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The Dell T3400 Workstation is a shining example of what a dependable computer should be!
Written: Oct 17, 2009 (Updated Oct 18, 2009)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
- User Rating: Excellent
Ease of Use:
Quality of Tech Support:
Pros:Attractive yet functional case, Support For Nearly All Socket 775 chips
Cons:The 160Gb SATA Hard Drive is a small for software programming purposes
The Bottom Line: The Dell Precision T3400 is a versatile workstation that has given me all the storage and multi-function media reading capabilities I could ever ask for over the past two years.
My Dell Precision T3400 with a Intel Core 2 Duo E4600 processor has faithfully held up to my daily computing needs for almost two years now. When I arrived at my new job, I was asked what I needed to reliably program a new SQL Server based data management system. At the time of purchase my needs were simple, a computer that was fast enough to run Dynamics AX and support multiple monitors for multi-tasking while programming. A Dell computer was the obvious choice for their reputation of making solid computers and offering solid product warranties. While, the Intel E4600 processor is a very weak pick from the line up of Intel Socket 775 processors, my choice was made to reduce the initial cost of the computer. Later, I plan on adding an Intel Q6600 Quad Core processor when the price is right.
Chassis Of The Dell T3400
The Dell Precision T3400 is nestled inside an attractive computer case that I found to be very versatile. The front of the case has a full length silver plastic shell which conceals a large air intake grill that is used to draw cool air inside. The case of the Dell Precision T3400 has an excellent ventilation pattern thanks to a large grill up front and rear exhaust fans in both the power supply and behind the processor itself. Behind the silver front shell, a full semi-flat, black exterior takes over. The computer case measures 17.5" high x 6.75" wide x 18.5" deep and weights about 39 lb with a full compliment of equipment installed.
Today, two years after purchase, the case is still used by Dell for a wide variety of their workstation line. In fact, the case is used for their dual processor socket workstations because of its effective cooling ability. When first turned on, a rush of air can be felt at the rear of the case as all the fans roar to life. While the system normally does not draw this much air because of the sound, it does show how effective it can be if equipment with higher thermal properties is installed.
Expansion Capabilities Of The Dell T3400 Motherboard And Chassis
Another advantage of the tower form factor of the Dell T3400 are the multitude of expansion slots that give you the ability to add more equipment. The Intel X38 Express based motherboard gives you a high speed data bus and has many data ports built in. First the two PCI-e graphics slots give us the ability to add dual graphics cards to increase the gaming abilities of your new computer. However, as a added bonus, the Dell T3400 can also support up to three PCI cards which gives you the ability to add devices like 4 port video surveillance cards, SDHC to PCI adapters and Sound Blaster audio cards. Here is a list of the available expansion slots on this computer:
2 PCI-e x16 graphics slots
1 PCI-e x8 slot wired as x4
3 PCI 32bit/33MHz slot with support for 5v cards
2 internal 3.5" hard disk drive bays
2 external 5.25" optical bays
1 external 3.5" drive bay (Flex Bay) in desktop orientation, or 2 external 3.5" drive bays (Flex Bays) in tower orientation
Video Cards And Graphics Ability
The system came with two NVIDIA NVS 290 PCI-e video cards that I use to control an array of the following four LCD monitors on my desk: ViewSonic Optiquest Q9B-2 19 inch, ViewSonic VA703B 17 inch LCD, Sony SDM-HS95P/B 19 inch LCD. The monitors take up the entire length of my desk but when combined with the power of my T3400 workstation, they really increase my productivity levels. For example, while creating a report in Microsoft Dynamics AX I can still directly monitor Outlook email, keep a SQL Server Terminal services session open to view data and have the fourth monitor show my file system windows.
Of course, I have only discussed 2D performance up until this point. The NVIDIA NVS 290 graphics card also does a good job of rendering DirectX 10. When my system is idle for 10 minutes, the Dream Aquarium screensaver is displayed with a unique tank on each of the four monitors. The rendering is smooth with at least 20 FPS and there are no visible artifacts. Since this is a work computer, I have never installed any 3D games on the machine. If however this is your desire, I recommend purchasing at least an NVIDIA GTX 270 video card since the NVS 290 is not rated for video gaming performance.
The NVIDIA NVS 290 graphics card does have one more feature that makes this workstation an attractive buy, CUDA support. I use the CUDA processors in my NVIDIA card to crunch SETI at Home work units.
Integrated Multi-Function Media Card Reader
My favorite feature of this workstation has to be the multi-function card reader that came factory installed from Dell. The reader is a simple product that simplifies my busy day at work. I use it on a daily basis to transfer files from SDHC media, upload accident photos from compact flash cards for reports and even to read digital images from Smart Media cards. The reader does suffer from slightly slower transfer speeds because of a strange I/O bottleneck but that is a minor issue that I have learned to overcome. Here is a list of digital media cards that were found to be compatible with the card reader in the Dell Precision T3400: 4Gb Kodak KHSD4GBCNA High Performance Secure Digital, Sandisk ULTRA II Compact Flash Card 2 GB (SDCFH-2048), Transcend 133x 2 GB SD Card (TS2GSD133), Dane-Elec - SD Memory Card 2 GB (DA-SD-2048-R), Kingston Elite Pro 1 GB SD Card (SD/1GB-SKR), Transcend - Class 6 - SDHC 4 GB (TS4GSDHC6) and Memorex SmartMedia card (32 MB).
