Dell unveils new mobile and tower Precision workstations

Dell unveils new mobile and tower Precision workstations

Summary: Dell's mobile Precision workstations get a Haswell upgrade, while the Ivy Bridge-based tower range is expanded with single- and dual-socket models.

TOPICS: PCs, Dell, Laptops

Dell's Precision workstation portfolio, aimed at users of demanding content creation, engineering, scientific, financial and other professional applications, has been expanded with three new tower systems and a pair of cutting-edge mobile workstations running Intel's latest-generation Haswell processors.

Mobile: M4800 and M6800

Mobile workstations: the 15.6-inch M4800 and 17.3-inch M6800. (Image: Dell)

The 15.6-inch M4800 is powered by the fourth-generation (Haswell) Intel Core i5 and i7 processors and can be configured with an ultra-high-resolution QHD+ display that delivers a stunning 3,200 by 1,800 pixels. That's a higher pixel density (235ppi) than Apple's 15.4in. Retina MacBook Pro (220ppi), and is obviously well suited to graphically demanding design and engineering applications. With four DIMM slots, the M4800 accepts up to 32GB of 1,600MHz RAM or 16GB of 1,866MHz memory. GPU options are AMD FirePro M5100 Mobility Pro, Nvidia Quadro K1100M or Quadro K2100M — all with 2GB of dedicated DDR5 graphics RAM.

Dell Precision M4800 (15.6in.)

Built on a MIL-STD-810G-compliant aluminium/magnesium alloy chassis and measuring 37.6cm by 25.6cm by 3.62-3.99cm, the Precision M4800 weighs from 2.88kg. As well as Dell's standard E-Port Plus port replicator, the M4800 optionally supports 60GHz WiGig short-range, high-throughput wireless connectivity. Dell claims 'all day battery life' for the M4800 (and its larger M6800 sibling): this remains to be tested, but we strongly suspect you'll need the 9-cell battery, discrete/integrated graphics switching enabled and maybe the optional 9-cell extended battery slice too.

Dell Precision M6800 (17.3in.)

The 17.3-inch M6800 lacks the 15.6in. model's ultra-high-resolution display option but can be configured with a 1,980-by-1,080-pixel 10-point Wacom touchscreen. There are four GPU options: 2GB AMD FirePro M6100 Mobility Pro, 4GB Nvidia Quadro K3100M, 6GB Quadro K4100M and 8GB Quadro K5100M. To keep all this running smoothly, there's a dual-fan cooling system that includes a GPU-dedicated fan. The M6800 has four storage options: 2.5in. drives in an 'easy-eject' bay, an internal bay and an optical drive bay caddy; and a solid-state Mini-Card (the smaller M4800 lacks the internal 2.5in. bay). Not surprisingly, the flagship M6800 is a bulky and hefty system: it measures 41.67cm by 21.06cm by 3.64-4.04cm and weighs from 3.57kg. You won't want to be carrying this one very far.

Eminently more portable will be the M3800, which was unveiled in July but won't be available until later in the year, according to Dell. Essentially a thinner, lighter version of the 15.6in. M4800 (complete with the 3,200-by-1,800 QHD+ screen option), the M3800 weighs around 2kg and is just 1.8cm thick.

Tower: T3610, T5610, T7610

Towers of Precision: T3610 (single socket), T5610 (dual socket) and (right) the flagship dual-socket T7610. (Image: Dell)

The new tower systems build on the Ivy Bridge-powered Precision T1700 that was launched in May (and which we currently have in for review at ZDNet). There are two small-footprint models, the single-socket T3610 and dual-socket T5610, plus the larger flagship T7610 — which Dell describes as "the world's most powerful tower workstation".

The T3610 runs an Intel Xeon E5-1600 v2 processor with up to six cores, while the T5610 is powered by one or two CPUs from the Xeon E5-2600 v2 family, with up to 10 cores. The top-end T7610, meanwhile, can accept 12-core E5-2600 v2 processors. The smaller towers can handle up to 128GB of 1,866MHz ECC or 1,600MHz non-ECC RAM in 8 DIMM slots, while the top-end T7610 has 16 memory slots and can be configured with up to 256GB of RAM.

