Mini-Review: The Dell Precision T3400 Workstation

bamacre

Lifer
Jul 1, 2004
21,030
2
61
As some of you may know, I get to play with a few of Dell's computers. One of them is Dell's Precision T3400 Workstation, and it is definitely my favorite model. So I wanted to take some pictures and write up a little review for this system. First off, my review may be a little biased, and I'm not going to compare it directly to another brand's system. But, I hope it is still informational and helpful to someone.

The Dell Precision T3400
http://www.dell.com/downloads/...esktops/prec_t3400.jpg

The model I am working with today is Refurbished, purchased from Dell Outlet, and comes with a 3yr on-site warranty. However, I have replaced MANY of the parts, and while Dell certainly will not warrant the parts I added, doing so does NOT void the warranty of the rest of the system, as some may have previously thought.

The final specifications of this system...

Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Processor (replaced E4400)
A-Data 8GB DDR2 800mhz (non-ECC) (replaced 1GB ECC 667mhz Samsung)
eVGA 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX (replaced 256MB Quadro NVS)
Integrated High Definition 7.1 Channel Audio
Samsung Spinpoint 500GB SATA II w/ 16MB Cache (replaced 80GB Western Digital)
16X Dual Layer DVD+/-RW SATA
Three (1-Front / 2-Rear) 1394 Firewire Ports
Dell (optional) upgraded 525W PSU
Microsoft Windows Vista Business 64bit


Front View
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/images/t3400/t34_front.jpg

As you can tell from the picture, the T3400 has two 5.25in front bays for two Optical drives. As well, two 3.5in bays for a floppy drive and/or an internal Media Card Reader. It also has front audio ports for for a Microphone and a Headset.

There are two front USB 2.0 ports. The front 1394 Firewire port is optional from Dell, and if purchased also includes a firewire PCI card with two additional rear firewire connections.

This system can be configured not only as a tower, but also as a desktop. You can either have it shipped your preferred way, or do this yourself by purchasing the appropriate front cover, both of them pictured here...
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/images/t3400/t34_desktop.jpg

As you can see here...
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/ima...3400/t34_desktop02.jpg
...and here...
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/ima...3400/t34_frcover01.jpg
... the internal design of the bays allows both configurations. Just simply slide the drives in, in regards to the orientation you wish.


Rear View
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/images/t3400/t34_rear.jpg

There are six rear USB 2.0 connections, and of course the Gigabit Ethernet connection. Also, from this view, you can see a lever at the very top of the case, which when pulled, releases the side door of the case for easy internal access.

You may also notice that the dual-slot 9800 GTX video card is installed upright, with the heatsink facing upwards. This is a Dell proprietary version of BTX, and because heat rises, the video card may run a little cooler in this position.


Internal View
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/ima...t3400/t34_internal.jpg

Bird's Eye Views...
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/ima...3400/t34_bird_east.jpg
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/ima...400/t34_bird_north.jpg
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/ima...400/t34_bird_south.jpg

The T3400 motherboard has an Intel X38 chipset. Unlike the XPS 420, the T3400 has two PCI Express slots (x16 and x8), and officially supports Nvidia Quadro SLI. I honestly do not know if it supports Crossfire, nor have I tested it, but it should. Nvidia GeForce SLI is another story, and there is definitely no official support for it.

There are four DIMM slots for DDR2 memory modules and supports up to 16GB (4x4GB) (make sure to have A08 or newer BIOS). The T3400 supports both ECC and non-ECC memory, but not mixed. This is really nice because non-ECC DDR2 memory is very inexpensive these days. Installed in this system are four 2GB modules of A-Data DDR2-800 memory. I have also used with much success the Super Talent DDR2 memory modules, which are also very inexpensive. Most likely any memory that runs at standard JEDEC 1.8V will work in this system. As for 4GB modules, I have tested with success, Aeneon (model number "AET960UD00-25D-S"), Super Talent (model T800UB4GSA) modules, and Samsung (part# D2-4G800SO).

Another nice feature of the internal design is the blue plastic do-hickey pictured here...
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/images/t3400/t34_vid_sup.jpg

This can rotate up and down for installing the video card, but its sole purpose is to give physical support for heavier video cards, like the installed 9800 GTX, to help prevent bending which can happen over a long period of time.

