Dell Precision 3660 Workstation Tower Review

March 8, 2024 0 By Lorena Mejia

We have the Dell Precision 3660 workstation featuring Dell’s typical aesthetic for Precision platforms, and a single 12th or 13th generation Intel Core i3, i5, i7 or i9 processor. How you outfit the system will determine the type of workloads this little unit can support. At the higher end it can support 2D and 3D workloads, VR and AI workloads, or spread sheets and word processing at the lower end. It’s designed to support engineers, designers, and Architects, plus healthcare, hospitality, and can be used for digital signage in a retail environment. With support for 4K and 8K displays it will take a single high-end GPU, 2x lower end GPUs, or you can use the integrated graphic support provided by the CPU. 

With a similar look to the Dell Precision 7865 with an AMD Threadripper Pro processor, the Dell Precision 3660 is more of a general-purpose appliance. Two more entry-level Precision tower workstations included in this category are the Precision 3460 SFF and Precision 3260 compact workstations. The 3660 we have today, features either air or liquid cooling for silent running and better thermals. There is room for 3x standard drives and up to 3x M.2 SSDs on the system board, plus up to 128GB of DDR5 memory. Supported operating systems include Windows 10 and 11, plus a few Linux options. 

Coming in at 14.5-inches in height, 6.8-inches in width and a depth of 16.5-inches, the case has an optional lockable drive bay at the top of the chassis that can support a single 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drive. While ours does not have a drive in that media bay, the internal wiring is provided. Below that an optional Optical drive bay, can also be outfitted with a front-accessible M.2 NVMe storage device. That last is a factory installed option.

Other items on the front of the chassis include a Power ON button, universal audio/microphone combo jack, 2x USB 3.2 Type-A gen 1 ports offering 5Gb/s one of which has power share, 1x USB 3.2 Type-C Gen 2 port offering a 10 Gb/s, and 1x USB 3.2 Type-C Gen2x2 port at 20Gb/s also with power share, plus a SD 4.0 card reader in that last position.      

The removeable side panel has a release latch on the back of the chassis that can be locked down with a Phillips screw driver. There’s also has a Kensington security cable slot in that slider latch.

The I/O panel on the back of the system has a green audio port, and 2x DisplayPorts 1.4 ports, offering 5K Ultra HD, that is if you intend to use the integrated CPU graphics support. Below those, 2x USB 3.2 Type-C Gen 2 ports at 10 Gb/s, then 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports also with 10 Gb/s access speeds, 2x USB 2.0 ports with SmartPower at 480 Mb/s and a 1GbE RJ45 port. Beside those ports, there is a knock out for an optional RJ45 port featuring 2.5 GbE, and another knock out for either an HDMI2.0, or DisplayPort1.4 port, VGA port, or USB type -C with DisplayPort alt mode. That optional DisplayPort can support up to 8K video!

Below the I/O panel a few expansion card slots, the power cord connector, and a diagnostic light for the PSU. Powering the system is either a 300W, 500W, 750W, or 1000W Internally mounted PSU. If you plan on installing a performance GPU then you will need the 750W PSU at a bare minimum but should probably go with the 1000W PSU. One more note, that 750W PSU is already scheduled to be discontinued. The system also features a Realtek Audio controller and one optional speaker.

With two options for integrated network Ethernet ports, either the 1GbE or optional 2.5GbE port, the system can easily be managed remotely. In addition to the management tools you’ll find with the installed operating systems, the Dell Precision Optimizer is an AI-optimized application that uses machine learning (ML) to adjust performance on the various ISV certified applications you might install. Dell’s Precision Optimizer can also enable Administrators to deploy updates and optimize multiple PCs remotely, simultaneously. The Precision Optimizer learns from the way you work and is designed to enable users to get the best performance from the supported applications taking the guesswork out of manually adjusting programs. It’s also certified for dependability, updating drivers, firmware, and BIOS with just a single click. It also works with both Windows and Linux-based operating systems and there’s analytics feature to generate reports and get system diagnostics. 

Removing the side panel, you can see two fans in front with a fan for the optional CPU water cooler in back. The water cooler will definitely help reduce sound transmission, not to mention the 13th gen Intel Core processors tend to run a bit hot.

Again, you have a choice of either 12th or 13th generation Intel Core processors supported by Intel’s W680 chipset. The 13th generation Intel Core i9-13900K with vPro at the top of the list. vPro is focused primarily on advanced security features and has already been around for a while, just getting improvements along the way with support for real-time threats and attacks. Still, from the reviews it doesn’t’ seem like there have been any great improvements. With those DisplayPorts powered by the Intel UHD Graphics, if your GPU goes south that would be a good alternative until you replace it. All of the processors supported have integrated Intel UHD Graphics 770 for the most part, except for the lone 12th generation Core i3 -12100 processor with support for UHD Graphics 730. Yes, you can game with the integrated graphics support but don’t expect great performance. For that you will need a discrete GPU and maybe non-ECC memory modules for gaming performance.

4x DIMM slots on the system board support up to 128GB of 4400MHz ECC or non-ECC DDR5 memory modules. That would be with 32GB memory modules in all slots. Of course, as always, memory speed is dependent on configuration, CPUs installed, plus supported bandwidth of the memory modules and ranges from 4400Mhz to 3600Mhz. The minimal memory configuration includes just a single 8GB module. Some of the lower end i3 CPUs will not support ECC memory. 

There are (5) SATA slots for 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives plus that optical device. In addition to the optional drive cages in front, two more drive cages are located inside the chassis with bay 1 at the bottom and bay 2 at the top left. The drives just snap into place on the blue drive carriers and there are no tools required when installing 3.5-inch drives. The CPU has a build in RAID controller for RAIDs of 0, 1, 5, or 10. In total, the specs state up to 28TB of RAID capable storage on this system. 

WiFi on this chassis is supported on the system board with an M.2 2230 slot that supports a combo WiFi Bluetooth card. It also has an antenna. The slot for that WiFi card is just to the right of the memory module slots. That slot can also be outfitted with an NVME M.2 2280 SSD for more storage. There are more slots on the system board for support of 2x more 2280 NVMe M.2 SSDs with a PCIe Gen4 x4 interface. You could also install another M.2 NVMe drive in one of the main PCIe slots assuming you don’t install a NIC card plus 2x single width GPUs.

Only those configurations with a discrete GPU have a GPU end holder, not those using the integrated GPU feature with either UHD Graphics 730 or 770. With only 3 PCIe slots, there are 2x x4 slots with one PCIe 3.0 and the other PCIe 4.0. A single PCIe 5.0 x16 slot is for that discrete high-end GPU, which in this case is an Nvidia RTX A6000 featuring Ampere architecture with 4 DiplayPort 1.4 ports, and 48GB of GDDR6 memory. All slots are full-height.

There are several more GPU options to choose from that include NVIDIA RTX Ampere and Turing, plus AMD Radeon Pro graphics cards. Dell also allows dual NVIDIA GPU cards to be installed, including the T1000 with 8GB GDDR6 memory and 4x miniDP ports to DisplayPort. With that, you could power up to 8x displays. Not sure how that one is going to get full potential given one PCIe 5.0 x16 slot and then the 2x x4 slots with one PCIe 4.0 and one PCIe 3.0. The T1000 is only a single-width card and meant for a PCIe 3.0 interface but is designed to be placed in a x16 slot. I am assuming some bandwidth is lost there.

We will mention there are several sustainability features to reduce the carbon footprint and environmental impact but since we are concentrating on the hardware, we’ll leave it at that. Dell’s Precision 3660 is not the most powerful workstation in the Precision lineup but it also doesn’t claim to be. This is a mid-to-entry level system that will provide a level of performance that will support the vast majority of users in both day-to-day work and also a little gaming on the side. Besides, most of those high-end machines never get the full compliment of components either and are underutilized to a certain extent before going obsolete and needing replacement. 

If you need a system for your home or business contact IT Creations! We have tons of products in our LA based warehouse and can get servers or workstations out to you in just a few days!