• CGSociety :: Product Review
    Dell Precision 380 Workstation and 2405FPW Monitor review
    Joseph Tan, 30 August 2005

    The Precision 380 is compared to a Precision M70 mobile workstation, which Joseph reviewed a couple of month’s back. Dell's other Precision desktop workstations include the 370, which features a single processor Pentium 4 CPU, and the Precision 470 and 670 featuring dual processor Xeon CPUs. The Precision 380 is the only one in the Precision range that supports the new dual-core Pentium D.

    The new Precision 380 features a new chassis design, leaving behind the cheap plastic look of the Precision 370, 470, 670. Dell corporate machines tend to be conservative looking, and this includes the Precision 380.
    Each processor core in the Pentium D is a physically independent processor on the same chip. This contrasts with dual-CPU workstations that have two single-core processors. Workstations with dual-CPUs have much higher price tags as specialized motherboards, more expensive CPUs, and more capable power supplies need to be fitted.

    With the introduction of the dual-core CPUs, the Intel Pentium D's now offer dual-processor performance for around the same price as a regular single-processor workstation. Dell's general-consumer Dimension series also feature the new Intel dual core processor.

    Surely there must be a catch, and expectedly there does seem to be one.
    The current Intel Pentium D's fastest speed grade is 3.2GHz, whereas the fastest Pentium 4s available now that extend up to 3.8GHz. For multi-threaded application like non-real time image rendering in 3ds max, the Pentium D's second core should still come on top. For running a single non-multithreaded application where the Pentium D's second core sits almost idle, a quicker single-core CPU will probably get the job done faster.

    Our Precision 380 review unit was configured as an entry-level workstation.
    Our initial expectations were that this machine wasn't going to raise the bar in terms of benchmark performance. This is due to the relatively low clock rate (2.8GHz) of the CPU and the use of a Quadro FX 1300 (derived from its GeForce 5-series cousin).

    Our expectations were confirmed later in the benchmarks. It's odd that Dell shipped the system as configured, as the Quadro FX 1300 is not available on the US or Australian Precision 380 Dell configuration page.
    Dell US$2,025 Dell Australia US$2,800
    Machine:Precision 380
    CPU:Pentium D 820 (Dual core 2.8GHz, 2x1MB L2 cache, EMT64)
    Motherboard Chipset:Intel 955X
    Memory:Dual channel 1GB (DDR2 533MHz unbuffered None-ECC)
    Graphics:NVIDIA Quadro FX 1300 (128MB)
    Mass Storage:RAID 1: 2x Western Digital 800JD (80GB)
    Optical Storage:16x DVD-ROM (Sony DDU1615)
    USB 2.0: Yes, 2 connectors front panel, 5 connectors rear, 1 internal
    Firewire/IEEE-1394:Yes, via Creative Audigy 2
    Ethernet:Yes, Broadcom NetXtreme 57xx Gigabit Ethernet
    Wireless, Modem:No wireless, 56k internal modem.
    Other I/O:1xPCIe x16 slot
    1xPCIe x1 slot
    1xPCIe x8 slot (wired as PCIe x4)
    2xregular 32-bit PCI
    4xSerial-ATAII connectors
    2xParallel ATA connectors
    Serial, Parallel, PS/2 port.
    Sound:Creative Audigy 2
    PC Card / PCMCIANo
    Measured Dimentions / Weight44.5cm (H), 16.5cm (W), 46cm (D), 18kg
    Dell also shipped two 24-inch WideAspect 2405FPW LCD monitors that run off the Quadro FX 1300's DVI connectors. The screens provided massive screen estate with a display resolution of 1920x1200 pixels. With 24-inch (diagonal) of viewable space this is the kind of computer monitor that you once only saw in sci-fi movies.
    Dell US US$1,200, Dell Australia AUD$1,738
    1,920 x 1,200 Wide Aspect
    Response Time:
    Video-In:Composite, S-video, Component. Can display 480p, 720p, 1080i HD video via Component.
    I/O Ports:USB 2.0 Hub (2 downstream port), CFI&II/MD, SmartMedia, MemoryStick, SD/MMC/mini SD flash card reader.
    The 2405 monitor comes as a two piece unit. The sturdy stand allows the LCD panel to pan, tilt, rise, and swivel. A fully-raised monitor to be swiveled 90 degrees for portrait orientation. Once the display is manually rotated, the display becomes an enormous portrait document page viewer.

  • The 2405FPW monitor feature DVI, VGA as monitor inputs and takes Composite, S-video, and Component video inputs. On the front panel are Picture-In-Picture (PIP) control, menu control, and power buttons.

    Dell quotes a 16ms response time thanks to the screen's Patterned Vertical Alignment (PVA) technology from Samsung. Without a colorimeter on hand to test, the screen appeared remarkably bright and there was little perceivable difference when looking at the screen from different viewing angles. Operating from cold, the backlight seemed to need a few minutes to reach to full brightness.

