Review Dell Precision M90 Notebook

Strong Equipment. The Dell M90 is a strongman. First of all it has a robust and scuffproof case out of aluminium and composite materials. Additionally, it is equipped with a Core 2 Duo CPU and a really powerful NVIDIA Quadro FX video card, the master for CAD among NVIDIAs Geforce video chips.

Dell Precision M90

Case

Already at the first glance the M90 looks alike the Dell Inspiron 9400. It nearly seems to be the same case. However, this is only true regarding the forms, as the two notebook series fundamentally differ regarding materials used. 

Only absolutely high-quality materials are used for the M90's case.The base unit is out of aluminium and magnesium and the display was additionally stiffened by a big aluminium liner.

This all together led to an absolutely robust and flexural rigid case. In fact, it slight deformations are still possible by applying punctual pressure, however, in total, the case seems to be indestructible. Also, some quiet creaking noises could be observed from time to time. Especially, the part above the keyboard has a low pressure resistance, and its slight possible wobbling objectionably called our attention.

Despite the aluminium liner, the display is only moderately flexural rigid. The hinges are adequately big. However, they could not prevent a wobbling after adapting the display's position.

Likewise, the plastic cover of the hinges wobble and did not fit to the otherwise high-quality appearance. In exchange the ramshorn hook provides a good service and are able to keep the display closed nearly without any identifiable wobbling.

The interface of the Dell Precision M90 are mainly placed at its back side. Among others it offers a DVI port, and 4 USB 2.0 ports. Together with further 2  USB ports at the left side of its case, the M90 provides a total of 6 USB ports.

Front Side: No ports
Dell Precision M90 interfaces
Left Side: Kensington Lock, Fan, 2x USB 2.0, DVD drive
Dell Precision M90 interfaces
Back Side: Fan, S-Video, Lan, Modem, 4x USB 2.0, DVI, VGA-Out, Power connector, Fan
Dell Precision M90 interfaces
Right Side: Smartcard, ExpressCard, Firewire, Audio, Cardreader, Fan
Dell Precision M90 interfaces

Input Devices

The standard keyboard appears nearly too small in the huge case. This is the first thing we would like to criticize: A 17 inch notebook should really offer a separate number block.

Typing with this keyboard feels alright. The keys can be softly pressed, and precisely hit. The typing noise is also limited and does not annoy in any way.

In general the touch pad can be used without any problems and it has a comfortable surface. The only thing is, that is is a little below the level of the surrounding surface, so, you might possibly hit your fingers on the surrounding edges.

At the front side the Dell Precision M90 provides, alike the Dell Inspiron 9400, some media keys for controlling  audio- and video functionality.

Touch pad
Dell Precision M90 Touch pad
Keyboard
Dell Precision M90 Keyboard

Display

Color Diagram
Dell Precision M90 Display Measurement

The reviewed display with a resolution of 1440x900 pixels (WXGA+) had a matt surface. Besides this Dell also offers WUXGA panel with a maximum resolution of  1920x1200 pixels, which also has a non-reflecting surface.

The maximum brightness of the reviewed WXGA+ display was very good at 170.2 cd/m² and it is therefore, an upper middle class display. The illumination was only  72.6%, because of a clearly lower brightness at the left edge.

The measurement diagram depicts a good red and green color curve, and a clear deviation of the blue color curve. Therefore, the colors appear warmer.

133.1
cd/m²
170.2
cd/m²
142.4
cd/m²
123.6
cd/m²
164.5
cd/m²
156.6
cd/m²
145.2
cd/m²
145.3
cd/m²
142.9
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Maximum: 170.2 cd/m²
Average: 147.1 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 73 %
Black: 0.8 cd/m²
Contrast: 206:1

The black value (minimum brightness) was measured at 0.8 cd/m² which leads to a maximum contrast of acceptable 213:1. In the Pixperan test of legibility the M90 rated grade 7, which is a slightly above average result regarding speed of reaction.

Because of the non-reflecting display with very good brightness it should be possible to operate the Dell Precision M90 even outdoors without big problems.

Vertically, the area of operation is regarding stability to the vantage point rather small. The usual whitening and darkening can be observed rather soon. Horizontally the stability to the vantage point is alright.

Dell Precision M90 Stability to the Vantage Point
Dell Precision M90 Stability to the Vantage Point
Dell Precision M90 Stability to the Vantage Point
Dell Precision M90 Stability to the Vantage Point
Dell Precision M90 Stability to the Vantage Point
Dell Precision M90 Stability to the Vantage Point
Dell Precision M90 Stability to the Vantage Point
Dell Precision M90 Stability to the Vantage Point

Performance

The Dell Precision M90 can be equipped with a variety of Core 2 Duo processors and a variety of video cards, which provide different levels of performance. Being flexible regarding these matters is surely one of the biggest advantages of the M90.

