• Price: Base price £1,449 plus VAT . Model reviewed £8,776 plus VAT

  • Company: Dell

  • Pros: Supercar-like performance; attractive, flexible chassis

  • Cons: Oddly configured; very expensive; plasticky finish

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

We often use car metaphors to describe workstations we review – from solid reliable Volkswagons to superpowered Bugatti Veyrons. Our review model of Dell’s top-of-the-line Precision T7600 workstation is more like a customised design you’d expect someone like will.i.am to order – souped-up to ludicrous levels, but with impossible-to-figure-out configuration choices.

The T7600 is probably the best-designed workstation Dell has ever produced. Looks-wise, its exterior says ‘power’ in understated way – though to the touch it’s a bit plastic.

Open up the side of the case and you’ve easy access to most components – unlike some older Precision models. There are two slots for Xeon chips and 32 slots for RAM – plus the usual PCI Express slots for your graphics card and other devices (a hardware RAID controller on our review unit). A latch on the front reveals four 2.5-inch and four 3.5-inch drive trays that can popped out at a moment’s notice.

Our review unit had two 3.1GHz Xeon E5-2687 chips, 128GB RAM and two 256GB SSDs striped together using the controller. The chips are the most powerful on the market and just what you’d expect for the price, delivering untouchable performance in all our rendering/processing tests.

However, the inclusion of the full 128GB of RAM is this machine’s ‘fish tank in the glove compartment’ – cool in a ‘we’ve maxed out’ kinda way, but rather impractical. Few creative projects or applications will benefit from more than 32GB or 64GB – so this just smacks of willy waving on Dell’s part. Another odd choice is having only a 512GB ‘system and apps drive’ and no media drive – especially considering the price and internal space available. Maybe it’s meant to work directly off a SAN.

For graphics, our T7600 featured an AMD FirePro W8000 graphics card, which delivered exceptional frame-rates in both Cinebench and much more complex scenes in Maya. Compared to the Quadro K5000 in the Chillblast Fusion Render 5000 (see page 64) or last month’s WSX6 V2, the W8000 lagged a little in Cinebench, but there was little between them in Maya. To really push them, we ran the graphics-card killing FurMark benchmark, where the K5000 was on average 40 per cent faster.

Dell’s Precision T7600 is its best high-end workstation to date, and it could be your ideal desktop system.