As far as GPU options are concerned, the T3610 and T5610 support two PCIe x16 (Gen2 or Gen3) mid-range 3D, entry-level 3D or professional 2D graphics cards, while the larger T7610 can handle up to three GPUs including the 'high-end 3D' Nvidia Quadro K5000.

To prevent I/O becoming a bottleneck with these increasingly powerful CPUs and GPUs, Dell has upgraded the disk controller on the flagship Precision T7610 from Intel (AHCI) to LSI. As standard, the T7610 comes with an integrated LSI 2308 6Gbps SATA/SAS controller with host-based RAID 0, 1 and 10 support; you can also optionally specify an LSI 9271-8i PCIe controller with RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 support. LSI controllers are optional on the T3610 and T5610, which use integrated Intel AHCI as standard. Dell is also offering another (albeit expensive) I/O bottleneck-busting option in the shape of Micron's P320h 350GB PCIe SSD.

The new Precisions will be available to order on Dell's website on Thursday. UK prices start at £796 for the T3610, £1,441 for the T5610, £1,870 for the T7610, £1,152 for the M4800 and £1,380 for the M6800.

Topics: PCs, Dell, Laptops


Charles has been in tech publishing since the late 1980s, starting with Reed's Practical Computing, then moving to Ziff-Davis to help launch the UK version of PC Magazine in 1992. ZDNet came looking for a Reviews Editor in 2000, and he's been here ever since.

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  • Workstation?

    I wouldn't class the T1700 as a workstation: no ECC RAM, no expansion capability ... its just a mid-range PC with a professional graphics card.

    The 5610 is where it gets real.

    A review which would interest me would be between the new APPL MAC Pro and the 5610/7610.
    • Apple Mac Pro vs Dell T5610/T7610 is a Pointless Comparison...

      There's really no point in making the comparison, but I can go ahead and do it if you'd like.

      The biggest difference of all is that the Mac Pro is a single CPU machine, while the Dell 5610/7610 are dual CPU machines. It obviously gives the Dells an edge when it comes to raw CPU power, but it also gives the Dells many more RAM slots and internal PCIe lanes to work with.

      The RAM is the next big difference. Mac Pros only have 4 slots, while the T5610s have 8 and the T7610s have 16. The T5610 is configurable up to 128 GB 1866 MHz ECC, while the the T7610 is configurable to 256 GB ECC upon release (with 512 GB ECC configurations coming soon). If I had to guess, I'd say that the new Mac Pro would max out at 64 GB at 4 slots. Technically 32 GB ECC DDR3 DIMMs exist, but they're prohibitively expensive at around $1,000 per module for 1600 MHz (I've yet to see 32 GB 1866 MHz ECC). Apple may release 128 GB configs around the same time Dell releases 512 GB configs.

      The next issue is the GPU. The Dell T5610 can take up to two graphics cards, selected from Nvidia Quadro K600/K2000/K4000/K5000 and AMD FirePro V4900/W5000/W7000. T7610 can take up to three from the same range. The Nvidia Tesla K20C is also available, with at most one in the T5610 and at most two in the T7610.

      The Mac Pro offers two FirePro GPUs, with exact AMD model selection unknown. It's estimated the highest configurable FirePro is either the W8000 or W9000 based on the 7 teraflop SP performance estimate from Apple. The lack of Nvidia options is alarming, considering that CUDA and Nvidia dominate the workstation market, taking 80.1% share in 2Q2012:
      Moreover, AMD's W8000/W9000 has done poorly in comparison to the Quadro, as per reports:
      The worst part about this all is that even if you wanted to use an Nvidia Quadro or Tesla or even a Xeon Phi with a Mac Pro, you'd be forced to use a Thunderbolt 2.0 PCIe chassis, which would be bottle-necked to a measly two lanes of PCIe 3.0.

      Storage is a harder comparison to make because little is really known. Internally, the Mac Pros only have room for PCIe SSD storage with 1.25 GB/s sequential read. The Dell offers room for either 4 2.5" or 3 3.5" drives, which can be picked from 7200/10K/15K HDDs or SATA SSDs. There's also a PCIe SSD option from Dell, namely a Micron P320h 350 GB with 1.75 GB/s sequential read. Thunderbolt allows for external storage on the Mac Pros, but so do PCIe RAID cards on the Dells.

