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  4. Dell Precision 7520 Review
  • Pros /

    Excellent 4K display; Top-of-the-line workstation performance; ruggedized construction

  • Cons /

    Heavy, even for a workstation; Expensive for top configurations

  • Verdict /

    The Dell Precision 7520 is a powerful mobile workstation with solid battery life, but it's a bit bulky, even for its class.

The Dell Precision 7520 offers everything you might need in a mobile workstation, from potent hardware to convenient security features and durable construction. With some serious muscle for processing and graphics and a very good 4K display, there's plenty to love about the new workstation. Starting at $1,199 ($3,099 as configured), it's a smart option for the user that needs power, but we wish there were some standout feature to help put it over the top against the competition.

Specs

Design

The Dell Precision 7520 borrows a page from the slim and sleek Dell XPS line, with a stout metal chassis and carbon-fiber lid that keeps the weight down while still being tough enough to pass a variety of MIL-STD 810G tests. While not as tough as Dell's rugged Latitude laptops, which are made to (literally) survive a war zone, the Precision 7520 should still hold up to all sorts of abuse, from extreme temperatures to laptop-killers like dust and even humidity.

The hefty Precision 7520 weighs 6.3 pounds, and measures 14.9 x 10.4 x 1.3 inches. That's heavier than other 15-inch workstations, like the Dell Precision 5520 (14.1 x 9.3 x 0.44 inches, 4.4 pounds), the Lenovo ThinkPad P51 (14.86 x 9.93 x 1.02 inches, 5.82 pounds) or the HP ZBook 15 G4 (15.2 x 10.4 x 1.0 inches, 5.1 pounds). But is still lighter than most of the 17-inch behemoths that dominate the workstation category, like the HP ZBook 17 G4 (16.5 x 11.0 x 1.3 inches, 7.1 pounds), though it matches the MSI WE72 7RJ (16.5 x 11.3 x 1.2 inches, 6.2 pounds) ounce for ounce. The laptop's dark finish will look right at home in any office, and the carbon-fiber lid is at least a bit more stylish than the stodgy basic black of the Lenovo ThinkPad P51.

The bulky chassis also provides ample room for ports, with connections and features built into the front, back and sides of the laptop. On the right you'll find three USB 3.0 ports (with PowerShare for charging devices using the laptop battery), an SD card slot, an audio jack and a Kensington lock slot. On the left is a fourth USB 3.0 with PowerShare, a full HDMI output, a mini DisplayPort, one Thunderbolt 3 port that uses a USB Type-C connection, and a SmartCard reader. On the back of the chassis is a power connector and a LAN port. On the front of the laptop, built into the keyboard deck, you'll also find a contactless SmartCard reader and an optional fingerprint sensor for secure log on.

Display and Audio

Our review unit came outfitted with an Ultra HD (3840 x2160) display with an IGZO panel that uses an indium, gallium, zinc and oxygen semiconductor material to produce excellent viewing angles and brilliant colors for all 8 million pixels. Watching the trailer for Molly's Game, I saw lush green felted poker tables and vibrantly colored cards and chips, while Jessica Chastain's hair had its distinctive red color. I could even make out the individual whiskers in Idris Elba's beard.

With 365 nits of brightness as measured with our lab equipment, the Dell's display is significantly brighter than most competitors, like the HP ZBook 15 G4 (304.8 nits), the Lenovo ThinkPad P51 (271 nits), the Dell Precision 5520 (335 nits) and the MSI WE72 7RJ (200 nits).

It has good color as well, producing 99.9 percent of the sRGB color spectrum. However, it's not uncommon to see displays exceed the 100 percent mark as they offer color ranges beyond the standard sRGB gamut. We saw wider color gamuts on the HP ZBook 15 G4 (171.6percent), the Lenovo ThinkPad P51 (172 percent), the Dell Precision 5520 (113 percent) and the MSI WE72 7RJ (196 percent).

The color accuracy, on the other hand, was nearly perfect with a Delta-E rating of 0.09 (0 being a perfect score). That's even better than the very good HP ZBook 15 G4 (0.27), the MSI WE72 7RJ (0.4) and the Precision 5520 (1.5). And it was drastically better than the uncalibrated Lenovo ThinkPad P51 (11.93).

Keyboard, Touchpad and Pointing Stick

The Precision 7520 has a full-size backlit keyboard with a 10-key numeric pad, and the 1.7-millimeter (1.5 to 2mm is typical) key travel makes for a very comfortable typing experience. On the 10fastfingers.com typing test I was able to match my 80-word-per-minute average without any trouble.

