Dell Precision M2800 Notebook Review

Tobias Winkler (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 07/05/2014

Inexpensive entry. Dell introduces a new entry-level version of its exclusive portfolio of mobile workstations with the Precision M2800. We tested if the concept with updated Latitude cases and AMD FirePro graphics really works.

For the original German review, see here.

Dell uses familiar components for the new Precision M2800 and utilizes the case of the Dell Latitude E6540. Besides its robust construction, it offers good expandability and was designed for professional purposes. With updated components and the professional graphics card AMD FirePro W4170 GPU, Dell upgrades the Latitude to the Precision Workstation. This is a clever and inexpensive approach to expand its product portfolio. This solution is not unfamiliar, Dell already successfully used this concept in the case of the Dell XPS 15 UltraBook for the Dell Precision M3800

Our review unit is the current top version of the Precision M2800-series. For around 1,800 Euros (~$2455) you get an Intel Core i7-4810MQ CPUAMD's FirePro W4170 GPU, 8 GB RAM, a 128 GB Solid-State Drive and a matte Full HD panel.

Case

Some parts are not seamlessly integrated.
Some parts are not seamlessly integrated.

As mentioned before, the case of the Precision M2800 is identical to the Latitude E6540. The Tri-Metal construction is very sturdy and once again leaves a very solid impression. The palm rest is firm, the chassis very torsion-resistant and the hinges have no problem keeping the display in position. However, some details of the build quality are not so great. You can sometimes see parts that are not perfectly integrated and uneven gaps.

The weight of our review unit is slightly above average for 15-inch workstations weighing 2.9 kg (~6.4 pounds) and it is much heavier than the Lenovo ThinkPad W540, for instance. You can save some weight with a smaller battery and a dummy for the optical drive, but it will limit the features significantly. More impressions of the case are available in the review of the Dell Latitude E6540.

Connectivity

The port variety covers all the important aspects, but we still miss some typical business ports. HDMI and 4x USB 3.0 are more common for consumer notebooks. DisplayPort, eSATA or FireWire on the other hand can only be used via ExpressCard. Thunderbolt is currently not available. The port layout is very convenient and the majority of ports are at the rear area of the sides or the back of the device. The card reader is at the front and easy to use.

Left side: Kensington, HDMI, USB 3.0, SmartCard reader
Left side: Kensington, HDMI, USB 3.0, SmartCard reader
Front: Card reader
Front: Card reader
Right side: ExpressCard/54, optical drive, wireless switch, audio in/out, 2x USB 3.0
Right side: ExpressCard/54, optical drive, wireless switch, audio in/out, 2x USB 3.0
Back: USB 3.0, LAN, VGA, AC power
Back: USB 3.0, LAN, VGA, AC power
WLAN performance
WLAN performance

Communication

The core component of the communication modules is Intel's Dual-band Wireless-AC 7260. It supports the fast 802.11ac standard with a theoretical transfer rate of up to 867 Mbps. We determined good signal quality with a stable connection in our practical test. We measured WLAN performance of up to 6 MB/s with an 802.11n router and there were no unusual connection drops or range issues. Besides the mandatory webcam, Bluetooth 4.0 and a Gigabit-LAN port you also get an empty slot for a WWAN module. The necessary antennas are already integrated, so an upgrade should be no problem. You can also use this slot for an mSATA SSD.

Security 

Besides the usual password protections for the BIOS, the system and the files, our review unit is also equipped with a drop sensor, a SmartCard reader and Dell's security tool Protected Workspace. The Trusted Platform Module and the Computrace support are integrated, but have to be activated in the BIOS first. A fingerprint reader is not available. You also cannot select it as an option in the online store, but it should be configurable according to Dell. The manufacturer actually offers several additional features apart from the less expensive configurations in the online store, which should be interesting for small and large companies in particular.

Accessories

Dell's Precision M2800 can use all the accessories from the Dell Latitude E6540. Especially the system-specific program is interesting, which includes docking stations, batteries, optical drives and modules. This can be a big advantage and save additional costs if you already have the related devices.

Maintenance

You can easily remove the bottom cover after you loosen some screws. This gives you comfortable access to the most important components. Some parts like the system memory, the WWAN/mSATA slot, the primary storage solution and the modular drive bay can be upgraded. The fan is accessible and can be cleaned or replaced if necessary. 

Warranty

Dell equips its Precision M2800 Workstation with a three-year warranty (Base Support on the next business day). As usual, Dell offers several extensions and upgrades. Such an extension of the base support to 5 years, for instance, is available for almost 108 Euros (~$147, net).

Input Devices

Keyboard

The keyboard uses almost the whole width of the case and has conveniently sized keys. Even the arrow keys are comparatively large and are easy to use. Spreadsheet users will be happy about the separate numeric keypad, which improves the input of large number rows significantly. Besides a high-contrast lettering, the input also has a background illumination that can be adjusted in four steps. Dell is very restrained with FN functions and only integrates a couple of them with a blue lettering. The keyboard is very firm, has an average travel and a convenient stroke. Frequent writers should have no problems with this input. 

