Precision 530 Taps Dual-P4 Power

Dell's workstation scores well on performance benchmark tests; pulls Intel out of marketing corner.

Built around Intel Corp.s new 860 chip set, Dell Computer Corp.s Precision 530 is the first workstation eWeek Labs has seen that supports Intels Pentium 4-based processor architecture in dual-chip configurations.

The system we tested shipped with two Intel Xeon processors, each of which ran at 1.7GHz and featured a 400MHz system bus. The new Xeon processors, previously known by the code name Foster, are server and workstation versions of Intels 32-bit Pentium 4. The processors are also available in 1.4GHz and 1.5GHz editions.

The availability of dual-processor workstations powered by Intels latest chip architecture extricates Intel from an awkward marketing position in which the newest Pentium 4 workstations were forced to occupy a midlevel spot in vendors workstation product lines behind more-muscled dual-Pentium III Xeon-based systems.

This is particularly important for Intel, because AMD Inc.s dual-processor Athlon-based systems are expected to begin challenging Intel in the workstation space in the coming months.

The Precision 530, which ships today, performed impressively in tests, predictably besting IBMs comparable single-processor Pentium 4-based Intellistation, which we tested last fall (go to to see the Nov. 20, 2000, review).

The Precision 530 workstation we tested was outfitted with a 20GB, 7,200-rpm ATA100 EIDE (Enhanced Integrated Drive Electronics) hard drive, 512MB of RDRAM (Rambus dynamic RAM) and a 3D Labs Inc. Wildcat II 5110 graphics card. When configured with riser cards, the 530 supports up to 4GB of RDRAM. Our system ran Microsoft Corp.s Windows 2000 Service Pack 1.

As configured above, the test system lists for $5,624—comparable to the $5,329 Intellistation M Pro. Dell markets the Precision 530 in configurations priced as low as $1,799.

In eWeek Labs tests with Standard Performance Evaluation Corp.s APC Pro/Engineer 2000i2 benchmark, which tests workstation performance running the Pro/E mechanical CAD software, the Precision 530 turned in a composite score of 3.36—compared with a 2.88 score for the single 1.5GHz Pentium 4-powered Intellistation.

In tests using eWeek Labs Content Creation Winstone 2001 benchmark, which tests performance on applications such as Adobe Systems Inc.s Photoshop 5.5 and Sonic Foundry Inc.s Sound Forge 4.5, the Precision 530 scored 65.8, compared with 57.3 for the Intellistation.

New in the Precision 530 is Dells graphite-colored clamshell chassis, which afforded us convenient access to the systems components, most of which we could swap out without using tools. Whats more, the Precision 530s hard drive features rubber sound- dampening elements at its attachment points, which worked to keep the test system quiet. With the Precision 530, Dell is consolidating its high-end 620 and midrange 420 workstations into a single model, which will result in lower costs for the company.