Dell Precision M3800 16gb ram 2tb 256ssd ssd Workstation - Intel Quad-Core i7 4k quadro graphic
Dell Precision M3800 Workstation - Intel Quad-
Core i7-4702HQ 2.20GHz -16GB RAM - usb 2tb hdd
SSD - Nvidia Quadro K1100M 2GB - Win 8.1
Pro - 15.6-inch (4k resolution ) Touchscreen
Genuine Import. 4k resolution touch screen
Review Dell Precision M3800 Workstation
Workstation to go. Dell's Precision M3800 is an ultrabook-shaped mobile workstation, combining powerful components with a slim chassis. Our in-depth review will show whether this device is capable of delivering in all crucial fields, and not just in terms of looks.
For the original German review, see here.
Slim, good-looking ultrabooks have not only secured themselves a place on the wish list of private customers, but also on that of business users and professionals. Especially for representative purposes, these devices are much better suited than their rather chunky standard-issue business laptops. Lenovo's ThinkPad S440 and Dell's Latitude E7440 are typical examples of such business-orientated ultrabooks. Still, the Dell Precision M3800 takes this one step further, aiming at the market of powerful workstations. Luckily, no serious cuts seem to have been necessary, as the slim Precision M3800 comes with a quad-core CPU, Nvidia's Quadro K1100M GPU, a high-resolution QHD+ display and a decent selection of ports. Net pricing starts at 1400 Euros (~$1912) and quickly reaches more than 2000 Euros (~$2730).
Our test device comes close to the high-end variant of the M3800, offering an Intel Core i7-4702HQ, an Nvidia Quadro K1100M (Optimus with Intel HD Graphics 4600), 16 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD plus a 500 GB HDD, the QHD+ display and Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit. An identical Precision M3800 model available in Dell's online store costs 1800 Euros (~$2459) (gross price: 2140 Euros; ~$2923), and will supposedly ship on March 3rd, 2014.
The outer appearance of the device profits from the premium materials being used as well as from the extremely slim form factor. At first glance, it appears unlikely that powerful workstation components have been fitted into this ultrabook-like chassis with its height of just 20 millimeters (~0.8 inches, including the rubber feet) and a weight of no more than 2 kg (~4.4 pounds). Metal, glass, plastic and a rubberized surface around the keyboard have been used, working well together. The build quality is superb, further corroborating the high-end ambitions of the device. Small, even clearances are a welcome sight. The laptop does not creak (or emit other unpleasant noises). The palm rest as well as the keyboard deck do not wobble, and the same holds true for the hinges and the display lid (which is also rather torsion-resistant) as well. Unfortunately, the maximum opening angle of the display is too limited, which can be an issue during some usage scenarios. There is some warm air venting in between the display hinges and the chassis, and while we are no fans of this design choice, we did not notice any problems with it, even during continuous stress tests.
The variety of ports being employed by the Dell Precision M3800 cannot compete with most standard-sized workstations, but compared with ultrabooks, it offers quite a lot. HDMI and a Mini Display port are there for external monitors, but unfortunately, they are located too close to each other to use concurrently if you need to use adapters. This also holds true for the four USB ports, all of them including charging functionality, three of them USB 3.0. We are fond of Dell's design decision to place the ports close to the rear end of the device, being less in the way when working with cables and adapters. The only unfortunate exception is the card reader, as memory cards protrude (by approximately 3 millimeters) which is not ideal when carrying the laptop around. The Precision M3800 comes without an ExpressCard slot or a proprietary docking port. This is especially aggravating since our test device already carries fewer ports than other workstations. At least, universal dock solutions can be connected via USB 3.0.
While the Dell Precision M3800 ships without a regular Ethernet port, Dell includes an external USB-to-Ethernet adapter, which can be used instead. An Intel Wireless-AC 7260 module comes with both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi connections (with a theoretical total data transfer rate of up to 867 Mbit/s) as well as Bluetooth 4.0. Wi-Fi signal strength was great, and we did not have any issues with lost connections etc. Depending on the distance between the router and the laptop (but with an unobstructed view from one to the other), real-life results of between 3.1 and 5.7 MB/s were measured, but of course, this is not a lab result, being susceptible to walls, other wireless connections, distortions and different routers.
The M3800 ships with neither a fingerprint scanner nor a Smart Card Reader, lacking two essential components of conventional business laptops. Still, at least a Trusted Platform Module and the usual BIOS and system password locks are available, covering the basics.
There are no specific accessories made for the Precision M3800, such as a dock with a proprietary connector or a module bay, making it impossible to use accessories compatible with other Precision laptops. Thus, external universal docking solutions via USB 3.0 would have to be employed. The laptop ships with the USB-to-Ethernet adapter and a USB flash drive including the recovery partition.
