Review Dell Precision M4800 Notebook

Tobias Winkler (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 10/25/2013

Setting standards. Dell's former Precision M4700 maintained its top position in our workstation ranking for a year. Now its successor is available and faces extremely high expectations. We exhaustively tested whether it really can live up to them.

For the original German review, see here.

Dell's portable Precision workstations exhibited their qualities several times in the last model year. Besides their high-quality build, good configuration, and upgrade options, it was particularly their high performance fused with low operating noise that was impressive. The casing has been adopted but the innards have been updated.

In addition to Intel's Core i7-4900MQ CPU and Nvidia's latest Quadro K2100M pro graphics, it is primarily the extremely high-resolution QHD+ screen that stands out. It offers an especially big desktop owing to 3200x1800 pixels. This blaze of performance almost lets the 16 GB of working memory and the large 256 GB solid state drive fade into the background. However, the present Dell Precision M4800 workstation is not a bargain with a current price of approx. 2850 Euros (~$3931, gross) and will likely only come into question for very aspiring home users besides the targeted professional user group.

Case

The casing of Dell's Precision M4800 uses virtually the same chassis as from the three former generations. The applied materials still make a good impression and provide a quality-looking exterior. The rock-solid 15-inch Precision barely exhibits any weaknesses and features an impeccable build. The wrist rest is firm, the keyboard does not yield and the stiffness of the base unit and display lid are above-average. Only the area above the ExpressCard slot can be dented marginally. Dell's engineers take a high weight of approx. 3.2 kg into account to achieve this overall great stability. Lenovo's ThinkPad W530 is roughly 400 grams lighter with 2.8 kilograms. Dell has announced an alternative mobile workstation in ultrabook size to be launched this year for designers with high mobility requirement. Dell's Precision M3800 will be much slimmer and lighter but likely not as powerful.

Connectivity

Not many modifications have been made in this section either. The FireWire 400 port has now been omitted and allows a more generous spacing of the interfaces on the casing's left. Otherwise, our review sample sports an optical drive designed in the space-saving Slim-Line format with slot-in mechanism, four USB 3.0 ports and one USB/eSATA combo on the rear. As usual, there are three possibilities for connecting external monitors: VGA, DisplayPort and HDMI.

Front: No interfaces
Front: No interfaces
Left: Kensington, 2x USB 3.0, audio, optical slot-in drive, card reader, SmartCard reader, ExpressCard 54/34
Left: Kensington, 2x USB 3.0, audio, optical slot-in drive, card reader, SmartCard reader, ExpressCard 54/34
Rear: LAN, VGA, eSATA/USB 2.0 combo, HDMI, power socket
Rear: LAN, VGA, eSATA/USB 2.0 combo, HDMI, power socket
Right: Wireless switch, EasyEject drive bay, 2x USB 3.0, DisplayPort
Right: Wireless switch, EasyEject drive bay, 2x USB 3.0, DisplayPort

Communication

Dell's own Wireless 1601 802.11n adapter including Bluetooth 4.0 is installed for wireless communication. It features three antennas, one of which is reserved for the Bluetooth module. The Wi-Fi adapter transmits in the 2.4 GHz band and theoretically achieves a maximum of 144 Mbit/s. We did not ascertain any connection issues while using Wi-Fi in the test period. At times over 5 MB/s was possible at a distance of 10 meters to an 802.11n router with a Ralink RT2860T chip on sight. Although a WWAN is not available for mobile internet, the required antenna cables and an empty slot are present. It would be possible to insert an mSATA SSD here. The HD webcam suffices for routine video-calling tasks and also copes quite well with low light. As usual, a Gigabit LAN port is installed for cabled network connections.

Security

At first glance it surprises a bit that a laptop from the business category priced at almost 3000 Euros (~$4138) lacks a fingerprint reader. Even many entry-level laptops have this feature and should actually not be left out here. However, the otherwise extensive security standards found when looking closer make up for that. In addition to the often available BIOS, Admin, HDD and system passwords, our review sample of Dell's Precision M4800 includes a SmartCard reader, Trusted Platform module and Computrace function that can be enabled.

Accessories

Since Dell has obviously not modified the docking port, it is possible to use the docking stations from former models. However, Dell's Advanced E-Port II port replicator for around 280 Euros (~$386, gross) and Dell's D5000 Wireless docking station for around 270 Euros (~$372, gross) are available should the user want to buy a new one.

