Dell Precision M4800 review

31 Jan 2014

Stupendous power for a laptop and an excellent display, but the price is very high

Price when reviewed: 
2,210(£2,210 inc VAT)
5

High-DPI displays are the flavour of the moment, but the Dell Precision M4800 marks the first time we’ve seen such a screen on a business-class machine. That isn’t this monster of a workstation laptop’s only talent though. Not only is its 15.6in panel super crisp, at 3,200 x 1,800, it’s also one of the finest-quality displays we’ve tested. See also: what's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?

Put to the test with our X-Rite colorimeter, it delivered a superb maximum brightness of 344cd/m[sup]2[/sup] and a fine contrast ratio of 820:1. Colour reproduction is superb, as you might expect of a screen aimed at professional designers, architects, videographers and engineers. It’s capable of reproducing the full sRGB colour gamut, and is magnificently accurate with an average Delta E of 1.7 and a maximum of 3.5.

Dell Precision M4800

It’s a glorious display, suitable for everything from professional photo editing and magazine layout, to 3D design and high-end video production. Coupled with a matte, anti-glare coating, it’s readable in most conditions, too.

The one caveat to all this is that – although Windows itself works fine – most applications have yet to be optimised for high-DPI displays. The result is either tiny, unreadable text in menus and dropdowns, or blurry icons and pixellated text as elements are scaled up. Some applications, such as Sony Vegas Pro, deliver the worst of both worlds, scaling some elements up too much and leaving others absolutely miniscule. We’d prefer a 1,920 x 1,200 display in most situations, but, disappointingly, the only other resolution on offer in the Precision range is Full HD.

Dell hasn’t changed much about the chassis since the last time we saw one of its Precision workstations. It remains an absolute tank of a laptop, weighing 3.2kg without its charger – and a hernia-inducing 4.1kg with it. It feels built to last, though, clad entirely in thick, rigid-feeling anodised aluminium, and there’s plenty else to like.

Dell Precision M4800

The keyboard is superbly comfortable, and is good enough to rival the best desktop models. Its soft, cushioned key action is a pleasure to use, and the size of the chassis means there’s room for a number pad to the right. There’s a trackpoint to supplement the small touchpad, and both work flawlessly. It’s nice to see separate buttons for both. We’ve yet to come across a buttonless touchpad that can match the comfort of an arrangement such as this.

As you might expect of a laptop designed to sit on a desk for most of its life, there’s a phalanx of sockets and ports: the left edge of the Precision M4800 hosts a pair of USB 3 ports, separate 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, and SDXC, ExpressCard/54 and smart-card slots. The right-hand edge is a little less crowded, but there’s still room enough for another pair of USB 3 ports and a full-sized DisplayPort video output. At the rear are HDMI and VGA video outputs, a combined eSATA/USB 2 socket and Gigabit Ethernet.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,842
Price inc VAT £2,210
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4
Performance 6

Warranty

Warranty 3yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 376 x 261 x 40mm (WDH)
Weight 3.200kg
Travelling weight 4.1kg

Processor and memory

RAM capacity 16.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 2
SODIMM sockets total 4

Screen and video

Screen size 15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 3,200
Resolution screen vertical 1,800
Resolution 3200 x 1800
Graphics chipset Nvidia Quadro K2100M
Graphics card RAM 2.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Spindle speed N/A
Hard disk Samsung SM841
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

eSATA ports 1
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad/touchpoint
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 28min
Overall Real World Benchmark score 1.01
Responsiveness score 0.84
Media score 1.15
Multitasking score 1.04

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Professional
OS family Windows 7