Installing or replacing a hard drive is extremely easy to do. There are two internal hard drive bays. The enclosures pictured here...
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/ima...t3400/t34_hd_brack.jpg
... pull out. Just simply put the hard drive in the bracket, and slide it back in. No screws necessary.

The heatsink is held onto the motherboard with two screws and can be easily removed to replace the processor. With the case laid on its side, and with the front of the case pointed away from you, simply remove the screws and rotate the heatsink toward you for removal.

There are NO PATA connections. All optical and hard drives MUST be SATA. I wouldn't even bother trying to use a PCI PATA card.


Power Supply
This system can be configured from Dell with the standard 375W power supply, or with an upgraded 525W power supply.

The 375W has two 12V rails @ 18A each, and has one PCI Express 6-pin connector.

This system pictured has the upgraded 525W PSU. You can see the ratings here...
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/images/t3400/t34_power.jpg

It has three 12V rails @ 18A, and has two PCI Express 6-pin power connectors...
http://www.benmacre.com/mt/ima...t3400/t34_x16power.jpg


Original configurations from Dell
Dell charges a lot of money for upgrading parts, so buying this system fully-equipped is not recommended for those looking for a good deal. But thanks to their internal design, replacing and/or adding parts is very easy to do.

The 525W PSU however is probably a really good idea to get on the front end. But the 375W is plenty for mid-range and even higher-end range video cards that only require one 6pin power connection. The 512MB 8800 GT and GTS, as well as the HD3870 cards will perform just fine using the 375W PSU.

Most systems from Dell will come with an 80GB Western Digital WD800JD hard drive, or a Hitachi 80GB HDS721680PLA380 drive. It is rare, but I have seen Seagate 7200.10 80GB drives as well. In the past couple of years I have seen nothing but Western Digital, Seagate, and Hitachi brand hard drives.

Dell uses Samsung, Nanya, Hynix, Infineon, and ProMos memory. I have never seen ProMos ECC memory, but I see a good mix of the other four brands when they come with ECC memory, as well as non-ECC. I usually pull whatever ships anyway.

Just to dispel ignorant rumors, of course Dell uses the exact same Intel processors found in retail boxes.

The 256MB Nvidia Quadro NVS 290 card that comes standard with the T3400 looks very similar to the older 128MB NVS 285...
http://www.benmacre.com/images/nvidia_quadro285.jpg
... and will come with both the dual DVI and dual VGA cables.

This is a very quiet system. Even adding a powerful video card doesn't add much noise. However, configuring or adding 15K rpm SAS drives does make the system much more noisy.


That is pretty much all I can think of saying about the T3400. I will update this as I think of other things to add, or as I respond to any of your questions.
 

slugg

Diamond Member
Feb 17, 2002
4,722
73
91
Sheesh... I wish I had the money to "play around" with Dell Precisions. LOL!

Thanks for the read :)
 

bamacre

Lifer
Jul 1, 2004
21,030
2
61
Originally posted by: Oil
What was the price before and after the upgrade?

Original Cost $556.04
sold E4400 -$70.00
add Q6600 +$204.00
sold 1GB ECC -$20.00
add 8GB +$142.00
sold 80GB -$20.00
add 500GB +$76.00
sold Quadro NVS -$20.00
add 9800 GTX +$305.00

Final Cost:
$1,153.04

Includes shipping and taxes.
 

smoothmove

Member
Jan 15, 2004
26
0
0
I just picked up a T3400 on egay. Bought a barebones system.

Put in 8 GIG OCZ ram, Q6600, a 250gig WD HD adn a 8800GTS Video card. Ended up putting Windows 2003 Server in it, Vista was too much of a pain and the harddrive never stopped with Vista. So far, I like it. I upgraded from a Dell Precision 390.

