Dell unveils new form factors in refresh of three Precision workstation models

While all the new models are new versions of Dell’s entry level 3000 series, they are emphasizing that the enhancements are so significant, that entry-level is now a misnomer as far as their capabilities go.

The Precision 3460 SFF

Dell Technologies has unveiled the next generation of its Precision workstation products, with the announcement of three refreshed products. The Precision 3660 Tower has a new form factor with a new chassis design, improved performance and a liquid cooling option. The Precision 3460 SFF is a small form factor (SFF) design designed for space-constrained workspaces and Edge computing, which has upgraded graphics and now supports VR/AR. The Precision 3260 Compact, Dell’s most compact workstation, has a slightly larger form factor, a trade off for much expanded bandwidth and performance.

“All three of these models are in our 3000 series, which is the ostensible entry level, with the 5000 and 7000 series being higher end,” said Matt Allard, Director of Solutions and Alliances at Dell. “With these enhancements, the 3000 isn’t really an entry-level series because it now has incredible performance. We expect that it will let us reach out of those customers who can benefit from that performance but who couldn’t afford the workstation premium before.”

Allard said that today, according to IDC numbers, about 70% of the workstation market is engineering focused.

“Between 10-12% of the market is media and entertainment focused, and I manage our interests in professional media and entertainment,” Allard indicated. “There are smaller markets in finance and banking, and oil and gas – anywhere you need high performance and high reliability.”

Allard said that the workstation market has done very well under COVID, with record quarters over the last two years, but that COVID is not the only reason for the increase.

“There’s no question that the pandemic created a big chunk of the demand,” he noted. “But it wasn’t only that. An increasing number of use cases need the performance that workstations bring. AI and ML technology are creeping into commonly used tools. Adobe tools, for example, are getting these built in, and that demands additional performance. 3D CAD work is increasing greatly, creating huge demand on these machines because they let these users run businesses more predictably and successfully. We do some unique things around this for testing and applications, such as testing and certifying AutoCAD in conjunction with Autodesk.” That kind of work, Allard indicated, relates to the alliances part of his job title.

While Allard’s group works with the performance PC group and is focused on the industries workstations, they have nothing to do with gaming even though it’s also focused on machines that can generate extreme performance.

“We engineer machines by use case, and the gaming and workstations serve different use cases,” he said. “Most games are GPU driven and need performance but for a small amount of time, such as in a boss fight. Most workstations run at high performance all the time, so the engineering is very different as a result.”

All three models are refreshes of existing product, and all have current hardware and software upgrades. These include the latest 12th Gen Intel Core processors, professional graphics, and memory technology (DDR5) to support workflows like 2D/3D modeling for engineers, designers and architects, VR training or surgical plans for the healthcare field and digital signage in the retail and hospitality space.

“The Precision 3660 Tower is a 3000 model with the performance ability to run VR and AI workloads,” Allard said. “Probably the thing I’m most excited about is that the 3660 is a first with PCIe Gen 5 slots for Video, which makes it future ready for  AMD and NVIDIA’s enormous graphics cards which are not yet available. The 3660’s larger form factor, even with dual GPUs, means that it will still have a slot remaining, unlike the previous generation of the machine. It also has a Liquid Cooling option which really makes a difference as far as keeping noise down.” The 3660 Tower also has front-accessible bays for convenient and secure removeable storage options, something that Allard said is brand new in this form factor.

The Precision 3460 SFF [small form factor] design for space-constrained workspaces and edge computing environments, which is slightly larger than the Precision 3260 Compact.

“It now supports up to the A2000  NVIDIA RTX,” Allard said. “The RTX wasn’t supported at all in the previous generation of this machine.”

The Precision 3260 Compact is Dell’s most compact workstation, with up-to seven display setups, multi-threaded applications, and powerful graphics and processor options.

“Like the 3660, the 3260 also has a new form factor,” Allard indicated. “It is a little larger than the last version, to the extent of a hardback novel. That’s because while the old version was on PCIe Gen 3 bus, this one is on PCIe Gen 4, which has double the bandwidth, which is so much better for moving large amounts of data around such as in video workflows.”

Allard emphasized that all these Dell workstations have Dell Optimizer for Precision software.

“It extends the application optimizations of Optimizer to include tuning for disk access,” he said. “It also provides analytics functionality to pull analytics reports.”