Dell Precision T3610 review

Pros

  • IT-friendly chassis
  • Pro-level Nvidia Quadro 3D graphics
  • Good multimedia benchmark scores
  • ISV certified

Cons

  • Could use an SSD for boot drive

The Dell Precision T3610 is a professional workstation tower that outperforms all current competitors. It's got an Intel Xeon (based on the Ivy Bridge-EP architecture) processor, Nvidia Quadro K4000 graphics, and a chassis capable of holding a lot more than what came inside our review unit. This is the one to buy if your time-constrained power users like engineers, scientists, research doctors, and art directors need a monster system for their billable work.

Design

The Precision T3610 we reviewed is a full-sized tower with some new-school flourishes. It has a perforated front and back panel for good airflow through the chassis and over heat-producing components. The front face is a vertical bi-level, with an aluminium handle to help with moving the system around. There's another handle in the back for pulling the system under a desk from the other side. That's the main design philosophy of the Precision T3610 chassis: It's designed for the IT pro who needs to service it. All the levers and touch points that move are marked with the same cornflower blue colour, and they're all tool-less, so you can pop PCIe cards or hard drives in and out of the chassis in seconds, not minutes.

There's a lot more room inside the Precision T3610 than in a smaller chassis, such as, for example, the chassis of the single-processor workstation HP Z230 SFF, and indeed Dell’s entry-level workstation, the Precision T1700 SFF.

The extra room makes for a myriad of expansion possibilities, since you can add four more memory DIMMs, a 5.25in optical drive, another 3.5in hard drive, PCI card, and five more PCIe cards (one PCIe2 x1, one PCIe2 x4, one PCIe3 x8, and one PCIe3 x16). The PCIe x4 and x8 card slots are physically as long as the PCIe x16, but are wired for the lower bandwidth listed.

A nice touch is that the card slots are marked on the legend stuck to the chassis door, and on the motherboard itself, so you can make sure you're plugging a PCIe3 x8 (25W) card in the correct slot. The drive bays listed above are pre-wired, so you won't have to waste time finding and stringing power cables through the chassis. The memory slots are under ducts that protect the memory from the heat of the CPU and GPU, but they are easy to pop off after you remove the optical drive bay (a two second process).

The back and front I/O ports are excellent, with three USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port on the front panel. The back has three more USB 2.0 ports, three USB 3.0 ports, serial, audio, Ethernet, PS/2 mouse and keyboard (to accommodate a favourite old keyboard/mouse), DVI and two DisplayPorts. It's worth noting that the USB ports are all coloured black, so you'll have to look for the USB-SS logos to locate the USB 3.0 ports.

You can, of course, configure the Precision T3610 to the particular needs of your engineers, scientists, graphics artists, or other power users. Our review unit included an Intel Xeon E5-1620 v2 processor, 16GB of DDR3 ECC RAM, a 3GB Nvidia Quadro K4000 graphics card, a tray-loading DVD burner, and a 1TB 7,200rpm SATA hard drive. We'd suggest adding an SSD as the boot drive for speed, but you can configure the system with speedier 10k SATA, 15k SAS, or even PCIe SSD.

The hard drive came with Windows 7 Professional pre-installed, along with a recovery option for Windows 8 Pro. This is a plus for companies that haven't yet made the move to Windows 8. The Precision T3610 is ISV certified for a variety of applications, including Dassault Systèmes CATIA, Autodesk Revit, Autodesk Inventor 3D CAD, PTC Creo, Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0, and Siemens PLM – NX. The Precision T3610 has a standard three year warranty, which can be extended or upgraded depending on your contract with Dell.

Performance

Performance is the reason why you'd buy a workstation system over a run-of-the-mill business desktop, and so it’s not surprising that the Precision T3610 boasts performance in spades. The Precision T3610 beats all of the workstations we've seen before on the 3D benchmark tests, thanks to its Nvidia Quadro K4000 graphics card. The K4000 is the most powerful single-slot workstation card from NVidia – the K5000 and higher require two card slots.

Thanks to the K4000, the Precision T3610 was tops at 3DMark 11 (1,472 points on Extreme), Aliens vs Predator (32 fps on maximum settings), and Heaven (26 fps on maximum settings). Other competitors like the HP Z230, HP Z420, and Lenovo ThinkStation E32 could only manage half the performance or single-digit frame rates on the game tests, and a proportional drop in the 3DMark 11 scores. If you need to use 3D for CAD, engineering, game development, or even photo editing, then the Precision T3610 with the Quadro K4000 should be at the top of your list.

The Precision T3610 was quite competent at our other multimedia benchmark tests as well, with a Photoshop CS6 test time of 3 minutes and 16 seconds, although it could only manage a 1:42 on the Handbrake test. Competitors like the HP Z420 and Z230 have SSDs, which boosted their Handbrake scores to the 30-second range.

Likewise, the SSD-powered systems are about a thousand points faster on the PCMark 7 test, which measures performance on day-to-day tasks. This isn't that big a deal, as it just means that T3610 users will wait a few seconds more for app launches and reboots than users with SSD drives. It's not enough to be a deal-breaker, to be sure, but if you need day-to-day speed, then it would be worth thinking about an SSD upgrade.

Verdict

The Dell Precision T3610 is a professional workstation that we have no qualms about recommending, particularly for users in organisations that have dedicated IT staff. The system performs exceedingly well, is more expandable than an SFF system, and has the latest ISV-certified hardware in it. As such, it replaces the HP Z230 SFF Workstation as our favourite single-processor workstation. Even if the rest of your company isn't a Dell shop, you should get these systems for your power users who need professional-grade workstations.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Dell Precision T3610

Processor

Intel Xeon E5-1620 v2

Primary Optical Drive

Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW

Graphics Card

Nvidia Quadro K4000

Operating System

Microsoft Windows 7 Professional

RAM

16GB

Type

Workstation

Storage

1TB HDD

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