Touchpad

The size of the touchpad (80 x 43 mm; 3.1 x 1.7 in) suggests that it is an older model. There is not a lot of room for gestures with multiple fingers. Otherwise we like the input very much – gliding capabilities, response and the handling do not cause any criticism. The separate buttons have a convenient rubber coating and work flawlessly. They can also be configured according to your own needs and combined with the TrackPoint buttons. The corresponding TrackPoint works precisely as usual and is a convenient alternative, especially with limited space like on a train ride or on the plane.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad and TrackPoint
Touchpad and TrackPoint
Special keys
Special keys
Numeric keypad
Numeric keypad

Display

Full HD display with good specs
Full HD display with good specs

Dell currently only equips the Precision M2800 with a matte Full HD panel with the TN technology. There will not be an IPS panel or a version with a very high resolution in the foreseeable future. Even though TN displays have drawbacks in certain areas, the CMO panel in our review unit is undoubtedly one of the better versions.

321
cd/m²
286
cd/m²
301
cd/m²
298
cd/m²
279
cd/m²
281
cd/m²
283
cd/m²
231
cd/m²
252
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 321 cd/m²
Average: 281.3 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 72 %
Center on Battery: 278 cd/m²
Black: 0.311 cd/m²
Contrast: 897:1

The measured average brightness is on a good level with 281 cd/m², but the brightness distribution of just 72% is not very convincing. The bad result is caused by the high brightness difference of around 90 cd/m² between the brightest and the darkest point. However, this difference is hardly visible in practice, even with plain backgrounds. The luminance can be adjusted in 15 steps from 33 cd/m² all the way up to 279 cd/m² (in the center). Step 8 results in 163 cd/m², which we will use for some battery runtime tests.

You can comfortably work outdoors thanks to the high brightness, the matte surface and the good contrast. Only direct sunlight should be avoided since it will strain your eyes.

As mentioned, the contrast of 897:1 is above average and provides deep blacks and rich colors. Pictures, movies and games benefit the most from this, but text documents and web pages look nicer compared to standard displays as well. The available colors can represent the sRGB color space by around 65%. This is obviously sufficient for many tasks, but not for graphic artists, photographers or web designers.

While the color accuracy is not suited for professional tasks ex-works, the situation is much better after calibration. The gamma curve is almost perfect, just like the RGB balance. The grayscale and the color accuracy of the ColorChecker only show a DeltaE 2000 deviation of more than three in two cases. You can only see the limited color space when you look at the primary colors since they lose some accuracy. The largest DeltaE 2000 deviation is just above 5 for cyan, which is still a reasonable result.

Grayscale
Grayscale
Colorspace
Colorspace
Saturation Sweeps
Saturation Sweeps
ColorChecker
ColorChecker
Grayscale calibrated
Grayscale calibrated
Colorspace calibrated
Colorspace calibrated
Saturation calibrated
Saturation calibrated
ColorChecker calibrated
ColorChecker calibrated

While the features are pretty convincing so far, we cannot say the same about viewing angle stability. Vertical changes, in particular, show the big drawback compared to IPS panels. Depending on the display angle, you will have to live with inverting colors or deviations. At least this effect is not as bad compared to many standard displays.

Viewing angles Dell Precision M2800 Full HD display
Viewing angles Dell Precision M2800 Full HD display

Performance

Dell does not offer many components for the Precision 2800-series: Three processors (Intel Core i5-4200U, Intel Core i7-4610M and Intel Core i7-4810MQ), a switchable graphics unit (Intel HD Graphics 4600 + AMD FirePro W4170M) and three storage solutions are currently available. The system memory is always 8 GB. Our review unit represents the top version and uses a Solid-State Drive. The price is around 1,800 Euros (~$2455). A configuration with an i5 CPU and hybrid hard drive is available for almost 1,300 Euros (~$1773). Dell has offered preconfigured models on its website for a while now, which represent the demands of the majority of users. Still, individual wishes can usually be realized.

System information Dell Precision M2800

Processor

Stress test after 23 minutes
Stress test after 23 minutes
Stress test after 50 minutes
Stress test after 50 minutes
Stress test after 73 minutes
Stress test after 73 minutes

As it should be for a powerful workstation, the review unit uses a fast quad-core processor from Intel. It really depends on the individual usage scenario whether the less powerful options are a sensible choiceIntel's Core i5-4200U should provide longer battery times and less heat because of the significantly lower Thermal Design Power (TDP), and Intel's Core i7-4610M should not have any deficits to our review processor with tasks that only use less threads simultaneously thanks to the high clock.