I have the Q6600 OC'd to 3.0ghz. Runs at 46 celcius. Definately worth it.
 

dbcooper1

Senior member
May 22, 2008
594
0
76
How did you OC your Q6600 on a Dell? I have a T3400 and want to run a Q6600 at 3.0 also but can't find any bios options for that. Also, is the 375W PS sufficient for that, provided I don't have a high performance video card? Thanks!
 

pyronordicman

Junior Member
Mar 12, 2009
1
0
0
Where did you find the 4GB modules you mentioned?

As for 4GB modules, I have tested with success, Aeneon (model number "AET960UD00-25D-S"), Super Talent (model T800UB4GSA) modules, and Samsung (part# D2-4G800SO).

I found this one, but it's a bit pricey:

Crucial 2x4GB
 

bamacre

Lifer
Jul 1, 2004
21,030
2
61
Originally posted by: pyronordicman
Where did you find the 4GB modules you mentioned?

As for 4GB modules, I have tested with success, Aeneon (model number "AET960UD00-25D-S"), Super Talent (model T800UB4GSA) modules, and Samsung (part# D2-4G800SO).

I found this one, but it's a bit pricey:

Crucial 2x4GB

OOS everywhere unless you want to spend $100+ per module.

BTW, that Crucial probably won't work in the T3400, as it is registered. The T3400 supports ECC and non-ECC, but not registered ECC.
 

vinodh

Junior Member
Mar 25, 2009
1
0
0
Nice review and pics.
I bought this model about 9 months ago and I am just getting around to upgrading the HDD.

I was wondering if the bay for the floppy and media card reader can also hold a HDD. I can see that the power supply as well as additional SATA ports are avaialable. Just trying to figure where to fit the drives into.
 

UltraWide

Senior member
May 13, 2000
793
0
76
Can you comment more on the noise? I had a T5400 with 2 x E5440 Xeons and I had to return it because the 160mm fan up front was insanely loud. I currently have an Optiplex 960 desktop and mini-tower and they are both silent.

I am looking to get the T3400 before it's discontinued, but I am scared it will be loud like the T5400.
 

bamacre

Lifer
Jul 1, 2004
21,030
2
61
Originally posted by: vinodh
Nice review and pics.
I bought this model about 9 months ago and I am just getting around to upgrading the HDD.

I was wondering if the bay for the floppy and media card reader can also hold a HDD. I can see that the power supply as well as additional SATA ports are avaialable. Just trying to figure where to fit the drives into.

Never tried it, but I would think so. Your other option would be to buy some adapters so you could fit a 3rd hard drive in a 5.25in bay.


Originally posted by: UltraWide
Can you comment more on the noise? I had a T5400 with 2 x E5440 Xeons and I had to return it because the 160mm fan up front was insanely loud. I currently have an Optiplex 960 desktop and mini-tower and they are both silent.

I am looking to get the T3400 before it's discontinued, but I am scared it will be loud like the T5400.


The T3400 is going to be about as quiet as the Optiplex 960. It won't be anywhere near as noisy as the T5400, which is designed to run a lot more, two physical cpu's as you mentioned.

At this point, if you can wait, I imagine the new model whatever it will be named, will likely be worth the wait. I can only imagine it will have six dimm slots for DDR3 (max 24GB support) and run Core i7 cpu's. However, it could be a long wait depending on when Intel plans to release cheaper cpu's that run on their new chipset.

This new consumer model...
http://www.dell.com/content/pr...?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs

... is probably a good preview of what we'll see in the Precision following the T3400.
 

UltraWide

Senior member
May 13, 2000
793
0
76
bamacre,

Thank you for the kind reply.
The only reason i want a T3400 is that it uses less fans than the new T3500 series and I can get it for a very good price because it's near EOL.
I am very sensitive to noise and sadly it's hard to find a powerful workstation class system that is quiet.

Here are the new Tx500 series:
http://www.engadget.com/2009/0...0-t5500-and-t7500-wor/

Those small chipset fans will be loud. :(
 

max789

Member
Mar 29, 2008
72
0
0
Hi all

I wonder if any fellow member here has had first-hand experience of the Precision T3500 and can comment on how noisy this machine is due to the presence of additional chipset fans.

I already use a T3400 and need to get a second box, choosing between the T3400 and T3500.