The bottom panel is connected to the rest of the base unit via ten Torx (T5) screws. It can be removed easily once the screws are loosened, yielding access to the two fans, the RAM module, the mass storage device and further components. Still, in order to avoid voiding the warranty, it may be advisable to consult the manual first in order to find out which components are meant to be user-accessible.
While most competitors offer a trustworthy 36 months of warranty, Dell is unusually tight in this regard, shipping the M3800 with an untraditional and decidedly un-premium 12 months, the same as with most simple consumer laptops. This does in no way match the price of more than 2000 Euros (~$2730). A warranty extension to the commonly offered 3 years costs a net amount of 129 Euros (~$176); quickly doubling to 258 Euros (~$352) once Pro Support is included.
The chiclet-style keyboard ships with the standard format, but without a separate number pad. Obviously, this has been the deliberate decision (the space would be there), leading to one advantage, with the touchpad being centered with respect to both the keyboard and the display (which yields a more comfortable position for the hands while moving the cursor, being preferred by a lot of users while working on one's lap). Whether it is a favorable decision depends on the amount of data entry required. The keys come with medium to short travel, a precise pressure point and low noise emissions. The keyboard labels are kept in a bright gray, being lit by the integrated backlighting system whenever necessary. They are always easy to decipher. Most keys are amply sized (and should not be a concern), except for the slim return key and the arrow keys, which are located too close to each other.
The touchpad is rather large, measuring 104 x 80 mm (~4 x 3 inches) and thus offering more than enough space when moving the cursor or issuing large-scale multi-touch commands. The gliding properties as well as its reaction speed are great, leading to a comfortable working experience. The touchpad buttons function well, too, but they are not quite as "comfy" as dedicated buttons. Unfortunately, not only the number pad is missing, but also a TrackPoint (which is there on all larger Precision laptops), a painful cut for all fans of this input method.
The multi-touch-enabled display is quite a viable alternative to the touchpad. Although we were skeptical at first - especially given that this is a workstation orientated at professional users and the business segment - it offers great potential. Wiping with a finger, scrolling through long lists, zooming in or out and rotating feels like a breeze, working so smoothly that it does not take long to get addicted (or at least used) to having that functionality in reach. The pre-set scaling factor of 150% allows hitting most folders or desktop symbols without too much trouble, despite the high native QHD+ resolution. This is definitely a technology where Dell is feeling at home, providing a comfortable addition to conventional input methods.
While the underlying hardware base of the touch panel is rock-solid, the limited availability of touch-optimized programs is more of an issue, as the majority of Windows programs are adapted to mouse and keyboard controls. If, in addition to that, even the scaling does not work properly (it has become a lot less of an issue with Windows 8.1, with just a few examples becoming evident during our tests), fonts, icons and menu elements become miniaturized, making handling a chore. Some programs, which we are also using for our tests, have been included as screenshots below, illustrating some of the issues that might arise due to the QHD+ resolution.
Dell offers two different displays for the Precision M3800. The cheaper variant comes with a glossy Full HD display and a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, while our test device ships with a high-resolution QHD+ panel made by LG, touch included. Its 3200x1800 offer a lot of screen real estate if left at its native resolution, but even those with 20/20 vision will have problems adjusting to the tiny symbols. A scaling factor, of say 1.5, helps making font, icons, symbols and windows easier to read. Luckily, this works rather well thanks to Windows 8.1, with just a few stubborn programs yielding less desirable results such as small fullscreen windows in the center of the screen. This is an especially huge concern when talking about games, as those do not always work as intended, or do not work at all with the resolutions we were employing on the internal screen. Generally, there is not enough choice in terms of display resolution for the internal panel, with just a low number of large steps in between being available. Still, we feel that by now (Windows 8.1), the high resolution offers more benefits than it causes issues so that it should not be seen as a general disqualifier due to possible scaling issues any more.
Brightness Distribution: 91 %
Center on Battery: 400 cd/m²
Contrast: 955:1 (Black: 0.42 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 8.19 | 0.8-29.43 Ø6.4
ΔE Greyscale 8.1 | 0.64-98 Ø6.6
73% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll)
All objective test results of the display are great. The maximum display brightness comes to lie between 370 cd/m² and 405 cd/m² (nine-point measurement). The resulting brightness homogeneity of 91% is superb, yielding barely any noticeable brightness differences even on uniform backgrounds. The brightness can be set to one of ten steps starting at 22 cd/m², with step 4 yielding 164 cd/m², which we used for our battery tests. Anything above 150 cd/m² should normally be more than sufficient during indoor use, but the highly reflective display surface requires us to increase the brightness noticeably in order to outshine the reflections. While this works rather well in closed rooms, during outdoor use, a lot more thought has to go into choosing the right place to work.
