Dell Precision 3650 Tower Workstation Review

If you need workstation quality on a small budget, the Dell Precision 3650 (starts at $884.95; $198 as tested) is made for you. With a massive array of customization options, and a few serviceable budget configurations, it’s a perfect fit for many businesses that don’t require the massive computing power of other desktop workstations. The Precision 3650 delivers decent processing power and ISV-certified graphics (the main highlight, that) in a tower that looks ordinary but has excellent upgradeability. It’s a work force for light tasks like manipulating financial models or reviewing 3D designs, but it won’t be enough to create serious content.


Configurations: from basic to strong

Our review unit is a tower workstation with an octa-core Intel Core i7-11700K processor, paired with 16GB of memory and Nvidia Quadro P1000 graphics.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

While the term “workstation computer” may conjure up ideas of high-powered machines for complex architecture and rendering photo-realistic animation, it is a much broader category, and at the lower end of the work-ready category you can find systems that don’t even have a processing unit separate graphics.

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For example, the lowest configuration of the Dell Precision 3650 uses the older 10th generation Intel Core i5-10505, and is based on integrated graphics. This hardly qualifies as a workstation. On the other hand, our review unit is well equipped. And you can take it from there: The $3,689 configuration is equipped with the same Intel Core i7-11700K CPU as our review unit, but pairs that processor with an AMD Radeon W6800 GPU, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. . This potato is still small for the overall workstation class, but it shows the range of components and power available in Dell’s budget-friendly workstation line.
Dell Precision 3650 motherboard

(Photo: Molly Flores)

In the end, Dell is already offering the 3650 with Intel Core i9 and Xeon processors, which are significantly more powerful than the Core i7 found in our budget-friendly test unit. and graphics solutions available in the high range up to the Nvidia RTX5000 or AMD Radeon Pro W5700, two powerful professional-grade GPUs that are well suited for just about any task that demands as many things as you can imagine. It just requires spending thousands of dollars more.


Familiar tower design means room to grow

As desktop towers age, the Dell Precision 3650 is all about business. It’s about as straightforward and boring as you’d hope a desktop tower would be, and that’s a good thing for this class of PC. While the 13.2 x 7 x 13.6-inch (HWD) tower doesn’t have any flashy features or funky design elements, what you get is accessible, modular and expandable with ease. It’s not particularly elegant, but it is effective in a utilitarian way.

Dell Precision 3650 داخلي Internal Access

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Opening the tower is simple. You can use a Phillips screwdriver to remove the side panel and access everything inside. The straightforward design makes it easy to add or swap out a cooling fan, add multiple storage drives, add additional GPUs, or even turn off the power supply for something with a higher wattage.

Dell Precision 3650 drive slots

(Photo: Molly Flores)

If you want a basic device that can expand significantly, you’ll appreciate the four DIMM slots, one PCI Express x16 Gen 4 slot, and support for multiple SATA drives (three 3.5-inch drives or four 2.5-inch drives). The options are plenty, with additional space for internal drives, ports, and cards.


POWERFUL CONNECTION OPTIONS

The Precision 3650 also has a healthy array of front and rear ports. On the front of our test device are three USB 3.0 ports, along with a USB-C connection, an SD card slot (a rarity nowadays on any desktop), and an audio headphone jack.

Dell Precision 3650 front ports

(Photo: Molly Flores)

On the back you’ll find three USB 3.0 ports, a pair of USB-A connections, an Ethernet port, and two DisplayPorts for external monitors. Oddly enough, you’ll also find a pair of PS/2 connections for older peripherals, although the connector format went out of style over a decade ago.

Dell Precision 3650 . Rear Ports

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Below those ports are the video connections of the Nvidia Quadro P1000, a really dated GPU, given that Nvidia has dropped the Quadro brand in recent months. But on the card itself you will find four mini DisplayPort 1.4 connectors, with support for video and audio. The card also supports Nvidia Mosaic, allowing you to easily combine multiple monitors into one multi-panel display.

Dell Precision 3650 . GPU Outputs

(Photo: Molly Flores)

But you may have already noticed one curious omission from this list of connections: There is no HDMI port. While this isn’t an insurmountable problem—and you can add HDMI to your configuration for $17.45—the standard setup will prevent you from using only HDMI-powered monitors. You’ll also need an adapter in order to use a full-size DisplayPort with the card, but luckily Dell includes adapters for all four of the DisplayPort sockets on the card in our review unit.

Another unexpected whim: No Wi-Fi. Although this is not a problem for offices that provide a lot of wired connectivity, it is a huge pain for any modern environment that relies on wireless networks. A Wi-Fi card can be added when you configure your system, but it’s not standard, and it costs extra – $27.91 for 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5), $31.40 for Wi-Fi 6.