Maintenance

As usual, Dell comes up trumps in maintenance. Only the battery and two screws have to be removed to take off the base plate. All components can be accessed and replaced easily afterward. The single steps are described in-depth in the owner's manual. Both fans can be cleaned and, when necessary, be replaced without problems. Two additional RAM banks are underneath the keyboard in the quad-core models.

Warranty

Dell's Precision M4800 standardly includes a 3 year basic on-site service for the next business day. Upgrades or service extensions are available optionally. For example, a 5 year ProSupport with on-site service for the next business day cost approximately 480 Euros (~$662, gross).

Input Devices

Keyboard

Like in many other areas, Dell did not modify the input devices at all. The keyboard still features a crisp, quiet stroke, medium drop and firm impression. The layout, key size and special functions are good. The keyboard's backlight can be set in four levels and the dedicated number pad will prove to be convenient particularly when entering time-consuming rows of numbers.

Touchpad

The TrackPoint is still an accurately working alternative to the touchpad and has dedicated keys. They can also be remapped as additional touchpad buttons and thus supply more functions. The touchpad itself features pleasant gliding traits and a decent responsiveness. It is no longer state-of-the-art for multi-touch gestures due to its input surface area of 80 x 45 mm and could definitely be bigger.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Arrow keys
Arrow keys
Left side
Left side
Touchpad & TrackPoint
Touchpad & TrackPoint

Display

Dell Precision M4800 featuring a QHD+ screen
Dell Precision M4800 featuring a QHD+ screen

Dell offers three different screen models for its Precision M4800. Most users will probably not opt for the entry-level model with a resolution of 1366x768 pixels. This screen is simply too coarse and particularly professional users will unlikely find it appealing. However, the equally non-reflective FullHD screen with wider viewing angles will prove to be considerably more practice-oriented. It provides a good ratio of desktop and display area. The review sample's prime feature is its QHD+ screen. Besides the gigantic surface area, this screen achieves very good results in almost all other sub-ratings.

Native desktop surface area
Native desktop surface area
Desktop in PhotoShop
Desktop in PhotoShop
Desktop in Sony's Vegas Pro
Desktop in Sony's Vegas Pro
Example for possible display errors
Example for possible display errors

The high resolution of 3200x1800 pixels leads to a very fine and detailed reproduction. The naked eye does not perceive single pixels. This also results in a lot of room on the desktop and easily allows placing several windows, documents and charts beside each other on the desktop.

However, one drawback is that fonts, icons, and menu positions are much smaller. That can be resolved by increasing the display size in the system control in many cases. But that does not always work and sometimes a magnifying glass is needed to see the necessary items depending on the program and window size. We will categorize this as "teething problems". It should ultimately only be a matter of time before high-definition screens become widespread and programs are modified for these displays.

Owing to the subjectively very good interpolation quality, pictures, videos, and animations benefit from the high pixel density even in low resolutions and look a lot better than on standard HD screens. However, the resolution has to be reduced every now and again because some buttons do not respond or the automatic resolution switching does not work. Alternative resolutions are widely supported and can be selected as desired. There are no longer limitations like we have often seen in Dell laptops.

356
cd/m²
392
cd/m²
374
cd/m²
367
cd/m²
383
cd/m²
378
cd/m²
387
cd/m²
380
cd/m²
393
cd/m²
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 393 cd/m²
Average: 378.9 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 91 %
Center on Battery: 383 cd/m²
Black: 0.405 cd/m²
Contrast: 946:1
Distribution of brightness

We ascertained a maximum screen brightness ranging from a minimum of 356 cd/m² in the upper left corner up to 393 cd/m² in the lower right corner. The illumination achieves a very good 91%. Brightness differences can only be seen in dark, single-colored content. The screen's brightness can be set very precisely from a minimum of 48 cd/m² to its maximum in 15 levels. We measured 158 cd/m² in level 6. This brightness suffices for many indoor situations and will thus also be used in our Wi-Fi battery life test.

Sun from the side
Sun from the side
Sun from the front
Sun from the front
Turned screen
Turned screen
Sun from the screen's back
Sun from the screen's back
approx. 64% AdobeRGB
approx. 64% AdobeRGB
approx. 89% sRGB
approx. 89% sRGB

The screen benefits from the full, high maximum brightness as well as the screen's matte surface outdoors. Distracting reflections do not occur and contents are well-legible even in bright ambient light. Using the laptop outdoors is thus possible with barely any restrictions.

The ascertained contrast of 945:1 is clearly above the average of our review samples and can be called very good for laptop conditions. Pictures, videos, 3D objects and even games and written text in documents benefit from that.