The Intel Core i7-4810MQ CPU on the other hand is an all-rounder, which does not leave much to be desired in terms of performance. With a clock of up to 3,800 MHz in single-thread tasks and the simultaneous execution of up to eight threads in multi-core optimized applications, it covers the whole range very well. However, such high performance is also combined with higher power consumption and more heat. With a TDP of 47 Watts, it surpasses the two alternatives Intel Core i7-4610M and Intel Core i5-4200U by 10 and 32 Watts, respectively. 

Our Dell Precision M2800 delivers the expected results in the CPU benchmarks. The SuperPi-32M calculation, for instance, takes 571 seconds (single-thread test) and wPrime 1024M 270 seconds (multi-thread test).

More results for a comparison can be found in our extensive CPU benchmark list.

Under continuous maximum load (stress test with Prime95 + FurMark) of the CPU and AMD GPU, the CPU clock is close to 2.5 GHz after around 1 hour. If you only stress the CPU, however, the clock rises to around 3.1 GHz.

You can utilize a lot of processor performance on battery power. The CPU test Prime95 for example always runs with 3 GHz and eight threads simultaneously. Cinebench R11.5 determined a good result of 6.91 points on battery power, which is almost identical to mains power (7.03 points). However, there will be a significant performance reduction if you use the dedicated AMD graphics at the same time. In this case, the clock will level off at around 2.5 GHz after 800 MHz at the start, which is similar to mains power.

Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
9566 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
25931 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
7163 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
9615
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
19731
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
5460
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
59.35 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
7.03 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.68 Points
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
98 %
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
54.65 fps
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
648 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
149 Points
Help

System Performance

The system is very powerful thanks to the balanced configuration of the components. We could not determine any bottlenecks. Pretty much the only optimization is an upgrade of the system memory or the integration of a faster Solid-State Drive. One limit will eventually be the performance with complex 3D applications, but the Dell Precision does not offer an alternative. PCMark 7, for instance, determined 5,553 points and Geekbench 2.0 11,562 points.

PC Mark
PCMark 75553 points
PCMark 8 Home v24674 points
PCMark 8 Creative v24554 points
PCMark 8 Work v25010 points
Help
Geekbench 2 - 32 Bit - Total Score (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
11562 Points ∼93%
HP ZBook 14
6162 Points ∼50% -47%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
10398 Points ∼84% -10%

Legend

 
Dell Precision M2800 Intel Core i7-4810MQ, AMD FirePro W4170M, SK hynix SH920
 
HP ZBook 14 Intel Core i7-4600U, AMD FirePro M4100, Samsung SSD 840 Pro 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV-0Z000
 
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW Intel Core i7-4700MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K1100M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680

Storage Devices

Even though the prices of Solid-State Drives dropped significantly in the last couple of months, Dell only equips its top version with a meager storage capacity of 128 GB. The situation is even worse since you can only use around 65 GB for your files ex-works. However, in return, you get a fast drive with read speeds of almost 500 MB/s and write speeds around 300 MB/s, which easily beat conventional hard drives.

There are multiple ways to increase the meager capacity. The easiest way would be an mSATA drive for the empty WWAN slot. This port supports the SATA 3 standard, so the performance difference to current M.2 SSDs should not be very big. We tested the port with a Crucial M4 (64 GB) and measured 514 MB/s (sequential write) and 104 MB/s (write). 

Another alternative is the multifunctional drive bay. Here you can use a 2.5-inch hard drive adaptor and replace the optical drive to use standard hard drives or SSDs. Furthermore, the review unit supports RAID in the BIOS, so you can use RAID 0 or RAID 1 systems.

SK hynix SH920
Transfer Rate Minimum: 152.9 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 374.2 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 344 MB/s
Access Time: 0.2 ms
Burst Rate: 89.5 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1 %

Graphics

Dell equips the Precision M2800 with AMD's new FirePro W4170M, which should be slightly faster than the FirePro M4100 when you look at the specifications. As usual, the professional versions of consumer chips have their own BIOS and special drivers that are supposed to improve the performance with professional software. The main differences to the usual Radeon cards are special demands in regard to the performance, compatibility and support.

From a technical standpoint we are looking at a sibling of the AMD Radeon HD 8790M, which has been adjusted for professional tasks. 2 GB GDDR5 video memory, 128-bit memory interface and 825 MHz core clock are the official specs of the AMD FirePro W4170M. Our tools, however, show a slightly higher core clock of 900 MHz. This is not uncommon since AMD usually allows the manufacturers to adjust the clocks to their systems.

Basic tasks like web browsing, office or multimedia are handled by the additional Intel HD Graphics 4600 that is integrated into the CPU. This means you can also use Intel's successful Quick Sync Video, which accelerates video conversions and works very efficiently as well. Which GPU is used can be controlled automatically, by the energy profile, or you can assign the chips to each application individually.

We check the CAD performance with the SPECviewperf benchmarks. The professional chip from AMD is especially fast in Lightwave, Maya and Solidworks, but it can also keep up with the Nvidia Quadro K1100M and the Nvidia Quadro K2100M in other areas. If you are using TCVIS, Pro/Engineer or Catio on the other hand, you should look for a workstation with an Nvidia Quadro GPU.