The reviewed notebook was equipped with a T7200 Core 2 Duo CPU with 2.0 GHz. The video functionality was provided by a NVIDIA Quadro FX 1500M with 256MB VRam. This combination led to passable performance in the fields of office applications and 3D.

The processors you can choose for your M90 reach from a T5500 C2D CPU with 1.6 GHz as smallest solution up to a T7600 with 2.33 GHz as variant with the highest performance.
Regarding video card, three models by NVIDIA can be chosen: Quadro FX 1500M with 256MB, Quadro FX2500M with 512MB, and a Quadro FX 3500M with 512MB as high end solution.

Additionally, you can choose between a variety of hard disk models with up to 120GB capacity and 5400 revs, or 100GB and 7200 revs. The main memory can be enhanced to provide up to 4GB (Dual-Channel). The notebook we reviewed came with 2x 512MB PC5300 memory modules.

The performance of the Dell Precision M90 is, therefore, well equipped up to absolutely high-end. It's up to the user which performance she/he demands from her/his M90. However, one is for sure, how high the demands might be, they are no problem for the Precision M90. Even games are possible, depending on the chosen video solution with better or moderate performance.

Further information about the video card can be found here or in our comparison of mobile video cards. Detailed information about the Core 2 Duo CPU can be found here.

Please also look at our benchmark list of mobile processors or at our benchmark list of mobile video cards, in order to compare this notebook to other configurations.

Benchmark Comparison 3DMark
Dell Precision M90 Benchmark Comparision
Benchmark Comparison PCMark
Dell Precision M90 Benchmark Comparision
3D Mark
3DMark 056386 points
3DMark 06
 
3906 points
Help
3DMark 06 in comparison
Sony Vaio VGN-FS485B (min)
 740, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 900
54
   ...
HP Compaq 8510w
 T7700, Quadro FX 570M
3904
Toshiba Satellite Pro L650-197
 450M, Mobility Radeon HD 5145
3906
Dell M90
 T7200, Quadro FX 1500M
3906
HP Pavilion g7-1002sg
 P960, Radeon HD 6470M
3940
Dell Inspiron 14z (N411z)
 2430M, HD Graphics 3000
3965
   ...
Clevo Clevo P157SM (max)
 4930MX, GeForce GTX 880M
29955
PC Mark
PCMark 055006 points
Help
PCMark 05 in comparison
Acer Aspire One 751 (min)
 Z520, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 500
692
   ...
Lenovo Thinkpad T61
 T7300, Quadro NVS 140M
4989
Sony Vaio VPC-S13X9E
 370M, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) HD Graphics
4991
Dell M90
 T7200, Quadro FX 1500M
5006
Lenovo Thinkpad T400
 P8600, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 4500MHD
5013
Dell XPS M1730
 T7500, GeForce 8700M GT SLI
5017
   ...
Fujitsu Celsius H710 WXP11DE (max)
 2820QM, Quadro 1000M
13842
80 GB - 5400 rpm
Transfer Rate Minimum: 7.9 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 38.2 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 30.3 MB/s
Access Time: 20.7 ms
Burst Rate: 78.8 MB/s
CPU Usage: 2.6 %

Emissions

Loudness

The M90's fan ran steadily, even in idle mode, but the noise was very decent and did only slightly disturb. Depending on performance demands the vent can turn up and can be more clearly heard. The noise itself is light.

Additionally, it is noticeable that this notebook is equipped with 2 separated fans, likely, one for the waste heat of the CPU and the other one for the waste heat of the GPU. Unfortunately, we were unable to open the notebook in order to clarify this matter.

Temperature

The measured surface temperatures of the M90 were even under load alright. At the upper side the maximum was 35°C, at the bottom side we measured a maximum which was only slightly above 40°C.

Upper side

palmwrist: 26.1°C max: 35.8°C avg: 31.2°C

Bottom side

max: 40.6°C avg: 34.7°C

Speakers

The notebook is equipped with 2 speakers at its front edge and a sub woofer at its bottom side. The sound is in total alright, although the basses could be slightly more dominant.