Dell Precision 3650 Test: A Head for Numbers

When it comes to workstation desktops, we can’t always compare systems directly as we do with most consumer or business PCs, because we don’t review them often, and because the range of configurations varies widely. So for this review, we looked at both workstation PCs, like the compact HP Z2 Mini G9 and the budget-friendly HP Z2 G8 Tower, and some nearly identical gaming PCs, like the Lenovo Legion Tower 5i (2021) and NZXT H1 Mini Plus, two consumer PCs. They provide a great deal of power in a similar price range.

Productivity Tests

Our first pair of tests is part of UL’s PCMark 10 suite, which tests overall performance by simulating a variety of real-world productivity and office workflows. PCMark 10 also includes a separate storage test drive that tests the primary desktop drive.

Our next three benchmarks focus on processing power, using all available cores and threads, to assess a computer’s suitability for CPU-intensive workloads. The Cinebench R23 uses the Maxon Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular applications ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open source HandBrake 1.4 video codec to convert a 12-minute video from 4K resolution to 1080p (low times are better).

Our final productivity test is PugetBench for Photoshop from Puget Systems, which uses Adobe’s popular image editor to evaluate computer performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It’s an automated extension that performs a variety of general, GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.

Looking at the numbers, the pattern becomes crystal clear: The Precision 3650, while classified as a workstation desktop, wasn’t nearly as powerful as other workstation computers. It didn’t lag far behind, since it’s still a top for cheap gaming consoles, but the system’s 11th-generation Intel Core i7-11700K processor wasn’t providing the kind of power you’d get from a Core i9.

It came last in the PCMark 10 performance tests, fell right in the middle with a 7-minute conversion time in HandBrake 1.4, and both Cinebench and Geekbench put it in the same spot in the middle of the pack.

We also ran the Precision 3650 through our additional set of content creation and workstation tests, to see how it stands up to the increased demand often experienced by workstation hardware. These include PugetBench from Puget Systems for the Adobe Premiere Pro 15 video editor; SPECviewperf 2020, the industry standard measure of 3D performance in CAD computer-aided display applications; and Blender, which is another 3D modeling test.

Compared to other workstations, the Precision 3650 struggled to keep up. The system’s Nvidia Quadro P1000 GPU may come with ISV certifications and some great multi-monitor drivers, but it’s not a powerhouse for rendering and video editing — the low scores in Premiere Pro and SPECviewperf attest to that.

Graphics tests

But not all workstations are designed for high-octane visuals. In fact, the use of a single workstation often overlooked in our initial power performance tests is a financial application. If you want a decent machine that can handle many screens and complex operations for stock trading or similar business, the Precision 3650 may be exactly what you need. But for graphics-heavy apps, it’s not the best choice. When we ran Dell through our graphics tests, we simply beat them.

For Windows PC, we run synthetic and real world game tests. Among the former are two DirectX 12 game emulators from UL’s 3DMark, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for systems with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming platforms with discrete GPUs). Two other game emulations come from the multi-platform GPU standard GFXBench 5, which specializes in OpenGL performance.

And here we see the real weakness of our budget workstation. It is simply not designed to perform 3D rendering. In 3DMark Time Spy and Night Raid, it ranked a distant fifth, delivering results that are barely worth a comparison. Even knowing the differences between a base card like the Quadro P1000 and the RTX series cards used in HP and Lenovo machines, the difference in overall GPU performance was staggering.


Verdict: different type of workstation

Workstation systems are often purchased for their own processing capabilities, using one or more high-powered CPUs and GPUs to handle some of the more complex visual rendering tasks, such as rendering architectural designs, analyzing medical images, or simply creating scenes for video and games. . The Dell Precision 3650, as reviewed here, is not designed for this type of work. Yes, it has an Nvidia Quadro GPU, which comes with ISV-certified reliability professionals, but it’s not the powerful graphics card you might expect in a workstation.

Dell Precision 3650 . back panel

(Photo: Molly Flores)

But that’s not all for workstations. There is so much number processing and data visualization that you need to do without fancy 3D models. From day trading to statistical analysis, some workstations are all about running the numbers and knowing that your machines provide the very strong reliability of a professional machine. And for this, the Dell Precision 3650 is perfect. It’s a mid-sized business tool, and while it may not perform at an amazing performance, it’s a great choice for anyone who isn’t on a budget or needs game-level graphics and advanced 3D rendering.

Dell Precision 3650 Tower Workstation

Negatives

  • Limited CPU performance and 3D workstation performance

  • There is no HDMI port as configured

  • Wi-Fi is optional, not standard

bottom line

With good (but not great) processing power and limited 3D capabilities, the Dell Precision 3650 is a powerful workstation tower for data-intensive work that doesn’t tax too much on the processor.

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