This is a high-contrast display, exceeding the average laptop screen by far with a contrast ratio of 955:1, leading to dark blacks and vivid colors. 73% of the AdobeRGB color space and 95% of the sRGB color space (actually even >100% in terms of sheer color area, but not quite lying on top of the sRGB color space) is indeed some coverage to write home about. The display seems to have been calibrated with regard to the AdobeRGB color space, yielding supreme color accuracy only when compared to this color space. When comparing to sRGB, reds and magentas deviate noticeably from their ideal values.
Dell's Premier Color tool cannot be used in the case of the Precision M3800 (it had shipped with both the Precision M4700 and the M6700 with their colorful RGB LED displays). As with the Mobile Display Assistant of the HP ZBook 17, this would allow the user to select pre-defined color spaces with just one click. This might also have helped with the grayscale rendition, although its maximum DeltaE 2000 value of 2.5 is still very decent. Barely any deviations at all have been noticed when looking at the gamma curve and the RGB balance.
Overall, the QHD+ display of the Dell Precision M3800 comes with such a great color space coverage that it is hard to properly restrain it, leading to some limitations concerning color accuracy.
The viewing angle stability of the display is close to superb, leading to great readability from all sides. It takes very narrow angles (from the side or from an angle from the top) to develop a yellowish tint and annoyingly strong reflections of objects and light sources, depending on the surroundings.
The Dell Precision M3800 offers a lot of performance, especially given its slim profile, making it possible to use it for many applications that may be relevant in professional work environments. Most configurations that are available right now are quite similar, always including Intel's Core i7-4702HQ-CPU and Nvidia's Quadro K1100M dedicated GPU. While these core components may not be absolute high end, they are good enough to serve in a true mobile workstation. Variations can be found with respect to the display, the mass storage drive and the amount of RAM. Our test device comes with a QHD+ display, 16 GB of RAM, a 256 GB mSATA SSD and an additional 500 GB HDD.
Due to its slim profile, the Dell laptop comes with a quad-core CPU - Intel's Core i7-4702HQ - with a much-reduced Thermal Design Power (TDP) of 37 Watts instead of 47 Watts, a relief for the cooling system. The base clock speed of 2200 MHz can be overclocked via Turbo Boost to up to 3200 MHz, each 200 MHz less than that of the ordinary Intel Core i7-4700MQ. Still, the same 6 MB of L3 cache and the same Intel Hyperthreading technology are on board here as well, leading to just a moderate disadvantage in terms of performance when compared to the regular CPU with its TDP of 47 Watts.
When looking at benchmark results, our test device fares approximately 10% worse than Intel's Core i7-4700MQ (Lenovo ThinkPad T440p), yielding e.g. 1.43 points instead of 1.51 points during the Cinebench R11.5 64-bit single threading and 5.33 instead of 5.86 points during the multithreading test. Shortly after the stress phase has begun, the clock speed reduces to its base clock speed of 2.2 GHz, mostly remaining at this level with a few short spikes in between. Luckily, it never decreases below this threshold. During our real-life tests (converting audio and video files), the Intel Core i7-4702HQ comes close to the lower end of comparable workstation CPUs, but still, it is far from being a slow CPU. Generally speaking, this is still one of the high-end laptop CPUs.
While running on battery, no further reductions in terms of clock speed occur, yielding almost similar results (e.g. 5.34 points during the Cinebench R11.5 64-bit multi).
The system performance of our test device is very well balanced, revealing no configuration-induced weaknesses. Only an even faster CPU or an even more powerful GPU could further improve the results of the M3800. However, due to the slim chassis and the resulting issue of having to control the heat emissions of the device, no higher-end components are currently available according to Dell's data sheet accompanying the Precision M3800. We have performed all available PC Mark 8 tests. The results: 3322 points (home sequence), 3970 points (creative sequence), 3641 points (work test) and 4912 points (memory test). Together with the 5650 points during PC Mark 7 and the 17946 points PC Mark Vantage yields, it becomes obvious that the Dell Precision M3800 is well-suited for a wide range of tasks.
|PCMark Vantage Result||17946 points|
|PCMark 7 Score||5650 points|
|PCMark 8 Home Score Accelerated||3322 points|
|PCMark 8 Creative Score Accelerated||3970 points|
|PCMark 8 Work Score Accelerated||3641 points|
In our test device, Dell combines a 256 GB mSATA SSD (including the system partition) with a conventional 500 GB HDD for data, yielding more than enough storage space for movies, photos and other files and at the same time a fast system drive with read and write speeds of more than 480 MB/s and almost 400 MB/s, respectively (transferring large data files with several hundred MB/s). While this mSATA drive made by Lite may not be an absolute high-end model, its performance boost can easily be felt during daily life. Everything feels zippy, the system boots in 5 to 7 seconds and programs as well as files are opened without any noticeable lag. These strengths are easy to get used to, making it hard to appreciate the few remaining advantages of HDDs.
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