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REVIEW: Dell Precision M3800

So now that we are firmly into the era of the ‘ultrabook’ designed for those who need power but don’t want all that baggage for their serious work, Dell’s design gurus have well and truly answered your prayers with the Precision M3800, writes Branko Miletic.

Let’s face it – just like with athletes and cars when it comes to portable IT there has always been an uneasy compromise between weight and performance and on the issue of weight and size, Dell has claimed the M3800 is the world’s thinnest and lightest 15.6-inch mobile workstation.

Slick and shiny with fast boot up

Put another way, if you want a high-end laptop, capable of running processor-intensive software about as well as a desktop can, then you can expect to be carting around a couple of bricks worth of IT hardware. On the other hand, if you need a lightweight machine, you most probably will end up with lightweight performance, such are the limitations of not only Moore’s Law but also that of modern and lightweight material costs.

Then along comes the Dell Precision M3800 laptop, a sleek, powerful and best of all, very light machine running on an Intel Core i7 quad core processor, paired up rather nicely with an Nvidia Quadro graphics card, with 16GB of memory and best of all, all this power has been neatly packaged up in an Aluminium chassis that’s just 18mm thick and weighs a comfortable 1.8kg.

All this grunt under the hood means that it was hardly surprising that the M3800 had one of the fastest boot-ups of any machine-which is just as well as the laptop has been pitched to be both a consumer speedster and a company workhorse.

In fact, the M3800 has been tailor-made for designers, engineers, and many others who need a true mobile workstation that’s both equipped to handle punishing grade workloads while being very light to boot.

Even the rubber matt-like keyboard is designed to be used where abrasives and/or unwanted compounds can land on the surface and otherwise cause scratches if it was made of metal. All up, loading programs like OpenOffice and huge picture files along with opening multiple Windows was a breeze for the M3800, and while when it came to playing movies like Pacific Rim, the sound quality from the speakers, while not at Dolby 5.1 surround sound levels, was at the same time quite acceptable.

The slick features keep coming

The M3800 we reviewed had a 500GB hard disk, and when it comes to the resolution, well this is really the machine that puts the term ‘high’ into resolution. With a crisp and clean 1920 x 1080p-resolution display and a 720p webcam, plus two microphones for stereo-like audio, your webinars will once again become less of a chore and more of useful business tool.

Some have said that the screen resolution of the M3800 is better than Apple’s new Retina display and while we cannot confirm nor deny this dare we say ‘eye-opening’ claim, it certainly is easy on the pupils after prolonged usage.

But despite less-than-perfect wireless issues which may or may not have had something to do with the test wireless that we used, the combination of great performance, high-res display and really thin design for its size makes this machine one of the best Windows laptops on the market.

In fact, the M3800 has been tailor-made for designers, engineers, and many others who need a true mobile workstation that’s both equipped to handle punishing grade workloads while being very light to boot.

As for the battery life, well, I won’t hark on too much about this as the figures that most laptop manufacturers quote seem to emanate from some fantasy land and as such the M3800 battery was quite acceptable lasting just under 4 hours for playing a looped video.

What could be better?

The only thing that the Dell Precision M3800 we tested lacked was decent software, which for this calibre of machine would have had to be de rigueur, or one would assume. Lets face it, Windows 8.1 is so 2014.

Also, more than two USB ports would have been nice and maybe less stiffness in the opening and closing of the screen, but otherwise, the Dell M3800 should be on everyone’s must-see list when shopping for a portable yet stylish workstation that can be used for both work and play.

So its safe to say that Dell has come up with the goods for those that need a laptop to download large file sized geological surveys when they are working from their ute in the Pilbara or streaming the latest Netflix blockbuster when they are at home on the couch in St. Kilda.

Just the basic specs

Processor: Intel Core i7

OS: Windows 8.1 Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4600 + NVIDIA Quadro

Memory: 16GB DDR3L 1600MHz DRAM

Display: 15.6-inch UltraSharp Ultra HD 4K Ports: 2 x USB & 1 HDMI

Storage: 500GB HDD

Ethernet: Gigabit Ethernet via USB 3.0 adapter

Battery: 61Whr (6-cell) non-replaceable

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