The sum of reproducible colors is quite high with over 85000 but is not completely within the sRGB color space. It is covered by approximately 89% which should be enough for many application fields. A complete coverage of the sRGB color space is currently only possible with RGB LED screens in the laptop sector.

The screen's balance ex-factory is much better than otherwise known from laptop displays. The gamma rate runs pretty much along the ideal curve and the other measurements exhibit an astonishingly good result with an average DeltaE 2000 of 5.73 (grayscale) and 3.89 (mixed colors). Nevertheless, professional users will not work out-of-the-box with Dell's QHD screen because the deviations in single cases are in a very visible range with a DeltaE 2000 of over 10. These shifts disappear after calibration and the user has in fact a really usable screen. Besides the excellent DeltaE 2000 rates in color accuracy and grayscale, the RGB balance and gamma curve of course also bring a high measure of congruity.

Grayscale
Grayscale
Color Management
Color Management
Saturation Sweeps
Saturation Sweeps
ColorChecker
ColorChecker
Grayscale (calibrated)
Grayscale (calibrated)
Color Management (calibrated)
Color Management (calibrated)
Saturation Sweeps (calibrated)
Saturation Sweeps (calibrated)
ColorChecker (calibrated)
ColorChecker (calibrated)


The viewing angle stability seamlessly lines in with the until now exceptional results. The user can benefit from very wide viewing angles both horizontally and vertically. Increased brightness losses and a visible color cast only have to be accepted when looking up or down from the sides.

Viewing angles: Dell Precision M4800 with QHD+ screen
Viewing angles: Dell Precision M4800 with QHD+ screen

Performance

The main focus in a professional workstation is naturally placed on performance. Here, as expected from Dell, the user can basically draw on abundant resources. However, the choice of components is limited for single buyers and private individuals. Dell currently only offers three pre-configured models for this group of buyers which is nevertheless to cover a vast and particularly attractively priced spectrum. However, classic business customers and wholesalers can configure the laptop freely and implement special needs when they order a sufficient number of units.

Our review sample is a pre-configured version and represents the present top model in this field. Dell installs a very high-performance processor with Intel's Core i7-4900MQ CPU. The RAM configuration of 16 GB is also attractively sized and the swift SSD storage device will usually suffice with a capacity of 256 GB. Nvidia's professional Quadro K2100M performs graphic calculations and the user can, as mentioned above, look at its results on the excellent QHD+ screen. Dell alternatively offers two other professional graphics chips, innumerable storage devices and working memory options, many CPUs and smaller configuration details. The base price currently starts at 1419 Euros (~$1957, net) and is, as usual, open-ended.

CPU
Caches
Motherboard
RAM
SPD
GPUZ
HD Tune
DPC Latency Checker
System information: Dell Precision M4800

Processor

Audio converting
Audio converting

Intel's Core i7-4900MQ processor is currently ranked 10 in our extensive CPU benchmark list and is only topped by two Extreme Editions and desktop CPUs. More performance in a laptop is virtually unthinkable and reflects the workstation's performance claim adequately. The key features of this high-performance processor are technologies such as Intel's Turbo Boost (2.8 - 3.8 GHz) and Hyper Threading (up to 8 threads simultaneously), which provide the required performance development according to the application field.

The benchmarks scores are as expected in the top ranks and confirm the high expectations. 7112 points (single-thread) and 27537 points (multi-thread) were achieved in Cinebench R10 64-bit. The wPrime 1024 calculation finished after just 228 seconds. The quad-core places itself at the top of all previously tested Windows systems with a 59-fold speed in audio converting via iTunes, and the CPU lines into the performance range of the high-performance comparison processors in video converting via Cyberlink's MediaEspresso.

Performance throttling was not noticed during full load, but the computing power was throttled by about 20% in favor of battery runtime in battery mode.

Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
6821
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
20617
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
5337
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
6816 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
27537 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
7112 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
56.75 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
7.39 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.66 Points
Help

System Performance

The system performance is on a very high level and does not exhibit any weaknesses. The working memory makes use of the dual-channel mode and the swift storage device invariably ensures a subjectively speedy responsiveness. As a result, no task is too difficult for this workstation and it quickly performs all demands. Thus, the device achieved a high 5646 points in PCMark 7 and 18753 points in PCMark Vantage.