SPECviewperf 11
1920x1080 Catia AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
26.24 fps ∼38%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
42.66 fps ∼61% +63%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
30.91 fps ∼45% +18%
HP ZBook 14
25.05 fps ∼36% -5%
HP ZBook 15
28.72 fps ∼41% +9%
Dell Precision M6800
50.34 fps ∼73% +92%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
47.1 fps ∼68% +79%
1920x1080 Ensight AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
19.94 fps ∼25%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
28.26 fps ∼35% +42%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
17.49 fps ∼22% -12%
HP ZBook 14
11.29 fps ∼14% -43%
HP ZBook 15
14.67 fps ∼18% -26%
Dell Precision M6800
34.18 fps ∼42% +71%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
47.91 fps ∼60% +140%
1920x1080 Lightwave AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
71.61 fps ∼89%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
50.61 fps ∼63% -29%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
46.51 fps ∼58% -35%
HP ZBook 14
48.54 fps ∼60% -32%
HP ZBook 15
49.06 fps ∼61% -31%
Dell Precision M6800
50.95 fps ∼63% -29%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
51.69 fps ∼64% -28%
1920x1080 Maya AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
68.39 fps ∼61%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
53.3 fps ∼47% -22%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
46.37 fps ∼41% -32%
HP ZBook 14
37.65 fps ∼33% -45%
HP ZBook 15
42.44 fps ∼38% -38%
Dell Precision M6800
54.89 fps ∼49% -20%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
56.77 fps ∼51% -17%
1920x1080 Pro/ENGINEER AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
11 fps ∼58%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
18.79 fps ∼99% +71%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
12.82 fps ∼68% +17%
HP ZBook 14
8.87 fps ∼47% -19%
HP ZBook 15
13.93 fps ∼73% +27%
Dell Precision M6800
18.27 fps ∼96% +66%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
15.88 fps ∼84% +44%
1920x1080 SolidWorks AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
47.75 fps ∼74%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
44.64 fps ∼69% -7%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
36.26 fps ∼56% -24%
HP ZBook 14
37.88 fps ∼59% -21%
HP ZBook 15
35.16 fps ∼54% -26%
Dell Precision M6800
48.25 fps ∼75% +1%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
47.65 fps ∼74% 0%
1920x1080 Tcvis AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
9.81 fps ∼16%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
34.82 fps ∼58% +255%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
27.62 fps ∼46% +182%
HP ZBook 14
13.56 fps ∼23% +38%
HP ZBook 15
26.47 fps ∼44% +170%
Dell Precision M6800
41.83 fps ∼70% +326%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
47.86 fps ∼80% +388%
1920x1080 Siemens NX AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
25.04 fps ∼40%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
31.33 fps ∼50% +25%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
23.62 fps ∼37% -6%
HP ZBook 14
21.28 fps ∼34% -15%
HP ZBook 15
20.54 fps ∼33% -18%
Dell Precision M6800
38.53 fps ∼61% +54%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
43.38 fps ∼69% +73%
SPECviewperf 12
1900x1060 Catia (catia-04) AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
19.33 fps ∼35%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
20.81 fps ∼38% +8%
HP ZBook 14
13.43 fps ∼24% -31%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
41.52 fps ∼75% +115%
1900x1060 Creo (creo-01) AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
18.8 fps ∼26%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
20.47 fps ∼28% +9%
HP ZBook 14
13.97 fps ∼19% -26%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
31.11 fps ∼43% +65%
1900x1060 Energy (energy-01) AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
0.35 fps ∼2%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
0.34 fps ∼2% -3%
HP ZBook 14
0.06 fps ∼0% -83%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
1.73 fps ∼8% +394%
1900x1060 Maya (maya-04) AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
22.75 fps ∼42%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
18.1 fps ∼33% -20%
HP ZBook 14
5.4 fps ∼10% -76%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
31.89 fps ∼59% +40%
1900x1060 Medical (medical-01) AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
5.84 fps ∼32%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
5.88 fps ∼32% +1%
HP ZBook 14
0.99 fps ∼5% -83%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
9.74 fps ∼53% +67%
1900x1060 Showcase (showcase-01) AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
12.75 fps ∼36%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
10 fps ∼28% -22%
HP ZBook 14
3.93 fps ∼11% -69%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
23.59 fps ∼66% +85%
1900x1060 Siemens NX (snx-02) AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
23.52 fps ∼28%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
20.86 fps ∼24% -11%
HP ZBook 14
16.58 fps ∼19% -30%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
40.34 fps ∼47% +72%
1900x1060 Solidworks (sw-03) AA:0x AF:0x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
37.52 fps ∼73%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
36.02 fps ∼70% -4%
HP ZBook 14
24.59 fps ∼48% -34%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
35.15 fps ∼68% -6%

