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Sun, Dell, HP, Lenovo workstations tested

Aditya Nag | Jan. 28, 2009
We had four solid machines, but there's only one winner: the Sun Ultra 24.

It supports up to four hard-drives, the most in this test. These drives can be either SATA or SAS drives, since the backplane they plug into supports either. The drives plug in via a drive holder that slides into the bay and clicks into place securely. This keeps things very neat, since there are no dangling wires. However, Sun does not provide empty holders for the other drive slots, so you can't just buy a drive and plug it in. The power supply is a robust 530 watts, and is labeled as being 80 percent efficient. On the front of the case, you get two FireWire ports, two USB ports, and audio I/O. Curiously, the FireWire ports were FW 400, not FW 800. In fact, none of the workstations supported FW 800. Round the back, you get four USB ports and 7.1 audio, and that's it. It's all very legacy free. Interestingly, there's one USB port on the motherboard. Dell and HP also have this.

The idea is to keep the security dongles for expensive software inside the case, not outside where anyone can make off with it. This is a good idea. Dell's Precision T3400 is a lot busier on the inside when placed next to Sun's spartan interior. It's slightly cluttered with wires, but a lot of space is taken up by the humongous heatsink on the processor. The cable management could be better. It supports a maximum of two drives, and comes with the necessary drive holder for the second one. The front has a Firewire port, two USB ports, and audio I/O. The rear port cluster has six USB ports, audio I/O (no 7.1 here), a cluster of legacy com, parallel, and PS/2 ports. There are two fans that keep the interior cool, and it's completely tool-less.

The power supply is rated at 375 watts, and there's no mention of an 80 percent efficiency rating. HP's xw4600 is the narrowest of the four workstations. The insides are quite neat, falling in between Dell and Sun in terms of the cable management. It supports two hard drives, and has the appropriate holders in place. The front panel has two USB ports and audio I/O. The rear panel has seven USB ports, a com port, a parallel port, PS/2 ports, 5.1 audio, and uniquely, an eSATA port. Firewire is conspicuous by its absence.

The power supply is rated at 80 percent efficiency, and 475 watts. Lenovo's Thinkstation S10 has a nice handle on the top that makes it easier to carry around. Cable management is quite good, and the cabinet has space for three drives, with the holders already provided. The front panel has one Firewire port, two USB ports, audio I/O, and a multi-format media card reader. At the rear reside eight USB ports, dual Gigabit ports, one com port, and PS/2 ports. The 7.1 audio output stands out with the S/ PDIF output.


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