Processor Performance Of The Dell Precision T3400 Workstation
Dell offered a wide range of processor configurations for this model. Picking the right processor is going to have a tremendous effect on the user experience so choose wisely. You cannot overclock this system from the BIOS. However, the great news is that you have a wide line up of Intel Socket 775 processors to choose from if you ever wish to upgrade this computer. For now, let’s examine the performance of the Intel E4600 Dual Core processor in the Dell T3400 with a 160Gb Western Digital SATA Hard drive.
Super Pi V1.1 is an application that extrapolates the specified digits of PI into a text file. Since the task is both processor and file system intensive it can give you an idea of how fast your cpu is. Processors with large on-die cache sizes and high bus speeds tend to do better in this benchmark. The problem is the calculation is single threaded in this version so you only see the performance of one processor.
Here are the results of three runs at 1,000,000 digits of PI on the Intel E4600 processor:
#1; 24 seconds
#3; 25 seconds
The Boinc Manager benchmark is designed to stress every available thread on your computer to see how many computations per second it can perform. With the results, the Boinc Manager automatically assigns distributed computing projects to your processors. The benchmark has been improved by scholars at academic institutions over the period of several years and is now a very reliable metric of modern computing performance.
Here the results of three runs on the Intel E4600 processor:
#1; 2336 floating point MIPS (Whetstone) per cpu, 5090 integer MIPS (Dhrystone) per cpu
#2; 2304 floating point MIPS (Whetstone) per cpu, 5057 integer MIPS (Dhrystone) per cpu
#3; 2334 floating point MIPS (Whetstone) per cpu, 5076 integer MIPS (Dhrystone) per cpu
The MCS CPU Benchmark 2008 will detect all available processor threads in your Windows based operating system and benchmark them all simultaneously. The resulting value is a combined score that shows what your computer’s potential processing power really is.
Here the results of three runs on the Intel E4600 processor:
The benchmark scores all show a median showing for the Intel E4600 processor. The single thread Super Pi benchmark shows a rather poor result of 24 seconds. The Intel E8600 3.33Ghz processor can achieve 13 seconds in the same benchmark. Looking at multicore performance, the E4600 can pull out a best score of 8974 in the MCS Cpu Benchmark, but the Intel E8600 charges ahead with a result of 12564. If you are overly concerned about getting more performance out of your Dell T3400 workstation then a wise choice would be to get an Intel Q6600 because it can achieve an impressive mark of 15611 in the MCS Cpu Benchmark.
Running applications in Windows XP with this system do not seem to be affected by the apparently slow performance of this Socket 775 processor. I have no problems running complicated Dynamics AX reports or opening large 3 Mb Microsoft Excel 2007 files. The reason for this is that in my opinion, you only need a dual core processor to run almost any workplace application efficiently in Windows XP. If you wish to run Windows Vista my advice changes because the operating system is bloated with graphics add-ons that stress daily computing tasks.
Operating System Compatibility
The T3400 can work with a wide range of operating systems. My system originally came formatted with Windows Vista 64bit, but I quickly downgraded it to Microsoft Windows XP SP2 32bit because it was compatible with Microsoft Visual Studio 2005. Officially, the computer also support Vista 32bit, Windows 7 32bit, Windows 7 64bit, RedHat Enterprise Linux 4 and RedHat Enterprise Linux 5. If wish to have full access to the installed video cards, sound card and other features of the computer, you should only install a supported operating system on this machine.
Technical Specifications Of The Dell Precision T3400
Intel Core 2 Duo E4600 2.4Ghz processor
Intel X38 Express Chipset On Motherboard
2 x 1024 Mbytes PC2-5300 (333 Mhz) Ram; 16Gb peak capacity across 4 DDR2 slots
1 x 160 Gb Western Digital WD1600AAJS SATA Hard Drive
1 x Broadcom 5754 Gigabit Ethernet Controller with Remote Wake Up and PXE Support
1 x DVD/CD, DVDRW drive
525 watt APCS (Active Power Factor Correction) power supply
Overall I enjoy using my Dell Precision T3400 Workstation on a daily basis for my data mining and programming tasks. If you should decide to purchase this product, I recommend buying a base system from Dell and installing higher end equipment as the need arises. Doing so will help reduce your up front costs and hedge that the price of 2Tb hard drives and quad core processor prices are going to fall. Over the lifetime of a typical computer, you will inevitably replace the hard drive at least once and reseat the computer heatsink so taking the opportunity to upgrade will be a much easier event for you.
Dell is now offering payment plans to help get your business running now rather than later. Additionally, you can also purchase used T3400 workstations on Ebay for a much lower price but you will lose some warranty coverage.
Dell’s corporate headquarters is based in Round Rock, TX which makes the Dell Precision T3400 workstation a valid entry in the Texas+Sweden Write Off.
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Amount Paid (US$): 850
Operating System: Windows
Processor speed: over 1000
RAM: More than 256
Internal Storage: CD-RW and DVD
Hard Drive (GB): Over 50
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