6.9
Windows 7 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
7.7
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
7.7
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
6.9
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.9
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
7.9
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage18753 points
PCMark 75646 points
Help

Storage Device

A solid state drive with a capacity of 256 GB (gross) from Samsung is installed as the storage device. It has a height of 7 millimeters, is connected via SATA 6G and achieves transfer rates of over 500 MB/s (read). This storage can be easily expanded by using an SSD in mSATA format. It is also possible to replace the DVD burner with another storage device via an optionally available 2.5-inch drive caddy. The installed drives can then be configured in various RAID arrays and thus suit individual needs. The possibilities are vast and efficiently reflect a fundamental feature of a workstation - its upgrade options.

Transfer Rate Minimum: 380.7 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 423.5 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 415.3 MB/s
Access Time: 0.1 ms
Burst Rate: 173.2 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1 %

Graphics Card

Nvidia's Quadro K2100M is the immediate successor of Nvidia's Quadro K2000M that was frequently installed in mobile workstations of the former model year. It now features 576 Shader Units, the core clock is 666 MHz and the GDDR5 graphics memory clocks with 752 MHz. As usual, the Quadro line optimized for professional applications has a special BIOS and dedicated drivers. This enables speeding up individual OpenGL functions significantly which in turn is often beneficial for professional software.

SPECviewperf 11
1920x1080 Catia AA:0x AF:0x
Dell Precision M4800
41.47 fps ∼60%
Dell Precision M4700
33.44 fps ∼48% -19%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
16.28 fps ∼23% -61%
HP EliteBook 8770w DreamColor
45.63 fps ∼66% +10%
Fujitsu Celsius H920
40.65 fps ∼59% -2%
1920x1080 Ensight AA:0x AF:0x
Dell Precision M4800
27.43 fps ∼45%
Dell Precision M4700
20.8 fps ∼34% -24%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
18.8 fps ∼31% -31%
HP EliteBook 8770w DreamColor
40.54 fps ∼67% +48%
Fujitsu Celsius H920
24.33 fps ∼40% -11%
1920x1080 Lightwave AA:0x AF:0x
Dell Precision M4800
50.89 fps ∼63%
Dell Precision M4700
44.38 fps ∼55% -13%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
61.01 fps ∼76% +20%
HP EliteBook 8770w DreamColor
42.84 fps ∼53% -16%
Fujitsu Celsius H920
48.11 fps ∼60% -5%
1920x1080 Maya AA:0x AF:0x
Dell Precision M4800
52.59 fps ∼47%
Dell Precision M4700
47.58 fps ∼42% -10%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
52.84 fps ∼47% 0%
HP EliteBook 8770w DreamColor
51.35 fps ∼46% -2%
Fujitsu Celsius H920
50.82 fps ∼45% -3%
1920x1080 Pro/ENGINEER AA:0x AF:0x
Dell Precision M4800
18.97 fps ∼100%
Dell Precision M4700
13.13 fps ∼69% -31%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
6.27 fps ∼33% -67%
HP EliteBook 8770w DreamColor
12.23 fps ∼64% -36%
Fujitsu Celsius H920
15.32 fps ∼81% -19%
1920x1080 SolidWorks AA:0x AF:0x
Dell Precision M4800
45.41 fps ∼70%
Dell Precision M4700
33.01 fps ∼51% -27%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
45.85 fps ∼71% +1%
HP EliteBook 8770w DreamColor
39.66 fps ∼61% -13%
Fujitsu Celsius H920
40.03 fps ∼62% -12%
1920x1080 Tcvis AA:0x AF:0x
Dell Precision M4800
33.86 fps ∼57%
Dell Precision M4700
28.1 fps ∼47% -17%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
18.62 fps ∼31% -45%
HP EliteBook 8770w DreamColor
40.33 fps ∼68% +19%
Fujitsu Celsius H920
35.47 fps ∼59% +5%
1920x1080 Siemens NX AA:0x AF:0x
Dell Precision M4800
30.39 fps ∼48%
Dell Precision M4700
25.63 fps ∼41% -16%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
23.69 fps ∼38% -22%
HP EliteBook 8770w DreamColor
34.67 fps ∼55% +14%
Fujitsu Celsius H920
31.44 fps ∼50% +3%
Legend
      Dell Precision M4800 Intel Core i7-4900MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M,
      Dell Precision M4700 Intel Core i7-3720QM, NVIDIA Quadro K2000M, Samsung SSD 830 Series MZMPC256HBGJ-00000
      HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD Intel Core i5-3360M, AMD FirePro M4000, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
      HP EliteBook 8770w DreamColor Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA Quadro K4000M, Seagate Momentus 7200.5 ST9750420AS
      Fujitsu Celsius H920 Intel Core i7-3720QM, NVIDIA Quadro K3000M, Micron RealSSD C400-MTFDDAC256MAM

Compared with last year's model, Nvidia's Quadro K2100M manages to gain points in all areas of the SPECViewperf.11 benchmark. However, it cannot dethrone AMD's FirePro M4000 in this performance category in Lightwave. With 56 fps, the Quadro K2100M is on a par with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 760M in Cinebench R11.5's OpenGL Shading. At the same time, it also manages to marginally beat AMD's FirePro M4000 that achieved approx. 55 fps.

