• Price: 1895

  • Company: Dell

  • Pros: Flexibility to add processors.

  • Cons: Irrelevant components; 32-bit OS; poor performance; small hard disk.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 5 out of 10 We rate this 5 out of 10

Though sleeker and less imposing than the hulking black Precision 690 that the T7400 replaces, the long X-shaped metal bar at the front of this workstation still announces, “I’m a ridiculously powerful beast of a computer”.

It’s certainly not attractive, but it does imbue the user with professional kudos. However, our test model’s performance doesn’t live up to its first impression – and Dell’s choice of components is odd considering the target audience.

The inclusion of a single Xeon processor has a core advantage over the Core 2 Quad Extreme-based workstations from Armari, Scan and Xworks: you can add another processor at a later date when your budget permits, rather than having to buy a new workstation. For pure CPU-based rendering in Cinebench though, the 3GHz Xeon chip’s score was nearer to that of the 2.83GHz Core 2 Extreme (as found in Scan 3XS PVE-930) than the 3GHz model used by Armari and Xworks.

In Photoshop and After Effects, our first test results were very poor indeed. This turned out to be because Dell hadn’t activated a setting in Windows XP that allows it to see more than 2GB of RAM. When we corrected this, performance in those applications improved – but as the 32-bit version of Windows can only use 3GB, the performance was still behind its rivals running Windows XP 64-bit. Dell is the one of only two vendors to have entered a workstation here with a 32-bit OS (HP is the other).

Very oddly indeed, Dell has included two Quadro FX 1700 graphics cards, which use nVidia’s SLI techology to boost real-time 3D graphics performance. This is great for 3D artists and others with high-end needs – but at this level, it makes little difference. A better use of budget would have been more storage – as the T7400 has a single hard drive that provides the least storage found in any of the workstations we’ve looked at here.

This model was reviewed as part of our group test of workstations for graphics professionals.