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Workstations With ECC RAM

The last new PC I bought was a Dell PowerEdge T110II in 2013. That model had been out for a while and I got it for under $2000. Since then the CPI has gone up by about 20% so it’s probably about $2000 in today’s money. Currently Dell has a special on the T150 tower server (the latest replacement for the T110II) which has a G6405T CPU that isn’t even twice as fast as the i3-3220 (3746 vs 2219) in the T110II according to passmark.com (AKA cpubenchmark.net). The special price is $2600. I can’t remember the details of my choices when purchasing the T110II but I recall that CPU speed wasn’t a priority and I wanted a cheap reliable server for storage and for light desktop use. So it seems that the current entry model in the Dell T1xx server line is less than twice as fast as fast as it was in 2013 while costing about 25% more! An option is to spend an extra $989 to get a Xeon E-2378 which delivers a reasonable 18,248 in that benchmark. The upside of a T150 is that is uses buffered DDR4 ECC RAM which is pretty cheap nowadays, you can get 32G for about $120.

For systems sold as workstations (as opposed to T1xx servers that make great workstations but aren’t described as such) Dell has the Precision line. The Precision 3260 “Compact Workstation” currently starts at $1740, it has a fast CPU but takes SO-DIMMs and doesn’t come with ECC RAM. So to use it as a proper workstation you need to discard the RAM and buy DDR5 unbuffered/unregistered ECC SO-DIMMS – which don’t seem to be on sale yet. The Precision 3460 is slightly larger, slightly more expensive, and also takes SO-DIMMs. The Precision 3660 starts at $2550 and takes unbuffered DDR5 ECC RAM which is available and costs half as much as the SO-DIMM equivalent would cost (if you could even buy it), but the general trend in RAM prices is that unbuffered ECC RAM is more expensive than buffered ECC RAM. The upside to Precision workstations is that the range of CPUs available is significantly faster than for the T150.

The HP web site doesn’t offer prices on their Z workstations and is generally worse than the Dell web site in most ways.

Overall I’m disappointed in the range of workstations available now. As an aside if anyone knows of any other company selling workstations in Australia that support ECC RAM then please let me know.

2 comments to Workstations With ECC RAM

  • Eric Obrien

    Is there a specific reason that you want ECC? Years ago, I bought a T110ii. It is a nice device but I am not convinced on the just 5 SATA ports (and very low power to the PCI-e/graphics slots). Later I bought a refurbished optiplex 7010 (Tower). These had more space inside and I could drop 2 X PCI-e SATA adapters (one with eSATA) to backup via zfs-send-recv.
    Some newer Precisions had some hardware RAID that cannot be disabled.

    I absolutely avoid HP. Dell’s tool less handling is much better. Add to insult, HP does not even give all screws for unused HDD slots. (PS: I am in EU so things are different)

  • I want ECC to avoid wasting time on debugging problems caused by RAM errors.

    So far I haven’t had a need for more than 5 SATA devices in one of the systems I own, admittedly doing CD/DVD burning in a different system because of having 5 hard drives and no spare cable for the DVD drive was annoying.

    My current workstation is a HP ML110 Gen9 with the smaller PSU for that range so it doesn’t have any PCIe power connectors. I bought a video card that uses less than 75W and it works well.

    Yes skimping on screws etc is bad.

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