Cinebench R11.5 - OpenGL 64Bit
Dell Precision M4800
56.75 fps ∼52%
Acer Aspire V3-772G-747A321
56.53 fps ∼52% 0%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
55.44 fps ∼51% -2%
Legend
      Dell Precision M4800 Intel Core i7-4900MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M,
      Acer Aspire V3-772G-747A321 Intel Core i7-4702MQ, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M, Toshiba MQ01ABD100
      HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD Intel Core i5-3360M, AMD FirePro M4000, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630

However, the performance compared with powerful consumer graphics chips that use DirectX rather than OpenGL will likely be limited. Solely pure computing power counts here due to the lack of optimization. This, for example, includes Autodesk Inventor or newer versions of AutoCAD (from 2013) in the professional field. Here, just like in other DirectX applications, Nvidia's Quadro K2100M is located a bit above Nvidia's GeForce GT 750M and below Nvidia's GeForce GTX 760M. 10624 points was achieved in 3DMark Vantage and 2601 points in 3DMark 11.

We did not ascertain CPU throttling during full load. However, a performance decrease of approximately 30% has to be accepted in battery mode. For example, only 33 fps instead of 56 fps was achieved in Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL Shading.

3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
15586 points
3DMark Vantage10624 points
3DMark 112601 points
3DMark Ice Storm58619 points
3DMark Cloud Gate9647 points
3DMark Fire Strike1522 points
Help

OpenCL & CUDA

Besides a usually much lower system load, results will be presented noticeably faster when tasks can be performed by a graphics unit rather than the CPU (GPGPU). We examined the performance of the platform-independent and open OpenCL interface as well as Nvidia's proprietary CUDA engine of Dell's Precision M4800. Intel's QuickSync Video cannot be used because the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600 is not active. We considered the areas of video and image editing, financial math, encryption, ray-tracing and video converting in the tests. A few tasks have been added to our repertoire and do not yet have comparison rates. We will complete the charts with competing professional graphics chips as soon as results from other workstations are available.

BasemarkCL image & video filter
BasemarkCL image & video filter
SiSoft Sandra OpenCL Cryptographie
SiSoft Sandra OpenCL Cryptographie
SiSoft Sandra OpenCL Financial analysis
SiSoft Sandra OpenCL Financial analysis
Cyberlink MediaEspresso CUDA video converting
Cyberlink MediaEspresso CUDA video converting
LuxMark v2.0 64Bit
Sala Scene, OpenCL GPUs-only
Dell Precision M4800
145 Samples/s ∼6%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
470 Samples/s ∼19% +224%
MSI GT60 0NG-405DE
105 Samples/s ∼4% -28%
Room Scene, OpenCL GPUs-only
Dell Precision M4800
67 Samples/s ∼4%
HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD
270 Samples/s ∼18% +303%
MSI GT60 0NG-405DE
49 Samples/s ∼3% -27%
Legend
      Dell Precision M4800 Intel Core i7-4900MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M,
      HP EliteBook 8570w LY550EA-ABD Intel Core i5-3360M, AMD FirePro M4000, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
      MSI GT60 0NG-405DE Intel Core i7-3630QM, NVIDIA Quadro K2000M, 2x Sandisk X100 SD5SF2128G1014E RAID 0

Gaming Performance

In the past we repeatedly observed that common resolutions, e.g. 1366x768 or 1600x900 pixels, could not be selected in Dell's laptops. This is different in Dell's Precision M4800. Here the user has a wide selection of possible settings. We mainly performed the gaming tests in the specified settings but we also dared a glance at the QHD+ resolution in a few games. Many titles can be played well in reduced quality settings but most do not yet support such high settings and thus the user currently does not benefit much from them.

