Dell Precision T1700 SFF review

The Dell Precision T1700 SFF is a professional workstation at a business desktop PC price.
Photo of Dell Precision T1700 SFF

The Dell Precision T1700 SFF ($994 direct) has the looks and the price of a generic business desktop PC, and that’s its hook. It is really a full professional-grade workstation with one of the latest Intel Xeon quad-core processors and Nvidia Quadro graphics. It’s a good fit for the graphics artist or engineering/scientific/medical manager that doesn’t necessarily need the highest levels of performance. Rather, it’s a perfect fit for the supervisor that needs to sign off on work, while using an ISV-certified system with the same data sets and applications that the engineers or scientists use. It has a great performance and features for the price. All this makes it our newest Editors’ Choice for single-processor workstations.

Design and Features
The T1700 is a standard looking SFF desktop, and that’s the point. It won’t garner envious looks in your organization, since it looks so much like any other desktop on your co-workers’ desks. From the exterior, you’d never know that the system is equipped with a quad-core Intel Xeon E3-1225 v3 processor and Nvidia Quadro K600 graphics card. The front panel is vertically oriented, with a tray-loading DVD drive to the left and a column of four USB ports right down the middle of the front panel. Two of the USB ports are 2.0, the other two are 3.0, which mean you can hook up slower peripherals like mice to the USB 2.0 ports, and speedy hard drives to the USB 3.0 ports. A pair of audio ports round out the features on the front panel.

On the back, the system has four more USB 2.0 ports, two more USB 3.0 ports, PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse, Ethernet, audio, and a serial port. The system has three DisplayPorts (two on the motherboard and one on the Quadro K600 card), VGA, and a DVI port. The DisplayPorts on the motherboard are inactive while the Quadro K600 is installed, so you’re limited to two monitors connected to the Quadro K600 card.

The interior is cramped, yet filled to the brim with technology. In addition to the Intel Xeon E3-1225 v3 processor and Nvidia Quadro K600 card, you’ll find 8GB of DDR3 ECC memory (up to 32GB total supported with two free slots), a fairly standard 500GB, 7,200rpm SATA hard drive, and that’s about it. The T1700 has a 255W power supply for all the internal components. The system has a PCIe x4 half height slot open for other expansion cards and a free SATA port on the motherboard, but if you need internal expansion you’d be better off with a system in a minitower chassis. USB 3.0 external expansion works well for hard drives, but the system lacks the eSATA or FireWire ports that you’d need to connect older drives. If your organization still uses these legacy drives you can of course add a PCIe adapter card later.

The T1700 comes with very few software packages pre-loaded, it’s pretty much just Windows 7 Professional and a couple Dell utilities including Dell Precision Performance Optimizer, a utility that automatically tweaks system settings for many ISV certified programs including programs like Autodesk Maya and Dassault Systems’ SolidWorks. Of course, this is how you want it configured, since extraneous programs have no place on a professional workstation that may be used to create plans for a client’s project. The pricing of the system configured above includes a three-year warranty.

Performance

The Intel Xeon E3-1225 v3 processor and Nvidia Quadro K600 graphics are very close to the configuration on our Editors’ Choice HP Z230 SFF Workstation ($2,045). In fact, the main difference is that the Xeon E3-1245 v3 in the HP Z230 is clocked just a smidge faster (3.4GHz vs 3.2GHz). The Z230 also has some other performance enhancing features like a SSD boot drive and RAID 0 data storage. The SSD in particular helps the HP Z230 speed past the T1700 in tests like the day-to-day PCMark7 test, where the HP has a 2,000 point advantage over the T1700.

The T1700′s predecessor, the EC-winning Dell Precision T1600 ($2,185) and even the dual-socket Lenovo ThinkStation C30 ($3,483.95) both lag behind the HP Z230 on that test. However, on other tests, like the multimedia Handbrake test (0:32 for T1700, 0:30 for the HP Z230) and Adobe Photoshop CS6 test (3:20 for the T1700, 3:05 for the HP Z230) the Precision T1700 only lags behind the HP Z230 by a few seconds. The multimedia tests are affected much less by the speed of the Z230′s SSD. And since both the HP Z230 and the T1700 have the same graphics cards, they have almost identical 3D performance on our benchmark tests.

When you get to this point of the review, we have to ask ourselves, is this system better than what we’ve seen lately? And the answer is an unequivocal yes. The Dell Precision T1700 has performance similar to the former Editors’ Choice HP Z230 on all our benchmark tests save one, and after all, performance is why you buy a workstation over a vanilla business desktop PC in the first place. The Z230 is (slightly) more expandable than the T1700 due to a larger chassis. But if what you need to do is work on graphics arts projects or share data files and related programs with the engineers that do the real work in your company, then the T1700 is a better choice on account of its sub0-$1,000 price tag. Therefore, on a bang-for-the-buck basis, we award the Dell Precision T1700 SFF our Editors’ Choice award for single-processor workstations.

Specifications
Primary Optical Drive DVD+R DL
Processor Family Intel Xeon
Storage Type HDD
Graphics Card Nvidia Quadro K600
Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Professional
RAM 8 GB
Type Workstation
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 500 GB

Verdict
For under $1,000, you can get an ISV-compliant workstation that comes with an Intel Xeon CPU and Nvidia Quadro graphics. For the money, this is the single-processor workstation that you should be procuring for scientific/engineering management and your graphics arts folk.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc