The company takes the wraps off a line three years in the making. Plus, what differentiates Dell’s workstations from HP’s

Dell redesigns Precision workstation line
SAN FRANCISCO – In a redesign Dell engineers say has been three years in the making, Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) took the wraps off four new Precision workstations today: the entry-level T1650, the mid-range T3600, the T5600 for space-constrained environments, and the high-end T7600. The new models will be available in May, and boast the latest Intel Xeon processing and Nvidia Quadro and Tesla graphics technology.
 

Workstations redesigned from the inside-out

“(These workstations) have been totally redesigned from the inside-out,” said Efrain Rovira, executive director of Dell Precision workstations. “When we think about the kinds of people that use these products they’re very creative people and they want to use a system that would be the kind of system they’d design themselves.”
 
After initially buying desktop computers at a retailer, Mark Meadows found instead purchasing workstations designed for high-performance computing made a real difference to the engineering design work of his firm, Meadows Analysis & Design LLC. Workstations like Dell’s Precision line are designed to work with the design software he uses and are more configurable, which makes for a difference in performance.
 
Meadows got to use the new Precision machines as a beta customer, and was pleased with the new design.
 
“I enjoyed the ease with which I can work on them,” said Meadows. “It was also extremely quiet. You had to look at the light to tell if it was on, and that’s definitely not the case with other computers. And the speed is much faster.”
 
At the high-end, the T7600 is designed for power users with demanding modelling needs, and is priced beginning at US$2,149. It offers up to two Intel Xeon E5-2687W processors, a 1300-watt, 90 per cent efficiency power supply, and up to four full x16 graphics slots which can power up to an Nvidia Quadro 6000 graphics card and two Nvidia Tesla C2075 processors at the same time.
 
The T5600, priced starting at US$1,879, is a dual-docket system designed for space-constrained environments where users are working with complex 3D models and creating film and video content. It features up to two Intel Xeon processors, 128GB4 of quad-channel ECC memory, a choice of 635W or 825W power supplies and up to an Nvidia Quadro 5000 graphics card and Nvidia Tesla C2075 processor.
 
The mid-range T3600 is a single-socket workstation designed for digital content creators looking for a one-socket system, and is priced beginning at US$1,099. Users can choose between the Intel Xeon E5-1600 or E5-2600 families, two power supply options, up to 64GB4  1600MHz ECC or non-ECC memory and up to a single Nvidia Quadro 6000 or two Nvidia Quadro 5000 professional graphics cards, and an Nvidia Tesla C2075 processor.
 
Finally, at the entry-level the T1650 is for users that want to run their professional application on a system designed and optimized for professional applications. It includes the latest Xeon processors, up to 75W for graphics and certifications from ISVs. Pricing is not yet available.
 

Differentiating from the workstation competition

One Dell innovation the vendor is proud of is its Dell Reliable Memory technology. It looks for errors in memory, noting each error as it occurs and bypassing those bad sectors in the future to improve performance. When a single DIMM registers seven failures, a message is sent to the user to alert IT and consider replacing the DIMM.
 
In designing the new Precision models, Dell started with a blank slate and asked customers what they were looking for said Ken Musgrave, director of industrial design for the vendor. That led to features such as hard drives that can be easily removed from the front without opening the case, as customers are often swapping-out hard drives. The power supply also pills out from the back for easy replacement, and carrying handles have been added on the top for portability.
 
“We saw what others were doing,” said Musgrave. “We decided we were going to have a theme where I can point to every part of this product and tell every user why we did that, and we’re confident that’s something we’ve achieved.”
 
While carrying handles, swappable hard drives and removable power supplies are among the innovations workstation rival Hewlett-Packard Co. has already brought to its Z-series workstations, Rovira noted said many of Dell’s innovations are unique. Precision users can remove hard drives from the front, while Z users need to remove the pop-off case side.
 
However, HP’s drives are hot-swappable, while Dell requires shut-down first. The Precision’s power supply can also be removed without opening the case, although only popping-off the case side is required with HP’s. He also pointed to more spacing between USB ports to more easily plug-in peripherals, and a tray on top of the tower for connected devices.The biggest difference though, said Rovira, is that Dell wasn’t focused on aesthetics in its Precision redesign. HP hired the BMW Design Group to assist with its Z-series redesign several years ago.

“Dell is focused on purpose-driven innovation,” said Rovira. “Take aluminum. There’s lots of places you can put it where it has no use. We thought the best place to use it was to make the handles really strong.”
 

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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