PCI Express cards should end users choose to run SLI and/or Maximus.

Introducing the Dell Precision T3600 System Performance


View All Comments

  • eanazag - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    I'd like to see how their new cards compete in this all nVidia review. The only problem I see is I can't make sense of how many different series AMD has.
  • thetuna - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    One of us doesn't know what a page fault is... Reply
  • YaBaBom - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    I like the Dell workstations, and administer a few of them. But I have to agree with cjcoats--the limited options for disk expansion--especially in the 7x00 series--are inexcusable.

    I wish they would take a queue from something like the Fractal Design Arc Midi that has 8 internal 3.5" bays.
  • bobj3832 - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    The machine itself is nice but it is the custom power supply, custom drive brackets, etc. that I hate.

    We have a ton of Dell computers at work. The ability to change out the PSU quickly is great for an IT department IF they buy some extra power supplies and have them sitting in a closet. Unfortunately our IT dept doesn't. PSU blows and it will either be 2 days to get a new one FedEx'd or Dell is out of stock for the 3 year old computer PSU model. With regular ATX PSUs I can buy a new one at a local store and put it in in less than 5 minutes.

    I also couldn't put a full length graphics card or double slot graphics card in some Dells at work.

    A CPU fan died and I can't just replace it with an off the shelf model because it's enclosed in this giant custom Dell air vent.

    Rant over.
  • killazys - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Hi, could someone elaborate exactly what testing is being dome with x264? What's the source clip, encoding settings, whether or not avisynth is being used, etc? Its interesting that the gpu is listed, because x264 encoding is purely software based unless you're using something like DGSource in Avisynth. Reply
  • killazys - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Done*. Please excuse me as I am posting from my phone. Reply
  • Rocket321 - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    I've long been jealous of the enterprise/workstation Cases from both HP and Dell. They are designed for such ease of service and have good attention to airflow and ascetics. My HP z600 at work is great with the handle/latch side door, steel panels, etc. I wish an aftermarket case maker would copy some of this stuff! Reply
  • otherwise - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    Agreed. I've been building computers for almost 20 years now, and the Z600 has to be the best designed case I've ever worked in. Reply
  • randinspace - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    Is Dell hoping to bring up fond memories of the Playstation 2 or something? Reply
  • cjb110 - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    The model name orientation suggests they designed it to be horizontal, but the logo on the mesh suggests vertical?

    Unless they have a rotatable logo like the PS3? :)

    Interestingly at work we've just switched outsourcing from HP to IBM, and as part of that any new desktops and laptops are now all Dell. Not this class though, just the i3/i5 models. They definitely look nicer and don't scrimp on memory like the 1/2gb HP ones did.

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