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Dell Precision M4800 review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 31 Jan 2014

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £1,842 (£2,210 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

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/m2 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.

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User comments

I think over all it's great. The price is reasonable. Dell reviews - everythingavailablehere.com

By jenniferljoyner on 31 Jan 2014

I think over all it's great. The price is reasonable. Dell reviews - everythingavailablehere.com

By jenniferljoyner on 31 Jan 2014

I think over all it's great. The price is reasonable. Dell reviews - everythingavailablehere.com

By jenniferljoyner on 31 Jan 2014

Agreed...

"We’d prefer a 1,920 x 1,200 display in most situations"

I agree. At work, we're currently replacing old Dell Precisions with 1920x1200 screens with new ones that have 1920x1080 screens. That's a downgrage. Whilst shovelling extra pixels in is a good thing, on an expensive and production-oriented laptop, the screen should NOT be film-friendly 16:9!

By Trippynet on 31 Jan 2014

A shame 1920x 1200 gone but Windows 8.1 Fixes Scale

It is a shame that 1920x1200 has gone, I hung on to my M6500 as long as possible to avoid downgrade the screen. Unfortunately none of the new workstation laptops provide this resolution. I purchased a M4800 as above since October, upgrading to Windows 8.1 went without a hitch and resolves the scaling issues. I can run a 30inch 2560 x 1600, 23inch 1929x1080 and the native screen as full resolution, simultaneously without issues. Also you did not mention the Wireless docking station which is great. While not cheap it was much cheaper than the competition (maybe not if you get large corporate discounts). I Interested in you reviewing the M3800 (and new XPS 15).

By GeoffClark007 on 31 Jan 2014

Yes 1920 x 1200 is mandatory

I am holding on to my M6400 precisely because it has the 1920 x 1200 16:10 display. I have written Dell so many times about it--they don't listen. A premium business laptop needs such a screen. What is wrong with these product designers?

By Backbutton on 6 Feb 2014

@Backbutton

Simple. 16:9 screens are cheap. Dell don't seem to understand that not everyone wants a cheap display. They don't realise that there are people out there who will happily pay a premium to get a premium display. Hence, all we continue to get are cheap, budget screens - even on expensive laptops.

Unacceptable.

By Trippynet on 7 Feb 2014

@1920x1200

oh for f sake come on. Dell's decision to change Precision's screen from 1200 to 1080 rows is over 3 years old. Please move on.
I had M6400, now I am using M6700 and I am programmer myself. Whatever size it is it's never enough. There are all kinds of tricks that you can do to make it less painful. Like moving Windows Taskbar to either side, using shortcuts to collapse code you are typing, writing summaries and remarks on the right side of the code instead ahead of it. You can even learn the ribbon shortcuts and keep the ribbon minimized. Start to expand sideways; it is not the screen’s real estate that limits you, it is your imagination.

By stasi47 on 8 Feb 2014

@built to last

(...)It feels built to last, though, clad entirely in thick, rigid-feeling anodised aluminium(...)

The aluminum sheets are thickened on its edges to give exactly this feeling. However, comparing my old M6400 with the more recent M6700, I believe the sheets are now thinner (=more hollow on the inside). Nevertheless it will still stand a drop from 1.20 m height onto a concrete floor. (Laptop has fallen its side, then toppled and landed of its lid).

By stasi47 on 8 Feb 2014

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