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By Ralph Grabowski, Apr 26, 2012
In the week after HP released the first 27" all-in-one workstation and days before Intel announced its next generation of "Ivy Bridge" CPU/GPU chips, Dell invited computer journalists from around the world to its Precision Workstation media event. We had high hopes for seeing exciting new technology. Which were dashed.
What we saw were four redesigned workstations with specs that were predictably better. The four are handsome beasts, all straight lines in black and aluminum. The top three machines seat one or two Xeon CPUs, the bottom-of-the-line T1560 model running an Ivy Bridge CPU, of which we were told nothing.
Nevertheless, the top-of-the-line T7600 has impressive specs, impressive enough that a representative from Intel told us this model is as powerful at the top supercomputer from just six years ago. The T7600 seats one or two Xeon CPUs, each with eight cores. There are enough slots to place 512GB of ECC RAM and insert three graphics boards, along with sufficient bays for eight drives -- all driven by a 1300W power supply. The starting price is $2,149, and I place the emphasis on starting. I imagine full fitted out, this sucker runs ten or twenty thousand bucks.
Dell representatives were especially pleased to point out that the power supply and all drives could be pulled from the front of the machine; through not hot-swapable, unfortunately. To accommodate this, the motherboard is centered inside the box, electronics on one side, drives on the other. Plastic covers cover the spare CPU and RAM slots to help smooth the air flow. The top comes off, should you wish to slide the T7600 into a rack.
I should point out that the "three" graphics boards are limited to one nVidia Quadro 6000 and up to two Tesla C2075 boards. Then there were two more unique features that Dell was proud to point out: Reliable Memory Technology (keeps track of, and disables, RAM memory spots that generate errors), and the dip in the top of the case for holding your cell phone.
Even though Dell's primary competitor is HP (#1 in workstation sales), the marketing staff aimed their guns on Apple. In an introductory video and throughout the presentation, Dell hammered the unreliability of Mac hardware and in particular of Final Cut Pro X software.
So, after the 1.5-hour event, we all flew home again. For 2012, Dell has nice looking desktop workstations that run faster than last year's lineup at a slightly higher price.
[Disclosure: Dell paid for my air fare, ground transportation, hotel accommodation, and some meals.]
Ralph Grabowski is the owner of upFront.eZine Publishing and hosts the WorldCAD Access blog. He has written over 100 books and several hundred magazine articles about CAD. In addition, Ralph has served as technical editor for Cadalyst magazine, and has been a columnist for CADENCE and AutoCAD World.
Ralph holds a civil engineering degree from the University of British Columbia. He was awarded "Best CAD/AEC/PLM Editor" by Strategic Research in 2005, and received the CAD Society's "Community Award" in 2002.
Complete bio on upFront.eZine