Legend

 
Dell Precision M2800 Intel Core i7-4810MQ, AMD FirePro W4170M, SK hynix SH920
 
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104 Intel Core i7-4800MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M, Toshiba MQ01ABD100
 
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW Intel Core i7-4700MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K1100M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
 
HP ZBook 14 Intel Core i7-4600U, AMD FirePro M4100, Samsung SSD 840 Pro 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV-0Z000
 
HP ZBook 15 Intel Core i7-4800MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K610M, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
 
Dell Precision M6800 Intel Core i7-4800MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K3100M, WDC Scorpio Black WD7500BPKT-80PK4T0
 
MSI GT70-20Li716121B Intel Core i7-4800MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K4100M, Toshiba THNSNS128GMCP
Financial analysis
Financial analysis
Cryptography
Cryptography
Image Manipulation
Image Manipulation

GPUs instead of CPUs are more often used for the calculation of complex tasks. This, for instance, includes filters for video and picture editing, mathematical calculations, compression tasks or encryptions. Besides some manufacturer-specific technologies like Nvidia's CUDA or Intel's Quick Sync Video, the OpenCL interface in particular is very important. AMD calls this technology Accelerated Parallel Processing (APP) and offers a very powerful solution in these scenarios.

Even though the AMD FirePro W4170M is more of an entry-level solution, it can take the lead in many of our OpenCL tests. It is only beaten by the Nvidia Quadro K3100M in the financial analysis and it is between the AMD FirePro M4100 and Nvidia Quadro K1100M in terms of cryptography.

AMD's FirePro W4170M is actually pretty dominant with complex light-shadow calculations (Raytracing). The benchmark Luxmark 2.0 that we only run on the corresponding OpenCL GPUs, shows that the competition is basically outclassed.

Our tools always show the maximum core clock of 900 MHz on battery power and with maximum load for the GPU. With simultaneous CPU load we can see a fluctuation between 780 and 900 MHz. This effect should not be very relevant in practice since the simultaneous high load is not very likely if you do not use the stress test. A 3DMark 06 run is also on a similar level with 13,551 points.

LuxMark v2.0 64Bit
Sala Scene, OpenCL GPUs-only (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
462 Samples/s ∼19%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
160 Samples/s ∼6% -65%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
48 Samples/s ∼2% -90%
Dell Precision M6800
96 Samples/s ∼4% -79%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
305 Samples/s ∼12% -34%
Room Scene, OpenCL GPUs-only (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
256 Samples/s ∼17%
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104
75 Samples/s ∼5% -71%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
103 Samples/s ∼7% -60%
Dell Precision M6800
210 Samples/s ∼14% -18%
MSI GT70-20Li716121B
138 Samples/s ∼9% -46%

Legend

 
Dell Precision M2800 Intel Core i7-4810MQ, AMD FirePro W4170M, SK hynix SH920
 
Toshiba Tecra W50-A-104 Intel Core i7-4800MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M, Toshiba MQ01ABD100
 
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW Intel Core i7-4700MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K1100M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
 
Dell Precision M6800 Intel Core i7-4800MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K3100M, WDC Scorpio Black WD7500BPKT-80PK4T0
 
MSI GT70-20Li716121B Intel Core i7-4800MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K4100M, Toshiba THNSNS128GMCP
3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
13622 points
3DMark 112629 points
3DMark Ice Storm76545 points
3DMark Cloud Gate10501 points
3DMark Fire Strike1694 points
Help

Gaming Performance

The 3DMarks already suggested it; the 3D gaming performance is roughly on the same level with the Nvidia GeForce GT 750M and the Nvidia Quadro K2100M. However, there can be surprising results in some games and the performance fluctuates quite a bit from game to game. A very good example for AMD's solution is Company of Heroes 2, which can be played with medium settings. Otherwise, you can usually use our high preset without any restrictions. That does not apply for very demanding titles like Far Cry 3, Metro Last Light or the formerly mentioned Company of Heroes 2. The maximum quality settings can only be used for less demanding games.

