MCAD Tech News (#312)19 Jul, 2011 By: Cadalyst Staff
First Look Review: Dell Precision T1600 Workstation
Entry-level workstation offers great performance at a low price.
Editor's note: This special edition of MCAD Tech News was made possible through a sponsorship by Dell and Intel. The following product review was conducted independently by Cadalyst Labs without involvement or influence of the vendors. For more information about professional workstations and their CAD applications, follow Cadalyst's CADspeed blog.
By Art Liddle
Dell Precision workstations, targeted at "users who need uncompromised performance on demanding, specialized applications," have always been a good fit for Cadalyst readers. Over the years, we have reviewed several models from the line. Addressing the needs of today's budget-conscious professionals, we looked at the latest version of Dell's entry-level model: the Precision T1600 workstation. Housed in a small tower chassis, it delivers great performance at a low price.
If you haven't seen it yet, check out the system configurator on Dell's web site, which lets you easily configure a workstation to your specifications. The possible combinations probably number into the millions. Our point? Simply to remind you that your workstation needn't match the specs of the one reviewed here. Consider our system just one example of what's available from Dell.
The Dell Precision T1600 Precision workstation packs a lot of power into a small tower.
The Dell Precision T1600 we reviewed included the following components:
- Processor: one of Intel's newest CPUs, the 3.4-GHz quad-core Xeon (E3-1270). This chip can jump to 3.8 GHz when running in single-core mode.
- Operating system: 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional with XP mode.
- Graphics card: NVIDIA Quadro 2000, Dell's top-of-the-line option for the Precision T1600. It plugs into a single PCIe 16x slot and includes 1 GB GDDR5 memory, as well as one DVI-I and two DisplayPort connections. It supports dual monitors at a maximum resolution of 2560 x 1600. The Quadro 2000 is the key to the T1600's performance.
- RAM: 4 GB of 1,333 MHz, DDR3 SDRAM.
- Storage: a pair of 500-GB SATA hard drives (16 MB cache) arrayed in a RAID 0 configuration for top-performance reading and writing data.
The system has a 265-W power supply, 16 x DVD+/- RW drive (with Roxio Creator Cyberlink PowerDVD), standard keyboard, optical mouse, internal speaker, network adapter, and an integrated sound card.
The stylish and diminutive tower case, measuring a mere 14.2" x 6.9" x 17.0", weighs 19.7 lb and includes ten external USB 2.0 ports (four in the front and six in the rear), as well as one serial and two PS/2 ports. Internally, there are two free expansion slots and one 5.25" and one 3.5" drive bay available for additional storage capacity. There are also two free memory slots, letting you boost system memory later by as much as 16 GB. The system includes a 1-W ready low-power mode, and the case provides one-handed access for quick and easy upgrades.
For our performance testing, we ran the Cadalyst C2011 v5.3b benchmark with AutoCAD 2011 configured for NVIDIA's NVG10.hdi enhanced AutoCAD driver. (The workstation was preloaded with NVIDIA's v184.108.40.20629 system driver for Windows 7 x64.) Per our testing standards, we verified hardware acceleration for AutoCAD and turned off vertical sync for the graphics card. We set the screen resolution to 1280 x 1024 and color depth to 32-bit.
The T1600's scores for the C2011 benchmark were as follows: total index of 821; 3D graphics index of 2,560; 2D graphics index of 222; disk index of 220; and CPU index of 282. Those last two numbers are all-time high scores for our testing. The RAID 0 drive array explains the disk index score and the 3.4-GHz quad-core Xeon CPU, the fastest processor we've tested to date, accounts for the CPU index score. The T1600's 3D graphics index score ranks second among workstations we've reviewed during the past twelve months. However, remember the T1600 represents Dell's entry-level workstation; the faster system had a higher-end graphics card — with a higher price to match.
In addition to the C2011 benchmark, we ran the SPEC ViewPerf 11 suite of tests, single sample mode only, on the T1600. The weighted scores were as follows: 31.41 for catia-03; 21.17 for ensight-04; 59.55 for lightwave-01; 22.42 for maya-03; 11.44 for proe-05; 42.66 for sw-02; 26.61 for tcvis-02; and 22.52 for snx-01.
As configured, our workstation includes three years of basic hardware service with three years of next-business-day limited on-site service after remote diagnosis. I can tell you from personal experience that Dell's warranty service is excellent. After one of the hard drives died on my Dell personal computer, I made a single phone call and a service person arrived the next day to install and configure a new drive. For the record, I had no down time and zero loss of data, thanks to a RAID 1 configuration for my hard drives — an option I strongly recommend for all workstations. (Configuring our review system with 1 TB of storage in a RAID 1 configuration would cost an extra $250.)
There is one thing missing from Dell's workstation, something no one will complain about: noise. Even though it includes three fans — one each for the CPU and graphics card and a system fan at the rear of the case — the Precision T1600 is the quietest workstation I've ever reviewed.
As for the all-important price/performance metric, we compared the T1600 against other workstations we've reviewed in the past year. Its C2011 Total Index score was nearly double that of its closest competitor on price. At $2,185, the T1600 had a score of 821, versus a price of $2,060 and a score of 434 for the competition. Obviously, the Dell Precision T1600 workstation offers excellent value. Highly Recommended.
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Art Liddle is a former editor-in-chief of Cadalyst. He lives in Eugene, Oregon, and teaches physics at Springfield High School.
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