      As far as peripherals go, there are 10 external USB ports, 2 PS2, 2 RJ45, and 1 serial on the Dell, while there are 4 external USB, 2 RJ45, and 6 Thunderbolt on the Mac Pro. There are options for internal sound cards, media readers, and BD/DVD drives in the Dells.

      AFAIK the only real reason people buy a Mac Pro is that they need legal OS X on a powerful machine, which is often the case with content creators. And despite the overwhelming difference in capabilities between brands, I don't see that specific group complaining about the specs in the new Mac Pro. In fact, most consider it an overwhelming improvement over the previous model, which it rightfully is with workstation GPUs and a PCIe SSD. Most of the complaints I've seen from them is that it prioritizes form over function and forces the user to have many external peripherals and chassis.
      • Addendum

        I should add that the Dell T7610 also has options for an Intel Xeon Phi 3120A PCIe card and up two Quadro K6000s.

        Didn't expect the Phi to gain popularity this fast.
      • Dells run hot

        You forgot to mention. That the Dells CPUs run extremely hot (80C +) under use, unless you set the fan speed to Medium in the Bios, in which case you have a lot of fan noise (from all 4+ fans) all the time. From reports I hear, the Mac is close to silent.
  • Puzzle Not Complete

    High resolution display or Wacom touch but it seems you cannot have both. There is no point in a laptop today with outtouch. The Wacom touch is by far the best touch on the market especially if you want to use a pen to take notes. For a 17 inch display the 1920X1080 is to course for notes like this. Another miss step by Dell.

    Dell has the swing laptop/tablet with the XPS12. Dell has the pieces but cannot seem to put them together. I want high resolution display, Wacom touch, convertible laptop/tablet. If I could all I would be ordering it now.
  • Disappointed the M6800 not revert to 16:10 Display

    Myself and others have been complaining about the downgrade to 16:9 display with the M6600-6700, and hoping M6800 would revert to the 16:10 of the M6400 & M6500, with 1920 x 1600. Obviously Dell does not listen to customers.

    To have a premium business-use mobile workstation with 16:9 is ridiculous--business users need higher vertical pixels for work. This is such a no-brainer, but Dell simply does not listen.
  • Dell Precision Mobile Workstations - 16:10 Still Not Back

    I meant 1920 x 1200 resolution in my prior comment on the M6800. The 1080 vertical is not adequate.
  • A buddy of mine has a dell

    A buddy of mine has a dell that has maxxaudio built he told me, and the sound is amazing. Funny it doesn’t mention if these do or not.
  • just curious

    I thought I read these were supposed to have waves audio technology built in them for a better audio experience? Is that really the same Waves' as the plugins company ??
  • Overheating

    We have bought two Dell T7610, which are configured with dual core E5-2680 processors. The processors are mounted in series, which invariably means the second runs at about 5 to 10 degree hotter as it takes in air from the first heatsink.

    In heavy use, the CPU regularly reach temperatures in excess of 80C (just 5 degrees below Intels recommended limit), with only a marginal increase in the fan speed. The Bios options on the Dell for adjusting the fan speeds are close to non-existent, with just four options: Auto, Low, Medium or High. Auto does barely anything except when the CPU temperature exceeds 70C, when we notice a slight increase in speed and then again when the temperature exceed 80C. We've not tried Low, but presumably the CPUs themselves would eventually overheat and throttle back. Which leaves only Medium or High. High sounds makes the machine sound like an electric lawn mower, and it certainly cools everything. Medium, brings the CPU temperatures down to a respectable 60C when in heavy use, but you then have a constant noise from the computer even when in light use.

    Overall the cooling of the Dells is poor, with the Auto setting next to useless. Dell Pro technical support is equally inept and just try to deflect from this being an issue, suggesting its ok so long as its below Intels stated limit of 85 degrees. It is well known that lower CPU temperatures are better - the CPU is less lightly to develop faults and will last longer. We expected better from the brand.