Dell Precision T3500

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A compact single processor workstation, suited to high-end CAD users due to its powerful graphics, RAID 0 hard drive system and memory speed and capacity. By Greg Corke.


Intel Xeon X5570 Processor (2.93GHz)
12GB (6 x 2GB) DDR3 1333MHz ECC memory
Dell motherboard
3 x 160GB Western Digital (10,000RPM) VelociRaptor SATA hard drives (RAID 0)
AMD ATI FirePro V8700 (1GB) graphics card
Windows XP x64 Edition (downgrade from Windows Vista business 64-bit)
3 year basic warranty (Next business day)

Benchmarks (XP)
Graphics (frames per second — bigger is better)
SolidWorks 2009 — 37.2
3ds Max Design 2010 — 4.8
Inventor 2010 — 3.4
CPU (secs — smaller is better)
3ds Max Design 2010 — 320

Price: £3,278

Featuring a single processor the Precision T3500 is specifically targeted at CAD users, but this particular T3500, with its top specification components, including the FirePro V8700, has a definite skew towards high-end 3D CAD.

The T3500 features six memory slots, all of which are occupied by 2GB DIMMs running at their top speed of 1,333MHz thanks to the top end Intel Xeon X5570 processor. To work with this amount of memory, which should be plenty for even the most demanding of CAD users, a 64-bit operating system is essential and the T3500 comes custom installed with Windows XP x64 Edition.


The compact chassis is packed with technology and while it doesn’t look pretty it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into the design. There is a big open space for airflow over the CPU and memory, with low duty fans pushing air from the front to the back of the machine. The end result is an incredibly quiet machine, even under load.

The storage system is high-end in the extreme with 3 x 160GB 10,000RPM hard drives configured in a RAID 0 array. This means that data is spread across all three disks so they work together to boost performance. The downside is that if one drive fails all data is lost, so a solid backup plan is essential.

Dell ships its workstations with Intel’s HyperThreading (HT) virtual core technology switched off by default. This is easily turned on in the BIOS and remained on for our tests. While HT has major benefits for rendering, it may slow down other applications, so check with your software vendor for recommendations.

With high-end components across the board our Precision T3500 test machine is unlikely to have mass market appeal but, of course, all of these can be stripped back resulting in a much more cost-effective and mainstream CAD solution. In summary, the Precision T3500 might not be the most stylish of workstations, but it is well built and quiet and another solid machine from Dell.


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