High performance and easy access

When I asked Dell Computer for its latest and greatest (i.e., fire-breathing) Windows NT workstation to review, that's exactly what the company sent. The Dell Precision WorkStation 410 mini-tower system comes with dual 400MHz Pentium II Slot 1 processors, 256MB of Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM), Adaptec's ARO-1130CA RAID option with a 16MB cache, and Intergraph's Intense 3D Pro graphics card. The system's case also has a tool-less access design.

The mini-tower has a 3.5" drive, and a 24X CD-ROM drive. Three buttons on the front of the tower let you reset, power up, and open the workstation. The left half of the mini-tower pops out from the base and is removable.

Removing the cover exposes two buttons on the top of the system. When you press one, the 3.5" drive slides out on runners. The peripheral devices in the three 5.25" expansion bays (e.g., CD-ROM drive) slide out on runners also. When you press the other button, you release the front panel so that you can access the two vertical 9GB, 10,000rpm hard disks. The hard-disk cage pulls out from the system like a drawer and has room for two additional hard disks. The power supply has hinges, so you can rotate it out of the way to access the memory.

The Precision 410's two 400MHz Pentium II Slot 1 processors have a new look. Other Pentium II processors (300MHz, 333MHz, and 400MHz) look like standard chalkboard erasers. The Precision 410's 400MHz Pentium II processors have a new heat sink. Instead of the tightly packed tines glued to one side, these heat sinks have rows of parallel grates with continuous tunnels for improved heat dissipation and airflow.

Intense 3-D Graphics Feature
Performance-wise, the Intense 3D Pro 3410 is one of the best OpenGL-compliant graphics accelerators available for NT. Two full-length cards (one Accelerated Graphics Port--AGP and one PCI) connected by a ribbon cable comprise the graphics accelerators. These two cards create a high-speed pipeline for 3-D graphics operations.

Because of this 3-D graphics pipeline feature, the Precision 410 received very respectable scores on Viewperf's Standard Performance Evaluation benchmark. (For more information about Viewperf benchmarks and to see the test results for other systems, go to http://www.specbench.org.) I ran three (CDRS, Data Explorer--DX, and Lightscape) of the Viewperf benchmark's five Viewsets when I tested the Precision 410. On the CDRS, DX, and Lightscape Viewsets, the Precision 410 scored 116.675, 19.860, and 1.560 frames per second, respectively.

Additional High Marks
I also tested the Precision 410's performance using AIM Technology's Workstation Benchmark for Windows NT. The Precision 410 had a Peak Performance score of 11781.1 application jobs per minute and a Sustained Performance score of 264.9 application jobs per minute. (For more information about AIM Technology's benchmarks and to see the test results for other systems, go to http://www.aim.com.)

As Good As It Gets
Although the Precision 410 isn't the fastest machine I've tested, it's pretty quick: The integrated 10/100 Megabits per second (Mbps) Ethernet, 3-D graphics, and Ultra2/Wide SCSI technology increase system performance. The system has two PCI slots and a shared PCI/ISA slot for expansion. In addition, the system hardware is about the best you can buy. But I have to admit that my favorite feature is the Precision 410's tool-less access case.

Dell Precision WorkStation 410
Contact: Dell Computer * 512-728-5822 or 888-560-8324
Web: http://www.dell.com
Price: Starts at $2728
System Configuration: Dual 400MHz Pentium II Slot 1 processors, Two 9GB hard disks, 256MB of SDRAM, Adaptec ARO-1130CA RAID option, Intense 3D Pro graphics accelerator, 24X CD-ROM drive, Dell Precision WorkStation 410