  Total War Shogun II Diablo III Anno 2070 World of Tanks Torchlight 2
QHD+-Resolution/ Low settings 61 fps 29 fps 29 fps 48 fps 63 fps

The automatic switching from the native resolution to a lower game resolution did not always work flawlessly in the test. For example, we first had to select 1920x1080 pixels in the control panel to test Sleeping Dogs in Full HD. Other problems could turn up with the buttons. In World of Warcraft we could first use the start icon after reducing the system resolution. However, this is no big issue because a good result is achieved quite quickly in most cases. In terms of performance, Nvidia's Quadro K2100M is usually still sufficient for our high test settings. Consequently it is throughout possible to play an occasional game.

low med.high ultra
World of Warcraft (2005) 3212486631fps
StarCraft 2 (2010) 342955831fps
Total War: Shogun 2 (2011) 2585119fps
Batman: Arkham City (2011) 1571128129fps
Anno 2070 (2011) 148613919fps
Alan Wake (2012) 632814fps
Diablo III (2012) 16312410257fps
Sleeping Dogs (2012) 11985349fps
Torchlight 2 (2012) 174120112fps
F1 2012 (2012) 17213211450fps
World of Tanks v8 (2012) 124705423fps
Hitman: Absolution (2012) 65463018fps
Assassin´s Creed III (2012) 575215fps
Tomb Raider (2013) 133734710fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 106605114fps
Metro: Last Light (2013) 48372211fps
GRID 2 (2013) 1921077625fps

Emissions

System Noise

The review sample's noise development ranges from silent to loud depending on the load. The fan remains inactive for a long period in low load and only sets in sporadically just to stop again after a moment. The cooling system is very audible in medium load with a noise level of 37.3 dB(A). However, this state is not unpleasant yet owing to the noise's restrained characteristic. The casing is cooled optimally during full load using the "Maximum Fan Levels" setting but reaches 51.2 dB(A) which gets disagreeable over a longer period. Readjusting the settings a bit and accepting a higher casing temperature would certainly be possible here.

Noise Level

Idle 28.2 / 28.2 / 28.2 dB(A)
DVD 36.1 / 38.0 dB(A)
Load 37.3 / 51.2 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    PCE-322A (15 cm distance)

Temperature

The casing of Dell's Precision M4800 remains absolutely cool owing to both fans that run vehemently during load. We even measured lower surface temperatures during full load in some places than during low computing load. We only ascertained higher rates in the rear by the vents and on the base plate's center with a maximum of 44.9 °C and 37.8 °C. This does not lead to restrictions and using the device on the lap would even be possible in full load. The temperatures are much lower compared with the precursor. We measured up to 55 °C on the underside of Dell's Precision M4700.

Max. Load
 32.9 °C30.7 °C24.9 °C 
 26.1 °C31.7 °C25.6 °C 
 24.4 °C27.7 °C24.9 °C 
 
27.2 °C28.3 °C26.3 °C
36.4 °C37.8 °C30.4 °C
26.2 °C30.9 °C25.4 °C
Maximum: 32.9 °C
Average: 27.7 °C
 Maximum: 37.8 °C
Average: 29.9 °C
Power Supply (max.)  45.8 °C | Room Temperature 20 °C | Fennel Firt 550

Speakers

The two speakers submerged above the keyboard supply a comparatively agreeable sound that even includes mids and bass. Thus several options to positively influence the existing treble-heaviness are available via manual settings. The volume control range is finely graded which allows precise tuning and also provides a clear maximum volume. Although the speakers cannot compete with the quality of external speakers or headphones, they do offer an acceptable quality for this device category. External audio devices can be connected via the 3.5 mm jack, USB, Bluetooth or HDMI.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

The Precisions generally feature AMD's Enduro or Nvidia's Optimus technology to switch between the energy-efficient processor graphics and the dedicated professional graphic depending on the task. However, the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600 cannot be used due to the QHD+ screen installed in our review sample and is disabled. This naturally has an impact on the power consumption, which is much higher with a minimum of 19.6 watts than that of a system with an enabled Intel graphics. However, the screen also takes its toll and consumes almost 8 watts more from the lowest to the highest brightness level. This can add up to just under 35 watts even when the system is not working hard and is clearly too high for routine office work. When the components are used rationally, the medium load power consumption increases to 80 watts and to 107 watts during full load. The power supply has an output of 180 watts and thus provides more than sufficient reserves.

