Full Written Review: The Dell Precision 7530 Mobile Workstation
Video Transcript: If you need a mobile workstation that packs as much performance punch as possible, you probably want to peruse the Dell Precision 7530. This is a 15.6” laptop that offers better specs than most competitors in the 15” class, which means if top notch specs are your bottom line, this might be the laptop for you.
But enough preamble, let’s take a peek at the Precision 7530.
The specs of the Precision 7530 are this laptop’s best feature. The top CPU is an Intel Xeon-E2186M with 6 cores, a 12MB cache, and a base clock speed of 2.9GHz. The top GPU is an NVIDIA Quadro P3200 with 6GB of VRAM. The max memory is a dizzying 128GB. And the max storage capacity is a substantial 6TB SSD. In our review unit, we had an Intel Core i9-8950HK, the NVIDIA Quadro P3200, 32GB of memory, and a 512GB SSD.
The configuration options are great, but just to be clear, you can find them in other mobile workstations. You can get a Xeon E-2186M in an HP ZBook Studio x360, you can get a Quadro P3200 and 128GB of memory in a ThinkPad P52, and you could even exceed the 7530’s top specs in many 17” mobile workstations. But, among 15” laptops, the Precision 7530 is unique in offering these high specs across the board—CPU, GPU, memory, and storage. Speced out, this thing is pretty crazy.
The 7530 also has a great selection of connectivity ports. On the left side there are two USB-C Thunderbolt ports, an SD Card Reader, and an optional smart card reader; on the right there’s a security lock slot, two USB 3.1 ports, and a headphone jack; and on the back, there’s an ethernet port, a Mini DisplayPort, an HDMI port, and the power plug. You can also get the 7530 with a contactless smart card reader and a fingerprint reader, both of which go below the keyboard.
Our 7530 review unit had a 15.6” 3840x2160 display, which had a few shortcomings. For one, it’s not a touchscreen. If you want a touchscreen with the 7530 you have to step down to the 1080p display option. That’s a tradeoff that doesn’t really feel necessary, but that’s the way it is. The display we had was also on the dim side, with an average 100% brightness of 226.7 nits. That’s lower than other workstations we’ve looked at, but it was never a problem for me, and if I hadn’t actually tested the monitor with a colorimeter I wouldn’t have marked it as that much dimmer than the competition. But, it is.
The color on our display was quite good, hitting 99% of both the sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces, and as for accuracy, we measured an average Delta-E of only 1.16. To put it simply, the colors on the 7530 are pretty much spot on, and pretty much all the colors you’d need there are there. That said, if you drop down to a lower resolution display—maybe you want that touchscreen—you’ll have to settle for less colors, as only the 4K display is made to cover 100% of Adobe RGB.
The price of the Precision 7530 starts off great at $1129. Of course, every spec bump is going to cost you, and if you ratchet this thing up to its final form you’re going to pay $9343. But take heart: our review unit was pretty high end and it was only $3700, so you won’t have to shell out quite so much for good specs.
The top shelf specs in the Precision 7530 lend themselves to a high performance workstation, and our benchmark tests bear that out. For graphics performance, we ran the SPECviewperf 13 benchmark, which tests the performance of 3D viewsets from a variety of industries and CAD applications. The 7530 did great in most viewsets, easily outperforming workstations with Quadro P2000 and P1000 graphics cards, with the exception of Maya. If you’re a Maya user, the 7530 does not seem to have your back.
We also ran SPECworkstation 3, a benchmark of a computer’s general workstation capabilities across different industry segments, such as Media and Entertainment and Product Development. The 7530 crushed it again, scoring particularly high in Product Development, Life Sciences, and GPU Compute, although it did falter in the General Operations segment.
That actually foreshadowed our next benchmark, Passmark PerformanceTest, which is another general purpose probe into a computer’s performance. The 7530 actually came out with a lower Passmark rating than I would have expected based on its high specs, and it struggled the most in the Disk Mark and 2D Graphics Mark subtests. So it seems the 7530’s real strength is its optimization for those pro applications tested in the SPEC benchmarks.
Another weak point for the Precision 7530 is its battery life. We always run tests to find the lowest battery life possible and the highest battery life possible, and the 7530 doesn’t have a great range. When we ran our power heavy tests, we got two hours and 35 minutes of use, and when we ran our light, efficient tests, we got only four hours and forty seven minutes. So even in the best case it’s far from an all day battery life.
Some final notes. I really like the keyboard on the Precision 7530. It’s very comfortable to type on, and it’s great that there’s a numpad on the side. The trackpad is not the best I’ve ever used, but it does come with three mouse buttons, which comes in handy for certain applications, and there’s a pointing stick on the keyboard as well, if you’re into that.
I’m not crazy about the body of the 7530. For one, it’s a bit bulky and it’s on the heavy side at a little over 5 and a half pounds. The design is also a bit plain compared to other laptops we’ve looked at, but it’s not bad. Just nothing special.
Overall, I’d say the Dell Precision 7530 is a solid choice for engineers looking for a little more power in their mobile workstation. If you’re set on a 15” form factor, and you plan to spec your workstation to the max, the 7530 is probably your best bet. But if specs are negotiable, and you want a mobile workstation with a little more mobility, a brighter, touchier display, and maybe a bit more panache, you should look elsewhere.