When Dell announced the new Precision T1700, reviewers went wild. Is this compact workstation truly that innovative? After all, Lenovo and HP already had compact workstations well before Dell jumped on the mini wagon. As a latecomer to the world of CAD compactness, the true innovation in the Precision T1700 is not so much the size of the machine as the price. This workstation sells for about the same amount as a high-end desktop computer. Is it worth raving over?
Dell Precision T1700: The Design
The Precision T1700 comes in two designs: the compact mini tower and the small form factor design (SFF). It's ideal for situations where there isn't space available for a full-size CAD workstation. The small size is made possible by the innovative chassis design, which layers the components inside on top of one another. The only downside to this configuration is that it makes internal expansion almost impossible. Servicing the components can also be an issue in the confined space.
Dell Precision T1700: The Power
Powered by a single Xenon quad core processor and Quadro graphics, the Precision T1700 offers a total of eight USB ports, four on the front and four on the back. Two of the ports on the front are 3.0 ports, ideal for high speed hard drives. The rest are 2.0 ports, perfect for slower peripherals like a mouse and keyboard. It also features an Ethernet port, two audio ports, a serial port and three display ports (one on the motherboard and an additional port on the Quadro K600 card). Additionally, the Precision T1700 offers one VGA port and one DVI port. It is ISV certified, and features a tray loading DVD drive.
Another limitation of the Precision T1700 is that it will only accept two monitors at a time. While this isn't a problem for most managers and supervisors who only need to review and sign off on the work that's already done, it isn't usually adequate for CAD production workers, who need greater levels of performance.
Dell Precision T1700: The Usability
The Precision T1700 is also quite lean in terms of preloaded software. Its operating system is essentially Windows 7 Pro, and it does feature the Dell Precision Performance Optimizer, which tweaks the system settings for performance when running ISV certified programs. The workstation also comes with Autodesk Maya and Dassault Systems SolidWorks, and does feature enough memory to download and run free CAD programs and the normal data sets and apps used by engineers and scientists.
For the exceptional price (under $1,000), the Dell Precision T1700 offers a solid performance CAD workstation. It's ideal for managers and supervisors in the scientific, medical, and engineering fields, as well as many graphic artists whose work doesn't necessarily demand the highest level of CAD workstation performance. But it won't cut the mustard when it comes to hands-on, in the trenches CAD work. Essentially, it's an upgrade from a desktop PC, and a downgrade from a full size, high powered CAD workstation.
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