Since my number-crunching tasks are only moderate, I wonder if the extra performance offered by the Nehalem platform will be significant.

Thanks in advance.
 

UltraWide

Senior member
May 13, 2000
793
0
76
I ended up getting a T3500 and it's much quieter than the T5400 I had for a while. There are only 2 case fans in the T3500, they are 120mm and located on the front (5-wire PWM type). There are no chipset fans, thank God.
 

bamacre

Lifer
Jul 1, 2004
21,030
2
61
The T3500 is about as quiet as the T3400, definitely do not notice any difference.

You should definitely choose the T3500 over the T3400. The internal design is a little different, but the spec's are good, very much what you would expect from this model. Socket 1366 and 6 dimm slots supporting up to 6x4GB for 24GB goodness. Although, 12GB (6x2GB) is certainly a better value.

If you are buying a refurb, and plan to upgrade it to your liking, let me know, and I can help.
 

max789

Member
Mar 29, 2008
72
0
0
Many thanks, UltraWide and bamacre, for your most helpful info. I'll definitely go for the T3500!

bamacre, thanks for your kind offer of assistance which, though not needed on this occasion, is much appreciated.
 

max789

Member
Mar 29, 2008
72
0
0
One question about the Nehalem architecture's memory management.

If one plans to use a 32-bit Windows OS and 2GB is enough for the tasks to be performed, is it better to have 3 x 1GB RAM than 2 x 2GB RAM? This is suggested in the following review.

http://www.digitalartsonline.c...cfm?reviewid=1036&pn=2

"The T3500 has 3GB and runs Windows Vista 32-bit, so should have been the slower of the two. However, the T3500 has three 1GB modules, while the S20 has two 2GB units ? so the T3500 can access RAM over all three of the Nehalem?s channels between processor and RAM, while the S20 is limited to two."

Thanks again.
 

UltraWide

Senior member
May 13, 2000
793
0
76
3GB will enable triple channel mode which will give you some boost in performance. But the real difference is having 3GB vs. 2GB, that's where the performance difference is coming from. I don't think dual channel vs. triple channel really makes a difference unless you are doing memory intensive tasks.
 

bamacre

Lifer
Jul 1, 2004
21,030
2
61
Originally posted by: max789
One question about the Nehalem architecture's memory management.

If one plans to use a 32-bit Windows OS and 2GB is enough for the tasks to be performed, is it better to have 3 x 1GB RAM than 2 x 2GB RAM? This is suggested in the following review.

http://www.digitalartsonline.c...cfm?reviewid=1036&pn=2

"The T3500 has 3GB and runs Windows Vista 32-bit, so should have been the slower of the two. However, the T3500 has three 1GB modules, while the S20 has two 2GB units ? so the T3500 can access RAM over all three of the Nehalem?s channels between processor and RAM, while the S20 is limited to two."

Thanks again.

If you're running 32bit, in this case, I'd go with 3x1GB.

BTW, not sure what CPU you have, but the T3500 will work with a Core 17 920, if you are using non-ECC memory. Haven't tried a 940 or 950, but I suspect they'll work too.
 

max789

Member
Mar 29, 2008
72
0
0
Thanks, UltraWide and bamacre, for your helpful replies.

The new Precision T1500 presents an interesting alternative. Although it's a bit pricey at the moment, I'm looking into whether an i5-750 or i7-860 will be adequate for my needs and whether I can do without a second PCIex16 slot. If the answer to both is in the affirmative, I'll probably use an old Precision 390 as the second PC until early next year, when hopefully the T1500 will become available at a much better price point.

Thanks again for your feedback.
 

UltraWide

Senior member
May 13, 2000
793
0
76
I ended up upgrading to the T5500, it is a bit louder, but the noise frequency is not bad. It's more in the frequency of white noise so you don't hear it after a few seconds.

I got it with 2 x E5520 and 12GB RDIMM + ECC, 160GB intel gen2.

This system really flies! The Task Manager is running out of room with 16 threads!
 

max789

Member
Mar 29, 2008
72
0
0
Hi

Would any Precision users here know if the power supply unit in the T3400/T3500/390 can be replaced with a standard ATX 12V PSU?

Thanks!