    For an LCD monitor this size, DVI eliminates ringing and provides a noticeably sharper image over VGA. A Picture-In-Picture capability allows the video inputs to be overlaid on top of DVI/VGA displays.

    The monitor features a USB 2.0 hub (2 downstream connectors), plus a CFI&II/Micro Drive, SmartMedia, MemoryStick, SD/MMC/mini SD flash card reader. An optional 12V power point is located at the bottom to accommodate the Dell Sound Bar speaker system. Testing with a Sandisk Ultra II SD card showed that the memory card reader's read/write performance was good; it is obviously a USB 2.0 device.
    Hooked into the Precision 380's monitor DVI output, the 2405FPW produced a very clear and bright 1920x1200 display. Visibility of the display even at acute-angles was good and there was no visible ghosting that this reviewer could see. The huge resolution of the monitor would support HD-standard video. A good thing too, because its so easy to spot artifacts and flaws from lesser video files with a screen this large.

    Using the MagicGate MG-25 MPEG4 player as a video source showed that composite input gave predictably horrible results as dot crawl were extremely visible. Video input through S-video gave much better results, and component (Y Pb Br) produced the best quality output. The 2405FPW seems very sensitive to the video source as S-video results using a Playstation 2 as a DVD source produced ugly Moire patterns.

    Since the 2405FPW has the required resolution for HDTV it was worth seeing if this could double as an HDTV display. The MediaGate unit video output can upsample to HDTV 1080i. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the 2405 could accept 1080i input on the component input, refresh was locked at 60Hz to match the monitor's DVI input. At this resolution the output produced noticeably superior displays over regular standard definition Component-input video, and approximately matching the output display quality of playing video files through regular full native resolution (1920x1200) DVI.

    At the end of the day the best results from the monitor came from the DVI input for monitor, and the HD Component input for video.

    The 2405 is a very impressive monitor, the inclusion of a USB 2.0 hub and memory card readers are useful and the display itself didn't have any real faults. The video-in feature may also tempt users to use this display as a budget HD television display. In my books, 24-inches is just not big enough for TV display, but it does make for an enormous computer monitor. The price is very good for a display of this caliber and the build is high quality; the stand feels solid and yet allows for a great degree of pan, tilt, and height adjustments.

    The Precision 380 looks like a standard workstation all around. The front features two USB 2.0 ports, single IEEE1394, microphone, and headphone jack. The chassis can be oriented in a tower (tall) or desktop (flat) configuration although the optical drive bay is aligned flat for a horizontal chassis. A big plastic latch allows the side panel to be unlocked.

    A large fan-forced CPU heat sink cools the Pentium D CPU. As a chassis that can function as in flat-orientation, the motherboard is positioned in such a way that the PCIe x16 connector has plenty of clearance for video cards with large coolers. Three dedicated 3.5" drive bays plus a single 3.5" bay slot means that the Precision 380 can support up to 4 SATA drives.

    The whole machine is powered by a Lite-On 375 watt power supply. The power supply states it can supply 22A on +5V, 17A on +3.3V, and +30A (combined) on two 12V rails respectively. Normally on a workstation with as much expansion potential as the Precision 380 (e.g. 4 SATA drives, 8GB RAM, 150 watt PCI-E video card), a 450-550 watt power supply is not unusual.

    The front panel features a single power button but no reset button was found. The Precision 380 ran with an audible hum and although it wasn't a silent machine it ran much quieter than most workstations we've had a look at in the past.

  • For our performance tests we decided to run through our usual workstation benchmarks:

    * SPECViewPerf 8.01
    * SPECapc for Maya 6 v1.1
    * 3ds max 7 "CBALLS2.max" render time
    * CineBench 2003
    * WinBench '99
    Software Settings
    Operating System:Windows XP SP2
    Video driver: NVIDIA Forceware 77.30
    Screen Resolution:1280 x 1024 Pixels
    32 - BPP
    Vertical Sync Off 6
    Note that all benchmarks were run on all machines with the same display resolution.

    Included are the scores from our our previously reviewed Dell M70 mobile workstation (Pentium M 2.0GHz, 1GB RAM, NVIDIA Quadro FX 1400 256MB) running the software except with NVIDIA Forceware 71.91 installed. We would normally expect the desktop Precision 380 to beat the mobile M70, but as you'll see this wasn't always the case.

    The Precision 380 did OK here, scoring higher in most of the tests in SPECViewPerf. Keep in mind that the Precision 380's Quadro FX 1300 has half the memory and is one generation older than the M70's Quadro FX 1400. This led to some disappointing results in some of the tests.

    SPECViewPerf makes little or no use of the second core in the Precision 380.

    SPECViewPerf 8.01 (Higher is better)
    Dell Precision 380 Dell Precision M70
    3dsmax - 03:
    catia - 01:
    ensight - 01:
    light - 07:
    maya - 01:
    proe - 03:
    sw - 01:
    ugs - 04:19.8524.88

    For this test we’re interested in seeing how quick all of the machines render "CBALLS2.max", a file included in the SPECapc for 3ds max 6 package.

