Review: Dell Precision M4800

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This article appeared in the June 2014 issue of CRN magazine.

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Review: Dell Precision M4800

High-DPI displays are the flavour of the moment, but the Dell Precision M4800 marks the first time we’ve seen such a screen on a business-class machine. Not only is its 15.6in panel super crisp at 3,200x1,800, it’s also one of the finest-quality displays we’ve tested.

Put to the test with our X-Rite colorimeter, it delivered a superb maximum brightness of 344cd/m2 and a fine contrast ratio of 820:1. Colour reproduction is superb, as you might expect of a screen aimed at professional designers, architects, videographers and engineers. It can reproduce the full sRGB colour gamut, and is hugely accurate with an average Delta E of 1.7 and a maximum of 3.5. A matte, anti-glare coating means it’s readable in most conditions, too.

The one caveat to all this is that – although Windows works fine – many everyday applications have yet to be optimised for high-DPI displays. The result is either tiny, unreadable text in menus, or blurry icons and pixellated text as elements are scaled up. A 1,920x1,200 display would solve the problem, but the only other resolution on offer in the Precision range is Full HD.

The M4800 is an absolute tank of a laptop, weighing 2.88kg without its charger – and a hernia-inducing 4.1kg with it. It feels built to last, though, clad in thick, rigid anodised aluminium, and there’s plenty else to like.

The keyboard’s soft, cushioned action is a pleasure to use, and the size of the chassis means there’s room for a number pad to the right. There’s a trackpoint to supplement the small touchpad, and both work flawlessly.

As you’d expect of a laptop designed to sit on a desk, there’s a host of sockets and ports: the left edge of the Precision M4800 hosts a pair of USB 3 ports, 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, and SDXC, ExpressCard/54 and smart-card slots. The right-hand edge offers another pair of USB 3 ports and a full-sized DisplayPort output.

At the rear are HDMI and VGA outputs, a combined eSATA/USB 2 socket and Gigabit Ethernet.

There’s plenty of room for internal upgrades as well. Our review model came fully stacked with 16GB of RAM, which occupies the two slots under the bottom panel. There are another pair of DIMM slots beneath the keyboard, allowing expansion up to 32GB, and the hard disk, battery and wireless card aren’t tricky to replace either.

Not that you’ll want to change anything right away. The processor is Intel’s fastest current mobile part, a quad-core Core i7-4900MQ, which runs at a nominal clock speed of 2.8GHz and Turbo Boosts up to 3.8GHz. Graphics are catered for by one of Nvidia’s ISV-certified Quadro K2100M with 2GB of GDDR5. On the storage front, there’s a 256GB Samsung SM841 SSD and a slot-loading DVD writer.

In our Real World Benchmarks, this beefy line-up achieved an Overall score of 1.01, which is one percent faster than our quad-core reference desktop PC. Quadro graphics means you can also harness the GPU for computer-intensive tasks, such as 3D or video rendering. To test this, we ran our standard video render on Sony Vegas Pro 12 with GPU acceleration turned on, and then with it turned off. It turns out the card is no faster or slower than the CPU, completing the test in around 1min 56secs – but more CPU cycles are freed up when GPU acceleration is enabled, so you can carry on doing other things while rendering.

The Precision’s weakest suit is longevity. Even with a 97Wh battery pack under the hood, this powerhouse laptop lasted only 3hrs 28mins in our light-use test. Think of it more as a workhorse machine that’s best deployed in environments where a small amount of mobility is needed. A laptop to carry from desk to desk in a design studio, factory or warehouse environment, perhaps.

For those situations, the Precision M4800 is ideal, providing just the right blend of comfort, power, and portability. We’d hesitate to buy any 3,200 x 1,800 laptop for the reasons already highlighted, but this remains a superbly crafted piece of hardware. 


 

Channel Angle

Distributors Available through dell.com.au and selected resellers

RRP $2,999

Launched 13 September 2013

Next product below in the range M3800

Next product up M6800

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