Dell Precision M3800 Mobile Workstation Review

Introduction and Specifications

Before you even think about shopping for an Apple MacBook Pro for professional chores on the go, Dell wants you to give a long, hard look at its recently redesigned Precision M3800 Mobile Workstation. According to Dell, the M3800 is a superior product in several ways, and the OEM even put together an infographic showing more than half a dozen reasons why its 15.6-inch laptop is a better solution than Apple's.

Assuming you opted for the optional 4K Ultra HD touch display with second generation IGZO technology, one of those reasons is more on-screen real estate. A lot more. The M3800 equipped as such pushes a 3840x2160 resolution, which equates to over 3 million more pixels than a MacBook Pro with Retina display, or a 59 percent bump. It also boasts up to twice as much storage space, longer battery life, and ISV certification, to point out a few of Dell's bragging points.

Dell Precision M3800 Stock

Comparisons aside, the M3800 tries to entice graphic designers, engineers, and other high-end users who often work in the field with a true mobile workstation that's both sufficiently equipped to handle professional grade workloads and is thin and light to boot. In fact, Dell claims the M3800 is the world's thinnest and lightest 15-inch mobile workstation, and at 14.65 (W) by 10 (D) by 0.31 to 0.71 (H) inches with a starting weight of 4.15 pounds, we won't argue the point.

Certainly there are lighter and thinner laptops out there, but they lack the features and parts that would allow them entry into the mobile workstation category. The aforementioned ISV certification is one them, and on the hardware side, mobile workstations typically bring professional graphics to the job site. In this case, the M3800 gets its pixel pushing muscle from an NVIDIA Quadro K1100M GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 memory riding on a 128-bit interface.

Other notable specs include an Intel Core i7-4712HQ quad-core processor, 16GB of DDR3L memory, and a 256GB mSATA solid state drive rounding out the performance foundation.

Before we hit the ground running with the refreshed M3800, let's have a look at the full spec sheet.

Dell Precision M3800 Mobile Workstation
Specifications & Features
Processor Intel Core i7-4712HQ (6MB cache, 2.3GHz to 3.3GHz)
Operating System Windows 8.1 64-bit
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4600 + NVIDIA Quadro K1100M w/ 2GB GDDR5
Memory 16GB DDR3L 1600MHz DRAM (2x8GB)
Display 15.6-inch UltraSharp IGZO Ultra HD 4K (3840x2160) Touch
Storage 256GB Samsung mSATA SSD
Optical N/A
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet via USB 3.0 adapter
Wireless Connectivity Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 + Bluetooth 4.0
Interface (Left)
Thunderbolt 2.0 / mini DisplayPort
USB 3.0 w/ Powershare
Headset jack
Interface (Right)
3-in-1 card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC)
USB 2.0 w/ Powershare
USB 3.0 w/ Powershare
Webcam 720p w/ dual array digital microphones
Battery 61Whr (6-cell) non-replaceable
Dimensions 14.65 (W) x 10 (D) x 0.31-0.71 (H)  inches
Weight 4.15 pounds
Manufacturer Warranty 1-year Pro Support with Next Business Day Onsite Service
Pricing: $2,234.30 (as configured)

One of the new additions to the M3800 is a Thunderbolt 2 port. This gives users access to transfer speeds of up to a theoretical 20Gbps. Real world speeds won't go quite as high, but it's still much faster than USB 3.0, and more importantly, Thunderbolt 2 allows for the simultaneous viewing/editing and backing up of raw 4K video. 

Thunderbolt 2
Source: Intel

This is made possible by Thunderbolt 2's dual 20Gbps bi-directional channels. Compared to the original Thunderbolt spec, there's no increase in overall bandwidth, but instead of four independent 10Gbps channels (two upstream and two downstream), Thunderbolt 2 can move up to 20Gbps of data upstream and downstream at the same time. Hence the ability to view and edit raw 4K video while simultaneously writing it to a storage device, along with a theoretical transfer rate of up to 1,500MB/s).

So far it looks as though the M3800 is a solid contender in the mobile workstation space. Follow along as we take a closer look and run this system through our gauntlet of benchmarks.

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