If you feel the need for speed, expandability, and reliability, the Dell Precision M4700 mobile workstation is the system you want to bring out to the working world. It’s a lot easier to tote than a tower workstation, but it has many of the features that you’d want in a desktop. With a third-generation Core i7 processor, Nvidia Quadro mobile graphics, multi-drive setup, and multi-monitor capabilities, the M4700 is our new Editors’ Choice for mobile workstations.
Design and Features
The M4700 is a large laptop. It measures about 1.5 by 15 by 10 inches (HWD) and weighs 7.02 pounds (without AC adapter). It sports a 15.6-inch screen. Its dimensions, styling, and weight harken back to laptops of old—or at least laptops of 4 to 6 years ago. In many ways this isn’t a bad thing, as a mobile workstation isn’t meant to be the svelte corridor cruiser that an ultrabook like the HP Elitebook Folio 9470m or Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is designed to be. The M4700 is made to be a power system, making sure that an engineer can do his work away from his office, whether that’s in a boardroom in Des Moines, or on the hood of a Land Rover in the Kalahari.
The M4700 can be configured with a plethora of options, depending on the tasks needed. Our review unit came with a high-end Intel Core i7-3820QM processor, 16GB of DDR3 memory, 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) as the C: drive, 750GB data hard drive, DVD burner, and a 97 Whr removable battery. The system is IT serviceable, so you can get into the chassis to swap out parts that need replacement or upgrading. Though not set up that way on our system, multiple drives can be configured in a RAID array for speed, data integrity, or a combo of both (RAID 0,1,5). For RAID 5, you may need to pop a drive into an optional removable optical bay adapter and install an SSD in the free Mini-card slot inside.
The M4700 features a tool free pop-out drive bay, so you can keep your data safe. The whole bottom panel comes off after the user removes two screws, facilitating upgrades and installs. The bottom of the unit has a docking port for Dell’s line of E-Family docks, including docks that allow for up to four monitors, or another docking slice that lets you connect legacy peripherals like Parallel ports and PS/2 peripherals.
The system has plenty of modern connectors as well, including two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports (unfortunately not colored blue to differentiate from USB 2.0), an eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, serial port, VGA, Ethernet, 4-pin FireWire 400 port, HDMI-out, DisplayPort, smart card reader, SD-based card reader, and an ExpressCard slot. Between the included ports and what you can get with the legacy dock, you’d find it hard to come up with any peripheral you couldn’t connect, save possibly Thunderbolt and Fibre channel. Fibre channel is really a server/switch connector, so its absence is no problem. Thunderbolt is still finding its footing in the Windows world, but it is ubiquitous on high-end Mac laptops like the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Retina Display.
The M4700′s UltraSharp FHD display was bright and very clear. Text and minute detail were sharp and easy on the eyes, thanks to an anti-glare coating. You should be able to stare at this display for hours on end, as would be the case when you’re working on an intricate project. The 1,920 by 1,080 resolution screen means that you can launch multiple windows side by side without having to worry about too much data being lost to toolbar space. It’s certainly a lot more screen real estate than other systems you’d entertain bringing into the field like the rugged Editors’ Choice Dell Latitude E6430 ATG, which only has a 1,366 by 768 resolution screen.
The M4700′s speakers were loud enough for a good-sized conference room, but otherwise utilitarian. While the M4700 isn’t overtly ruggedized like the Latitude E6430ATG, the M4700 is hardened to MIL-STD-810G standards fro humidity, temperature, vibration, dust, altitude, and shock.
The system comes with both a pointing stick and multitouch trackpad. The pointing stick works as you’d expect, with a row of mouse buttons under the space bar. The trackpad can be setup to use two finger controls, but it can also be used with its own gestures to control functions like scrolling with one finger. In this, the system is setup to handle both new users and users that are “used to doing things a certain way.” The backlit keyboard has four brightness settings, and is comfortable to use, with traditional style concave keys. The system is wireless, with 802.11 a/b/g/n dual band Wi-Fi for the most flexibility in connecting to guest networks. The system can be equipped with an optional WWAN 3G cellular modem.
Our review unit came with Windows 7 Professional, though you can opt for Windows 8 Pro. We’d recommend Windows 7 for the time being, as it may be a while before your company rolls out a Windows 8-compliant version of the apps you need to use. This isn’t a system for simply using Word and Excel, it’s a system capable of running ISV certified apps like PRO/Engineer and CAD programs.
The system’s performance and reliability are the reasons you buy a workstation. The system is solidly built, so it shouldn’t have any problems serving your users over the course of a few years. The performance of the system is very good to exemplary, with good scores at our multimedia tests like Photoshop CS6 and Handbrake (video encoding). Handbrake took an extremely short 46 seconds to complete, far quicker than other performance-oriented Core i7-powered laptops like the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Retina Display) (1:13) and the Acer Aspire S7-391-9886 (1:17). All three of these laptops use SSD or flash memory-based drives, so the Precision M4700 wins with its speedier Core i7 processor and Nvidia Quadro graphics.
The Precision M4700 also wins on the CineBench R11.5 test, which measures how fast a system can render a 3D image in software. The Dell’s score of 6.92 points is one of the highest we’ve seen for a laptop, and is higher than most desktops as well. Day-to-day performance was decent, and the system certainly did well at our 3D tests, which are admittedly consumer-based. Perhaps the most notable indicator is that the system lasted a very good 6 hours 28 minutes on our battery rundown test. This means that this system will last for much of a workday. The M4700 has a very good mix of power and battery life. The system can be fitted with an optional 97Whr battery slice for additional power.
The problem with comparing the Dell Precision M4700 to previous units is that there are far fewer mobile workstation laptops than consumer or business laptops out there. Our last true mobile workstation Editors’ Choice was the HP Elitebook 8560w, and while it also has ISV certifications and also has a 15.6-inch full HD screen, the HP 8560w used an older Core i7 processor and AMD FirePro graphics. Granted, the 8650w also came in at under $1,600. The Dell Precision M4700 is a higher-level workstation, with many more options, expandability, higher end drive systems, higher end graphics options, and is generally more capable. If you have a need for ISV certified apps, or highest end reliability and performance, then the Dell Precision M4700 is the mobile workstation for you, and as such, earns our nod for Editors’ Choice for mobile workstations.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS: Check out the test scores for the Dell Precision M4700
More Laptop Reviews:
|Processor Name||Intel Core i7-3820QM|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 7 Professional|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia Quadro K2000M|
|Screen Size||15.6 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||2128 GB|
|Primary Optical Drive||Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc