Among Dell's broad range of desktop PCs for the corporate executive is the T1500 Precision line, which encompasses purpose-built workstations with Intel's Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, high-end graphics processors and multi-drive RAID arrays, with all options built around its micro-ATX motherboard. At its introduction in 2009, Precision pricing started at $840; now the machines can be had for about $600.
Here at the CRN Test Center, we don't particularly like big, honking behemoths, even if they do break land speed records. Rather, we prefer an unimposing mini-tower like the one selected by Dell for its Precision, as long as it delivers the goods. And the Dell Precision does so quite nicely.
The silver and black mini-tower (about 17 x 14.5 x 6.5 inches) we received was equipped with an Intel Core i7 870 quad-core processor running at 2.93 GHz. The system came with 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate pre-installed and was running on 4 GB of DDR3 1333-MHz SDRAM. As for graphics, Dell populated our test Precision with an ATI FirePro v4800 display adapter, which includes 1GB of dedicated video memory, a dual-link DVI port and two DisplayPorts.
The machine was impressive even before performance tests were run. Just 35 seconds from power-on, the unit was ready to accept keyboard and mouse input. Eat your heart out, Ubuntu. Geekbench performance was outstanding. After adjusting Windows for the best performance (under advanced properties), they ran the 64-bit version of Geekbench 2.1.11, under which the Precision delivered a top score of 9286, faster than any other production desktop PC we've tested (the next fastest was Seneca Data's Nexlink 7100 at 8513).
Next: ATI FirePro Is Packed With PowerHelping propel this performance was the ATI FirePro, which also earns it AutoCAD certification. With 400 streaming cores, this card has enough processors to run a small city. Its 30-bit color depth is capable of displaying more than one billion distinct colors on as many as three, 30-inch independent monitors. The v4800 is one of three video boards that Dell describes as suitable for entry-level 3D apps (the other two are the Nvidia Quadro FX 380 and Quadro FX 580. Dell also offers the Nvidia Quadro NVS 295 and ATI FirePro 2260 for "Professional 2D" design applications and content creation.
Despite its small stature, the T1500 is expandable where it counts. Memory maxes out at 16 GB (a 64-bit operating system is needed to address more than four) and there's room for one PCI Express x16 (150 watt maximum, taken up in the test machine by an ATI FirePro v4800 adapter), one PCI Express x1 cards, two legacy PCI cards plus two 3.5-inch internal and two 5.25-inch external drives.
Servicing the T1500 is a breeze, thanks to a side panel that's quickly removed with a pair of thumbscrews to expose the cabinet's roomy interior. It's spacious enough, in fact, to be capable of holding more than the two internal drives that the hardware is designed for. The motherboard supports a total of four SATA (3Gbps) drives. On-motherboard logic provides support for RAID 0 and 1 configurations.
The front panel is home to four USB 2.0 ports as well as mic and headphone jacks and a 3.5-inch blanking plate that could be home to a diskette drive (remember those?) or Dell- or third-party option such as a multicard reader. Another six USB 2.0 ports are rear-mounted, as are the GbEthernet port and pair of PS/2 ports. Dell low-cost options include FireWire and card reader, two common requirements when creating or handling digital content.
The CRN Test Center believes that Dell's Precision line of high-performance workstations is an excellent alternative to white box solutions, and recommends the T1500 Precision for its excellent performance, numerous customization options and small footprint. A three-year warranty is standard.