low med.high ultra
World of Warcraft (2005) 3212376130fps
Sims 3 (2009) 430204162fps
StarCraft 2 (2010) 271844725fps
Total War: Shogun 2 (2011) 22244.717.5fps
Anno 2070 (2011) 158714320fps
Diablo III (2012) 147897652fps
Sleeping Dogs (2012) 106.177.834.75fps
Torchlight 2 (2012) 1159883fps
World of Tanks v8 (2012) 106654821fps
Hitman: Absolution (2012) 45413218fps
Far Cry 3 (2012) 6343178fps
Tomb Raider (2013) 131614211fps
SimCity (2013) 93392818fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 108564917fps
Metro: Last Light (2013) 65.845.423.511.3fps
GRID 2 (2013) 112876219fps
Company of Heroes 2 (2013) 38.831.219.477.3fps
Total War: Rome II (2013) 866755.29fps
Tomb Raider
1024x768 Low Preset (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
131 fps ∼27%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE
104.3 fps ∼21% -20%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
101.7 fps ∼21% -22%
HP ZBook 14
59 fps ∼12% -55%
One K56-3F
128.5 fps ∼26% -2%
1366x768 Normal Preset AA:FX AF:4x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
61 fps ∼16%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE
75.2 fps ∼19% +23%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
56.9 fps ∼15% -7%
One K56-3F
66.9 fps ∼17% +10%
1366x768 High Preset AA:FX AF:8x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
42 fps ∼14%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE
50.3 fps ∼16% +20%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
38.8 fps ∼13% -8%
One K56-3F
40.2 fps ∼13% -4%
1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:FX AF:16x (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
11 fps ∼7%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE
21.3 fps ∼14% +94%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
16.3 fps ∼11% +48%
HP ZBook 14
9 fps ∼6% -18%
One K56-3F
17.8 fps ∼12% +62%
Total War: Rome II
1024x768 Low Preset (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
86 fps ∼32%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE
68.2 fps ∼26% -21%
HP ZBook 14
45 fps ∼17% -48%
Schenker M503
96.8 fps ∼36% +13%
1366x768 Medium Preset (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
67 fps ∼34%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE
51.2 fps ∼26% -24%
Schenker M503
71.9 fps ∼37% +7%
1366x768 High Preset (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
55.2 fps ∼36%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE
41.3 fps ∼27% -25%
Schenker M503
57.1 fps ∼38% +3%
1920x1080 Extreme Preset (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
9 fps ∼16%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE
10.4 fps ∼18% +16%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
11.8 fps ∼21% +31%
HP ZBook 14
6 fps ∼11% -33%
Schenker M503
10.3 fps ∼18% +14%
Company of Heroes 2
1024x768 Minimum / Low / Off AA:Off (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
38.8 fps ∼63%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE
13.72 fps ∼22% -65%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
23.6 fps ∼38% -39%
HP ZBook 14
21 fps ∼34% -46%
One K56-3F
31 fps ∼50% -20%
1366x768 Medium AA:Off (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
31.2 fps ∼53%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE
12.69 fps ∼22% -59%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
19.9 fps ∼34% -36%
One K56-3F
24.8 fps ∼42% -21%
1366x768 High AA:Medium (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
19.47 fps ∼34%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE
11.71 fps ∼20% -40%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
13.1 fps ∼23% -33%
One K56-3F
16.3 fps ∼28% -16%
1920x1080 Maximum / Higher / High AA:High (sort by value)
Dell Precision M2800
7.3 fps ∼17%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE
6.05 fps ∼14% -17%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
5.8 fps ∼13% -21%
One K56-3F
7.4 fps ∼17% +1%

Legend

 
Dell Precision M2800 Intel Core i7-4810MQ, AMD FirePro W4170M, SK hynix SH920
 
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BG001BGE Intel Core i7-4800MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M, Samsung SSD 840 250GB MZ7TD256HAFV
 
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW Intel Core i7-4700MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K1100M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
 
HP ZBook 14 Intel Core i7-4600U, AMD FirePro M4100, Samsung SSD 840 Pro 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV-0Z000
 
Schenker M503 Intel Core i7-4702MQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M,
 
One K56-3F Intel Core i7-4700MQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Toshiba HG5d THNSNH128GMCT

Emissions

System Noise

The Dell Precision M2800 is always a quiet workstation and never gets uncomfortably loud, not even with the maximum fan rpm level (Maximum Performance) at 43.2 dB(A). The maximum noise is reduced to 41.3 dB(A) if you use the high-performance energy profile. The cooling system left mixed impressions with medium workloads, where we noticed a pulsating of the fan from 33.3 dB(A) to 39.8 dB(A) instead of running at a constant rpm level. This frequent change could be annoying for some users, despite the quiet overall fan noise. Light workloads usually result in a silent notebook, where the fan is either deactivated or hardly audible. We did not notice high-frequency sounds from the review unit.

Noise Level

Idle 28.0 / 28.0 / 28.0 dB(A)
HDD 28.0 dB(A)
DVD 37.2 / dB(A)
Load 39.8 / 43.2 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    PCE-322A (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Even though the results at the case surface are pretty high with up to 59.3 °C (138.7 °F), the Dell Precision M2800 has a much bigger heat issue at a more important spot. We not only measured more than 72 °C (161.6 °F) directly at the fan exhaust at the left side, but there is also disagreeably warm airflow when you stress the system. This is tolerable for a short period, but it affects the operation when it happens permanently.

At least it seems that the heat development only affects the cooling solution and not the components. The spots, where the CPU and the GPU are located, stay much cooler. Using the device on your lap is not an option with this load scenario, and you have to live with these restrictions when you use it on the desk. You can slightly improve the cooling performance if you raise the rear area to facilitate the airflow. We used the profile Maximum Performance for our test, which always uses the maximum rpm level of the fan.