Battery Runtime

The Dell Precision M90 comes with a 7200 mAh 9-Zellen battery which provided the reviewed notebook with a runtime between a minimum of slightly above 1 hour and a maximum of up to 3 hours. Furthermore, Dell offers a  second additional battery which can be placed in the drive slot, which is capable of prolonging the runtime accordingly.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
3h 10min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 10min

Power Consumption

Idle 32.0 / 37.7 / 37.7 Watt
Load 76.4 / 75.5 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         

Verdict

The Dell Precision M90 is really a workstation. The possible choices in equipment nearly tempts us to compare it with a desktop. At least the performance should not cause any problems.

A special plus of the M90 is its robust and stable case, which convinces by the use of high-quality materials like aluminium, and magnesium. However, one has to live with some smaller, not so precise details, like the display hinges and a slightly wobbling part above the keyboard.

On the one hand the keyboard is good and comfortable in use, but, regrettably the M90 does not provide a separate number block. This would be especially useful for video and CAD applications. Of course, external solutions are available.

The performance of this notebook is noticeable and the equipment can be chosen depending on user demands.
The emissions of the M90 are alright, and should be decent enough, unless the notebook is under full load all the time.

The battery runtime is depending on the equipment between above one hour and a  maximum of three hours. By using additional batteries a mobile use is limited possible, however, the mobile use is also limited by the notebook's dimensions and weight.

Another important aspect is of course the available support. Dell provides 3 years business support for the M90.

Dell Precision M90
Dell Precision M90
Reviewed: Dell Precision M90
Dell Precision M90

Specifications

Dell M90

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel 945GM
:: Memory
1024 MB, DDR2 PC5300 SDRAM (667MHz), max. 4096MB, 2x512MB
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
17 inch 16:10, 1440x900 pixel, WXGA+ TFT Display, glossy: no
:: Harddisk
80 GB - 5400 rpm, 80 GB 5400 rpm Fujitsu MHV2080BH: 80GB, 5400rpm
:: Connections
ExpressCard, Smartcard, Mikrofon, Headphones, 6x USB 2.0, VGA-Out, S-Video Out, DVI, Firewire, Kensington Lock, LAN, Modem, Docking Connector
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 40 x 390 x 280
:: Weight
3.86 kg
:: Battery
, 7200 mAh Lithium Ionen Akku
:: Price
1800 Euro
:: Additional features
HDD: 80GB, 5400rpm, Fujitsu MHV2080BH, SigmaTel HD Audio, DVD +/-R (DL) Optiarc AD-5540A,

 

The Dell Precision M90 workstation nearly looks alike the Inspiron 9400...
Dell Precision M90 Image
The 7200mAh battery provides a runtime of up to three hours.
Dell Precision M90 Image
...and also the surface temperatures are alright.
Dell Precision M90 Image
Despite good performance the fans are decent...
Dell Precision M90 Image
You can choose between a variety of Core 2 Duo CPUs and three NVIDIA Quadro FX video cards.
Dell Precision M90 Image
The Dell Precision M90's performance is noticeable:
Dell Precision M90 Image
Both variants of the display (1440x900, 1920x1200) have a non-reflecting surface.
Dell Precision M90 Image
Amply equipment: The ports are mainly placed at the back side of the case.
Dell Precision M90 Image
...still there are punctual weaknesses.
Dell Precision M90 Image
This leads to the robust and flexural rigid case of the Precision M90...
Dell Precision M90 Image
...high-quality materials like aluminium and magnesium are used for the M90.
Dell Precision M90 Image
In the contrary to the Inspiron 9400, which is basically made out of plastic parts,...
Dell Precision M90 Image
...yet the case fundamentally differs.
Dell Precision M90 Image
Big and strong: The Dell Precision M90 notebook
Dell Precision M90 Image

Pro

  • Robustes, flexural rigid case
  • High-quality materials
  • Good number, kind, and order of interfaces
  • Bright display with matt surface
  • Variety of possible equipments
  • Powerful CPUs and GPUs
  • Low emissions
  • Contra

  • Slight weaknesses regarding workmanship
  • Moderate illumination and stability to the vantage point of the display
  • Big dimensions and high weight
  • Similar Notebooks

    Price Comparison

    Ciao Dell Precision M90

    Bewertung

    Dell M90
    08/31/2007
    J. Simon Leitner

    Chassis
    86%
    Keyboard
    88%
    Pointing Device
    88%
    Connectivity
    96%
    Weight
    58%
    Battery
    65%
    Display
    84%
    Games Performance
    93%
    Application Performance
    98%
    Temperature
    74%
    Noise
    86%
    Add Points
    88%
    Average
    84%
    88%
    Gaming *
    Weighted Average

    > Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Dell Precision M90 Notebook
    Author: J. Simon Leitner, 2007-03-29 (Update: 2013-05- 8)