Power consumption

Off / Standby 0.3 / 0.5 Watt
Idle 19.6 / 27.5 / 34.8 Watt
Load 80.2 / 107.6 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Runtime

Battery Eater Reader's Test
Battery Eater Reader's Test
Battery Eater Classic Test
Battery Eater Classic Test

The high-capacity, 97 Wh battery successfully prevents the runtime-calamity that is presumed at first. The laptop shut down after 318 minutes in Battery Eater's Reader's test using minimum brightness, disabled wireless modules and maximum energy-saving options. The Wi-Fi test provides more practical figures. Almost exactly 3 hours of battery runtime, using brightness level 6, energy-savings mode and wireless on, at least allows being away from the outlet for a while. It is possible to watch DVDs for about the same time in brightness level 8 and with disabled wireless modules. The runtime nosedives in full load despite the lower performance of 20 to 30% and is only enough for almost 1:30 hours of work.

Battery runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
5h 18min
WiFi Surfing
3h 30min
DVD
2h 45min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
3h 39min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 25min

Verdict

Dell Precision M4800 Workstation
Dell Precision M4800 Workstation

Dell has splendidly updated its 15-inch mobile Precision M4800 workstation. Many things that could be improved were improved. While the components inside have almost completely been modernized, the casing has remained virtually untouched.

All in all, the review configuration convinces with high performance that could only be better in demanding 3D graphics tasks. The fans that work very well during full load keep the casing's surfaces cool above the average and ensure unrestricted use of this workstation. However, the loud operating noise that can be very distracting after a longer time has to be accepted in this state.

The disabled Intel HD Graphics 4600 also has several adverse consequences. The power consumption during low load is high and thus the battery runtimes clearly remain behind the possibilities despite the high-capacity battery and Intel's QuickSync Video cannot be used.

Those are the drawbacks that have to be accepted in favor of the excellent QHD+ screen. Besides the extremely high resolution, the screen in the review sample also convinces in all other sub-scores with well above-average rates.

Finally, the keyboard that is suitable for prolific typists, the build quality, the interfaces and their positioning, the upgrade options, and the warranty period of 36 months with on-site service for the next business day are all still of the same high standard.

Just as unchanged is the ambitious price of approx. 2850 Euros (~$3931) for the pre-configured review sample. Dell simply knows that it has created a great workstation.

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In Review: Dell Precision M4800, review sample courtesy of Dell Germany
In Review: Dell Precision M4800

Specifications

Dell Precision M4800

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel QM87 (Lynx Point)
:: Memory
16384 MB, 2x 8 GB PC3-12800 Samsung, 2 slots empty, max. 32 GB
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA Quadro K2100M - 2048 MB, Core: 667 MHz, Memory: 752 MHz, GDDR5, Forceware 311.66 Win7 64
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 3200x1800 pixel, SHP13F9, JJ74H_LQ156Z1, glossy: no
:: Harddisk
, GB Samsung SSD SM841 256 GB
:: Soundcard
Intel Lynx Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
1 Express Card 54mm, 1 USB 2.0, 4 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: dedicated audio in/out, Card Reader: 9-in-1 , 1 SmartCard,
:: Networking
Intel I217-LM Gigabit Network Connection (10/100/1000MBit), Dell Wireless 1601 (b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 40 x 376 x 256
:: Weight
3.18 kg Power Supply: 0.79 kg
:: Battery
97 Wh Lithium-Ion, 11.1 V, 8.25 Ah
:: Price
2850 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: HD, Keyboard Light: yes, 36 Months Warranty

 