    Settings for this test were:

    1. Single frame render.
    2. MentalRay renderer.
    3. HDTV(video) - 1920x1080 resolution
    4. Default options: - Atmospherics, Effects, Displacement
    5. Advance lighting: Use Advanced Lighting, Compute Advance Lighting when Required.
    CBALLS2.max (Lower is better)
    Dell Precision 380 Dell Precision M70
    Total Test Time:
    Here the Precision 380's second core flexes its muscles and effectively makes the machine a two CPU machine. We've previously measured a render time of 365 seconds on an Alienware MJ-12 Dual Xeon 3.6GHz

    For this benchmark, we used Alias' Maya Unlimited 6.5.

    Here SPECapc for Maya 6 is single-CPU oriented leaving no benefit for dual-core CPUs. Without utilizing the Pentium D's second core brain, the Precision 380 lagged behind the M70.The Precision 380 particularly lagged when it came to the graphics tests due to its aging video card.
    SPECapc for Maya 6.00 v1.0 - Overall Result (Higher is better)
    Dell Precision 380 Dell Precision M70

    When it came to the CPU rendering tests, the Pentium 2.8GHz couldn't keep up with the Pentium M 2.0GHz, but once the second core was taken advantage of it pushed ahead.

    When it came to graphics, particularly with the OpenGL hardware lighting, the Precision 380's Quadro FX 1300 just couldn't catch up with the Quadro FX 1400 in the M70.
    CineBench 2003 (Higher is better)
    Dell Precision 380 Dell Precision M70
    (Single CPU)

    (Multiple CPU)

    Multiprocessor Speedup: 1.85-
    (Cinema 4D)

    (OpenGL Software Lighting)

    (OpenGL Hardware Lighting)

    In ZD WinBench 99's synthetic Disk Transfer test, the Precision M70's 5400RPM notebook hard drive was no match for the Precision 380's 7200 RPM desktop drive. Here the Precision 380's two SATA drives were mirrored, not striped (RAID 1), while the M70 ran on a standard single drive.
    ZD WinBench 99 - Disk Transfer (Higher is better)
    Dell Precision 380 Dell Precision M70
    Beginning Disk:

    End Disk:

    Access Time:

  • Our Precision 380 was configured as an entry-level workstation while the Precision M70 is a top-flight mobile workstation. Dual-core is something that is very handy for CPU rendering and makes running simultaneous programs less painful, but ultimately I felt our configured Precision was disadvantaged by the Quadro FX 1300.

    Dell can configure the Precision 380 with Pentium D 840 (dual-core), or Pentium Extreme Edition (single-core, lots of cache) , and regular Pentium 4 670 (single-core, standard cache). Graphics can be optioned out to the more powerful Quadro FX 4400 (PCIe x16). Precision 380 also supports DD2 667 ECC memory.

    Dell covers the Precision 380 with a limited 3-year parts onsite servicing with business hours telephone support. Upgradable to same day 4-hour critical support with 24x7 priority telephone support.

    Manufacturer: Dell
    Price: Reviewed configuration, A$2,800

    - No-frill reliable well-supported system.
    - Operates relatively quietly.
    - Good expandability for a medium-size case, although the power supply capacity must be noted.

    - 375 watt power supply may be inadequate for a fully loaded machine.
    - Performance wasn't inspiring. System performance is highly variable on configuration and our review unit was not highly configured.

    The Dell Precision 380 is a solid corporate workstation. Our configured machine was an entry-level workstation although the Precision 380 can be specified much higher. As a workstation-oriented machine the Precision 380 features Gigabit Ethernet and ECC DDR2 support over Dell's consumer-oriented Dimension 9100. The low capacity power supply is a worry for the expansion potential of the machine. Performance was no benchmark screamer, only acceptable for given specification. Too bad Dell don't build machines using dual-core Opteron.

    Manufacturer: Dell

    - Great display quality. 16ms response is good enough for motion video and animation.
    - Comprehensive video in capability. Can accept HD Component signal. Features Picture-In-Picture (PIP) display.
    - Inclusion of USB 2.0 hub and memory card reader is a bonus.
    - Great value for money.

    - The monitor's function as an excellent computer monitor but an barely adequate TV screen. Huge computer monitor, but as TVs goes 24" is barely enough. Users may be spoilt by DVI quality compared to video in.

    The Dell 24" 2405FPW monitor is a high-quality display that will give competitors cold sweats at night. DVI image quality is very good, the monitor can tilt, extend, and swivel on its solid base. The 2405FPW delivers handy additional features such as USB 2.0 hub, and memory card reader. The 2405FPW features comprehensive video inputs. Video quality here is subjective, most users will find it OK but might find a dedicated TV better for video tasks. An excellent computer monitor.


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