Max. Load
 29.6 °C32.1 °C26.2 °C 
 43.3 °C42.9 °C29.7 °C 
 24.4 °C33.2 °C28.3 °C 
Maximum: 43.3 °C
Average: 32.2 °C
34.8 °C52.4 °C43.1 °C
35.9 °C32.6 °C59.3 °C
31.5 °C33.7 °C37.2 °C
Maximum: 59.3 °C
Average: 40.1 °C
Power Supply (max.)  56.4 °C | Room Temperature 20 °C | Fennel First 550

Speakers

The speakers are located at the front and create a pretty decent sound, which is not a matter of course for a business notebook. The sound characteristic is pretty balanced and the undistorted maximum volume is sufficient. Like many other notebooks, the lack of  bass and depth make it unsuitable for multimedia purposes. However, you can quickly attach external speakers via 3.5 mm stereo jack or HDMI, so even larger presentations should not be a problem.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

The power consumption is very moderate with light workloads thanks to the switchable graphics. We measured between 7.8 Watts and 10.5 Watts while idling depending on the settings. The display in particular seems to be frugal, which is an important advantage over many IPS displays. Medium workloads with the activated AMD FirePro W4170M result in up to 101.8 Watts, and the system consumes up to 125.4 Watts under maximum load for the CPU and the GPU.

Dell offers the "small" workstation with two different battery options. Our review unit uses the more powerful 97 Wh battery that protrudes at the back. The smaller 60 Wh battery is flush with the case, but reduces the possible battery runtimes by around 30%.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.2 / 0.4 Watt
Idle 7.8 / 9.9 / 10.5 Watt
Load 101.8 / 125.4 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 870 Iso kalibriert

Battery Runtime

Depending on the load, you get battery runtimes between 1:26 hours and 11:28 hours. The Battery Eater Reader's Test (minimum display brightness, maximum energy-saving settings, Intel HD Graphics 4600, all wireless modules off) represents the maximum runtime and the Battery Eater Classic Test (high-performance profile, maximum display brightness, all wireless modules on, AMD FirePro W4170M) the minimum runtime. We performed some additional runtime tests in this review to simulate some practical scenarios. The video test used the maximum display brightness, and we ran a loop of SPECviewperf 12 (high-performance profile, maximum brightness, everything off) for another load scenario until the system shut down. The resulting battery runtimes are in the pictures below.

Battery Eater Reader's Test
Battery Eater Reader's Test
Video test with 163 cd/m²
Video test with 163 cd/m²
Video test with maximum brightness
Video test with maximum brightness
WLAN Test with 163 cd/m² (AMD)
WLAN Test with 163 cd/m² (AMD)
CAD Test with maximum brightness
CAD Test with maximum brightness
Battery Eater Classic Test
Battery Eater Classic Test
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
11h 28min
WiFi Surfing
6h 02min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
5h 47min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 26min

Verdict

Dell Precision M2800
Dell Precision M2800
Dell Precision M2800
Dell Precision M2800

Dell's concept to reuse existing notebook cases works pretty well for the Dell Precision M2800. Contrary to several barebones manufacturers that often use gaming notebooks for mobile workstations, Dell can use a solid business device from the Latitude-series as a basis. This provides the necessary quality, important ports, customer-oriented features and flexible expandability. That the device comes with a three-year warranty with several support options is a matter of course in the workstation segment.

Besides the convenient case, Dell also did a good job in regard to the internal components. The AMD FirePro W4170M GPU can handle many tasks and can even beat significantly more powerful rivals in some tests. We also like the powerful Intel quad-core CPU and the fast Solid-State Drive. Dell unfortunately saves some money in terms of storage capacity and just offers an impractical capacity.

The integrated Full HD display is good, but not great. Besides many convenient features, it cannot completely convince us with its viewing angle stability and the brightness distribution. The limited color space coverage could also be an issue for some professional scenarios.

A bigger problem is the overly warm air flow from the fan exhaust and the high case temperatures under continuous load. The heat from the components is focused on the left side. However, the system noise is suitably restrained, and the components do not seem to have a cooling issue. 

The last point is obviously the price. Although the review unit is certainly not the cheapest mobile workstation, it can still convince with a fair price-performance ratio that beats many competitors.

Comment this article:

In Review: Dell Precision M2800. Test model courtesy of Dell Germany.
In Review: Dell Precision M2800.  Test model courtesy of Dell Germany.