The laptop's 3.9 x 2.2-inch touchpad is accompanied by three discrete mouse buttons -- right and left buttons and a center button for scrolling up and down. The touchpad is fine to use, but the button layout may take some getting used to if you're more familiar with two-button designs or clickable touchpads.

However, the real benefit from the three-button layout lies a little farther up the keyboard. A pointing stick sits just below the home row, and a second trio of mouse buttons sits just below the spacebar for cursor control without taking your hands off the keyboard.

Performance

Our review system came equipped with a 3.1GHz Intel Core Xeon E3-1535M v6 processor, 32GB of RAM, Nvidia Quadro M2200 with 4GB of dedicated memory and a 512GB M.2 PCI solid- state drive. That's a pretty potent set of specs: When I watched a 4K YouTube video and ran 20 simultaneous browser tabs, the system never experienced any lag.

This Precision 7520 scored a 15,958 on the Geekbench 4 general performance test, well-ahead of the 12,926 desktop-replacement average, and ahead of the 14,400 scored by the MSI WE72 7RJ (Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 32GB of RAM). It also edged ahead of other Xeon-equipped workstation scores, like the 15,728 of the HP ZBook 15 G4 (Intel Xeon E3-1535M v6 processor, 64GB of RAM),, the 15,309 of the Dell Precision 5520 (Intel Core Xeon E3-1505M v6, 32GB of RAM) and the 15,332 of the Lenovo ThinkPad P51 (Intel Xeon E3-1535M v6, 16GB of RAM).

In our spreadsheet macro test, the speedy workstation paired 20,000 names and addresses in 2 minutes and 59 seconds, tying the HP ZBook 15 G4 (2:59) and handily outpacing the MSI WE72 7RJ (3:22), the Lenovo ThinkPad P51 (3:01) and the Dell Precision 5520 (3:08).

Equipped with a 512GB M.2 PCIe solid-state drive, one of the fastest storage options available, the laptop copied a 4.97GB folder of mixed-media files in 8 seconds, for a rate of 636.2 MBps. That's faster than the category average (518 MBps). It's also ahead of the Lenovo ThinkPad P51 and the Dell Precision 5520 (both 462.7 MBps) and the HP ZBook 15 G4 (508.9 MBps), but not quite as fast as the the MSI WE72 7RJ, which registered a blistering 848.2 MBps.

With its Nvidia Quadro M2200 and 4GB of VRAM, the Precision 7520 is a workhorse built to handle 4K video editing and 3D modeling that would overwhelm lesser office PCs. On 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a synthetic graphics benchmark test, the Dell scored 156,543. That's better than the category average (128,747) and ahead of both the 137,005 of the Lenovo ThinkPad P51 (Nvidia Quadro M2200) and the 143,124 of the Dell Precision 5520 (Nvidia Quadro M1200) and the HP ZBook 15 G4's 151,677 (Nvidia Quadro M2200).

Battery Life

The Precision 7520's large 6-cell, 91Wh battery lasted an impressive 6 hours and 28 minutes on the LAPTOP battery test (continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits brightness). That's nearly 2 hours longer than the HP ZBook 15 G4 (4:33) and more than double the MSI WE72 7RJ (2:57). That 6-plus hours of battery life is also well ahead of the desktop replacement category average (4:14), but it falls far behind some of the standouts in the workstation category, like the Lenovo ThinkPad P51 (8:02) and the impressively long-lived Dell Precision 5520 (11:57).

MORE: Longest Battery Life Laptops

That 6-plus hours of battery life is also well ahead of the desktop replacement category average (4:14), but it falls far behind some of the standouts in the workstation category, like the Lenovo ThinkPad P51 (8:02) and the impressively long-lived Dell Precision 5520 (11:57).

Webcam

While we're used to seeing high-end laptops with disappointing webcams, the Precision 7520 has a pleasantly capable camera. It captured fine details like the stripes on my shirt and the grain in the wooden post quite clearly, and colors all seemed very accurate.

Heat

Any PC will run warm if pushed, and powerful hardware like the workstation-class components inside the Precision 7520 are no exception. After streaming 15 minutes of video, our infrared thermometer measured surface temperatures of 81 degrees Fahrenheit on the touchpad, 96 degrees on the keyboard and 93 degrees on the underside of the chassis. Given that we consider temps below 95 degrees to be comfortable, that's just a tad warmer than we'd like.