Dell Precision M4800: 15-inch workstation.
Dell Precision M4800: 15-inch workstation.
Dell has once again only updated the innards,...
Dell has once again only updated the innards,...
...because the casing is still impressive in the third model year...
...because the casing is still impressive in the third model year...
...due to its many very good qualities.
...due to its many very good qualities.
Still worthy of reference is its rigidness, maintenance-friendliness and flexible upgrade options.
Still worthy of reference is its rigidness, maintenance-friendliness and flexible upgrade options.
However, a somewhat bulkier and heavier casing has to be accepted,...
However, a somewhat bulkier and heavier casing has to be accepted,...
...which can be well tolerated considering the many advantages particularly for a laptop from the workstation category.
...which can be well tolerated considering the many advantages particularly for a laptop from the workstation category.
The display has a wide opening angle, features a matte surface and a resolution of 3200x1800 pixels.
The display has a wide opening angle, features a matte surface and a resolution of 3200x1800 pixels.
The screen's other qualities are throughout impressive and top in the laptop sector.
The screen's other qualities are throughout impressive and top in the laptop sector.
The power of the professional workstation is, as expected, very good.
The power of the professional workstation is, as expected, very good.
The system performance does not exhibit any weaknesses.
The system performance does not exhibit any weaknesses.
The high performance only has an impact on noise development during full load.
The high performance only has an impact on noise development during full load.
That gets annoying in the long run, but the casing stays absolutely cool.
That gets annoying in the long run, but the casing stays absolutely cool.
The interfaces are not only distributed on the sides,...
The interfaces are not only distributed on the sides,...
...but also on the rear.
...but also on the rear.
This leads to few cables in the hands' work space particularly in stationary use.
This leads to few cables in the hands' work space particularly in stationary use.
Besides standard interfaces like Gigabit LAN,...
Besides standard interfaces like Gigabit LAN,...
...Dell's Precision M4800 comes with three monitor ports.
...Dell's Precision M4800 comes with three monitor ports.
The analog VGA port's signal quality provides a sharp picture on an external monitor in Full HD.
The analog VGA port's signal quality provides a sharp picture on an external monitor in Full HD.
The spacing of some slots and ports is not quite as good,...
The spacing of some slots and ports is not quite as good,...
...because inserted cables or expansions could obstruct neighboring ports.
...because inserted cables or expansions could obstruct neighboring ports.
The 720p webcam is supported by a dual-array microphone and is quite suitable for video chats.
The 720p webcam is supported by a dual-array microphone and is quite suitable for video chats.
The vital components are underneath the base plate.
The vital components are underneath the base plate.
The docking port has been adopted and can thus be used with older docking stations.
The docking port has been adopted and can thus be used with older docking stations.
The battery and two screws have to be removed before lifting off the base plate.
The battery and two screws have to be removed before lifting off the base plate.
The CPU and GPU are cooled by their own fan.
The CPU and GPU are cooled by their own fan.
Two RAM banks on the underside are occupied; two more are under the keyboard in the quad-core models.
Two RAM banks on the underside are occupied; two more are under the keyboard in the quad-core models.
The WWAN slot can also be used for mSATA SSDs.
The WWAN slot can also be used for mSATA SSDs.
The necessary cables for the WWAN module are installed.
The necessary cables for the WWAN module are installed.
Another, half-sized mPCIe slot is still empty.
Another, half-sized mPCIe slot is still empty.
mSATA SSDs, like Crucial's M4 here, can be maxed out up to SATA 6G speed.
mSATA SSDs, like Crucial's M4 here, can be maxed out up to SATA 6G speed.
The optical drive is secured with one screw and can optionally be replaced with a 2.5-inch drive caddy.
The optical drive is secured with one screw and can optionally be replaced with a 2.5-inch drive caddy.
The SIM card slot is still found in the battery compartment.
The SIM card slot is still found in the battery compartment.
The battery has a capacity of 97 Wh.
The battery has a capacity of 97 Wh.

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Compare Prices

Pro

+Casing
+Cooling system
+Maintenance options
+Interfaces and positioning
+Keyboard
+QHD+ screen
+Emissions
+System speed
+CAD performance
 

Contra

-Weight
-Battery runtime
-Configuration options for single orders / private customers
-Price

Shortcut

What we like

The excellent QHD+ screen is very impressive. But the combination of high performance and silent operations during low load is too.

What we miss

The integrated Intel HD Graphics could ensure lower power consumption and consequently longer battery runtimes, but the QHD+ screen is too much for it and so it has been disabled.

What surprises us

That Dell launched such a decent casing with its Precision 4600 that it still serves as the basis for a very good workstation today.

The competition

The contending models from this model year are just being released. We have not yet tested Lenovo's ThinkPad W540, HP's ZBook 15 or Toshiba's Tecra W50 new in the round. An alternative might be found in the models from the previous year now on sale: Dell's Precision M4700, HP's EliteBook 8570w, Lenovo's ThinkPad W530, Fujitsu's Celsius H720 or MSI's GT60WSPH.

Rating

Dell Precision M4800
03/21/2014 v4
Tobias Winkler

Chassis
83 / 98 → 85%
Keyboard
90%
Pointing Device
72%
Connectivity
82%
Weight
55 / 66 → 80%
Battery
79%
Display
89%
Games Performance
85%
Application Performance
90%
Temperature
92 / 95 → 97%
Noise
86 / 90 → 96%
Audio
55 / 90 → 61%
Camera
42 / 90 → 47%
Average
77%
85%
Workstation *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Review Dell Precision M4800 Notebook
Author: Tobias Winkler, 2013-10-25 (Update: 2013-10-25)