Specifications

Dell Precision M2800

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel QM87 (Lynx Point)
:: Memory
8192 MB, 2x 4GB, PC3-12800 Hynix, up to 16 GB in 2 slots
:: Graphics adapter
AMD FirePro W4170M - 2048 MB, Core: 900 MHz, Memory: 1000 MHz, atiumdag13.352.1002.0 /Win7 64, AMD Powerplay (Switchable Graphics) mit Intel HD Graphics 4600
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, CMN15BA, TN LED, glossy: no
:: Harddisk
SK hynix SH920, 128 GB , 65 GB free
:: Soundcard
Realtek ALC292 Realtek High Definition Audio
:: Connections
1 Express Card 54mm, 4 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: 3.5 mm stereo jack combined audio in/out, Card Reader: SD, SDHC, SDXC, 1 SmartCard, 1 Fingerprint Reader,
:: Networking
Intel I217-LM Gigabit Network Connection (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 (a b g n ac), 4.0 Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
MATSHITA DVD+-RW UJ8FB
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 34 x 380 x 251
:: Weight
2.92 kg Power Supply: 0.61 kg
:: Battery
97 Wh Lithium-Ion
:: Price
1800 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: 720p, Keyboard: Standard, Keyboard Light: yes, 36 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
Dell's Precision M2800 is the new entry-level device of the exclusive workstation portfolio.
Dell's Precision M2800 is the new entry-level device of the exclusive workstation portfolio.
However, not everything is new.
However, not everything is new.
The case is already familiar from the Dell Latitude E6540.
The case is already familiar from the Dell Latitude E6540.
Even though it isn't new, it convinces with high stability, good expandability and necessary business features.
Even though it isn't new, it convinces with high stability, good expandability and necessary business features.
Convincing is also the correct term for the inner components.
Convincing is also the correct term for the inner components.
AMD's FirePro W4170M in particular delivers excellent results within the comparison.
AMD's FirePro W4170M in particular delivers excellent results within the comparison.
The port layout is convincing...
The port layout is convincing...
...and most ports are at the rear area of the notebook.
...and most ports are at the rear area of the notebook.
The SmartCard reader is easy to access at the front, ...
The SmartCard reader is easy to access at the front, ...
...the Ethernet port at the back.
...the Ethernet port at the back.
Older displays can be attached via VGA.
Older displays can be attached via VGA.
Digital displays can be used via HDMI.
Digital displays can be used via HDMI.
The large 97 Wh battery protrudes at the back.
The large 97 Wh battery protrudes at the back.
The wireless modules can be turned on and off via hardware switch.
The wireless modules can be turned on and off via hardware switch.
Additional ports can be used via ExpressCard slot.
Additional ports can be used via ExpressCard slot.
The optical drive is modular...
The optical drive is modular...
...and can be replaced by a hard drive.
...and can be replaced by a hard drive.
The card reader supports the usual SD standards.
The card reader supports the usual SD standards.
Contrary to the trend, the Precision M2800 still uses a display latch.
Contrary to the trend, the Precision M2800 still uses a display latch.
The 3D performance varies quite a bit...
The 3D performance varies quite a bit...
...depending on the task.
...depending on the task.
The keyboard is suitable for frequent writers, ...
The keyboard is suitable for frequent writers, ...
... the hinges leave a high-quality impression...
... the hinges leave a high-quality impression...
...and the communication features are good for business customers.
...and the communication features are good for business customers.
The large battery in combination with the comparatively frugal components...
The large battery in combination with the comparatively frugal components...
...results in long battery runtimes.
...results in long battery runtimes.
The SIM slot is inside the battery tray, but the WWAN module has to be installed.
The SIM slot is inside the battery tray, but the WWAN module has to be installed.
The docking port improves the desktop operation and is compatible to many devices from the Latitude E-series.
The docking port improves the desktop operation and is compatible to many devices from the Latitude E-series.
It is easy to remove the bottom cover...
It is easy to remove the bottom cover...
...to get access...
...to get access...
...to the important components.
...to the important components.

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Links

Compare Prices

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Pro

+Stability of the case
+Keyboard
+Display (basics)
+CPU performance
+GPU performance (with professional tasks in particular)
+Expandability
+Battery runtimes
+Noise development
 

Cons

-Build quality in details
-Display viewing angle stability and brightness distribution (for professional tasks)
-Some hot spots
-Storage capacity

Shortcut

What we like

The price-performance ratio is convincing, the professional features cover many areas.

What we miss

More options for individual configurations for private customers, other displays and a more powerful cooling solution.

What surprises us

That Dell has successfully expanded its workstation portfolio with the Latitude case.

The competition

Dell Precision M3800

Dell Precision M4800

HP ZBook 14

HP ZBook 15

Toshiba Tecra W50

Lenovo ThinkPad W540

Fujitsu Celsius H730 (not yet reviewed)

Rating

Dell Precision M2800
06/28/2014 v4
Tobias Winkler

Chassis
87 / 98 → 89%
Keyboard
89%
Pointing Device
90%
Connectivity
80%
Weight
57 / 66 → 84%
Battery
86%
Display
81%
Games Performance
86%
Application Performance
97%
Temperature
75 / 95 → 79%
Noise
91 / 90 → 100%
Audio
60%
Camera
45 / 85 → 53%
Average
79%
87%
Workstation *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Dell Precision M2800 Notebook Review
Author: Tobias Winkler, 2014-07- 5 (Update: 2014-07-10)