Software & Warranty

Dell offers the Precision 7520 with Windows 10 Pro, though Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux versions are also available. Our system came with very little preinstalled software, but it does include the usual Microsoft bloatware, with games like Bubble Witch Saga 3, Candy Crush Soda Saga and Minecraft, along with Skype, Groove Music and Twitter. Dell includes a few of its own helpful utilities, like Dell Precision Optimizer, which tweaks performance for various workstation uses, and Dell PremierColor display calibration software.

As a mobile workstation, the Precision 7520 has a lengthy list of ISV certifications, ensuring error-free compatibility for programs from vendors like Adobe, Autodesk and Solidworks.

Dell covers the Precision 7520 with a standard three-year warranty, though four- and five-year warranty plans are available at various support levels, ranging from an extra $16 to $329. There is also an extended service plan for the battery, which stretches the battery warranty and service period to three years, instead of the standard one ($69).

See how Dell fared on our Best and Worst Brand Ratings and Tech Support Showdown.

Configuration

The Dell Precision 7520 has an entry-level model that sells for $1,199 and is equipped with an Intel Core i5-7300HQ processor, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB 7,200rpm HDD and Intel HD graphics. This low-end model has a basic 1920 x 1080 display, and a shorter-lived 72 Wh battery.

Our own review unit came with an Intel Xeon E3-1505M v6 processor, 32GB of RAM, a 512GB M.2 PCIe Solid State Drive Class 50 and an Nvidia Quadro M2200 graphics card with 4GB GDDR5 dedicated VRAM. It boasts a 4K display and extras like a built-in fingerprint reader, an NFC card reader and a SmartCard slot, for a price of $3,180.

As workstation customizable options abound, you can configure almost every aspect of the laptop from the processor (up to an Intel Xeon E3-1505M v6, with Core i5 and Core i7 options) to the storage (one or two drives, with several SSD and HDD options) to the graphics (Nvidia Quadro and AMD Radeon Pro options). You can also configure memory, display, feature set, connectivity, battery and management tools. All told, you can configure the Precision 7520 to more than $6,000, with options like dual 1TB SSD drives, mobile broadband, 64GB of ECC memory and all the other bells and whistles.

Bottom Line

The Dell Precision 7520 combines potent workstation-class performance with durable construction, a colorful 4K display and surprisingly decent battery life. When you need something that's designed for seriously demanding work, it's a great option.

Much of the system's performance falls right in line with other mobile workstations, offering few truly differentiating elements to the laptop beyond the design. The HP ZBook 15 G4 offers similar performance in a lighter, 5.1-pound package, but costs a lot more when similarly configured. Meanwhile, if you value portability and battery life over peak performance, the Dell Precision 5520 dials back the hardware a notch while reducing the weight to 4.4 pounds and stretching the battery life to nearly 12 hours. However, if you want the fastest 15-inch workstation you can get, the Precision 7520 is a strong choice.

Credit: Briana Scroggins/Laptop Mag

  • Pros /

    Excellent 4K display; Top-of-the-line workstation performance; ruggedized construction

  • Cons /

    Heavy, even for a workstation; Expensive for top configurations

  • Verdict /

    The Dell Precision 7520 is a powerful mobile workstation with solid battery life, but it's a bit bulky, even for its class.

CPU Intel Core Xeon E3-1535M v6
Operating System Windows 10 Pro
RAM 32GB
RAM Upgradable to 64GB
Hard Drive Size 512GB SSD
Hard Drive Type M.2 PCIe Class 50 SSD
Display Size 15.6
Highest Available Resolution 3840 x 2160
Native Resolution 3840 x 2160
Graphics Card NVIDIA Quadro M2200
Video Memory 4GB
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2
Touchpad Size 3.9 x 2.2 inches
Ports (excluding USB) Dual-array mic
Ports (excluding USB) SD card slot
Ports (excluding USB) DC-in
Ports (excluding USB) Mini DisplayPort
Ports (excluding USB) Combo Headphone/Mic Jack
Ports (excluding USB) Kensington Lock
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI 1.4
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB) Gigabit Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) Thunderbolt 3
Ports (excluding USB) Fingerprint Scanner
Ports (excluding USB) Smart Card Reader
USB Ports 5
Card Slots SD/SDHC Card reader
Card Slots Smart Card
Warranty/Support 3 year warranty
Size 14.9 x 10.4 x 1.3 inches
Weight 6.3 pounds
Company Website www.dell.com