If you need the most powerful laptop around, regardless of price or size, look no further than the Precision 7730. This workstation has blazing-fast performance and an alluring 4K display that bursts with color. Factor in a comfortable keyboard, premium design and rugged build quality, and this beastly machine hits (almost) all the right notes.
Unfortunately, disappointing battery life and poor heat management are notable pain points. And the Precision 7730's high, $5,534 price isn't for everyone. But if you're an engineer or creative who needs a powerful workstation, take the plunge; you won't regret emptying your pockets for a Precision 7730. We even confidently placed it on our Best Workstations page.
Do your wrists a favor and use both arms when lifting the Dell Precision 7730. Better yet, if you have a good chiropractor, carry this system around in a backpack. At 7.5 pounds, the laptop weighs more than the HP ZBook 17 G4 (7.1 pounds), but it's lighter than the sumo-size ThinkPad P71 (8 pounds).
While the Dell machine is slimmer than its predecessor, the Precision 7730's 16.3 x 10.8 x 1.2-inch frame is best kept dormant on a desk. Its competitor, the Lenovo ThinkPad P71, is about the same size (16.4 x 10.4 x 1.2 inches), while the HP ZBook 17 G4 is longer on each end (16.5 x 11 x 1.3 inches).
With premium, durable materials -- a carbon-fiber lid, a soft-touch deck and a metal frame -- the Precision 7730 exudes class. People will notice the machine for its sheer size, but its industrial black-and-silver design is easy on the eyes.
Aggressive dual vents, a shiny metal trim around the deck and a thin LED battery indicator on the front lip are all welcome additions. I just wish the lid weren't such a fingerprint magnet and that the display bezels were trimmed down.
The Precision 7730 has a comprehensive selection of ports that are conveniently located around the laptop.
On the left side, you'll find a smart card reader, an SD card slot and two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
For stationary accessories, the rear houses an HDMI, a mini DisplayPort, an Ethernet port, a DC power jack and a third USB 3.1 Type-A port.
Durability and Security
Don't worry about your arms giving out when you hold the Precision 7730; this tank can survive a fall. The business laptop passed 15 MIL-SPEC durability tests, including those for high altitudes, extreme temperatures, dirt, shock and drop, according to Dell.
The Precision 7730 also has safeguards to protect your sensitive data. You have the option to add a FIPS fingerprint sensor in the palm rest to go along with a standard smart-card reader and an NFC sensor for contactless smart cards.
When I watched a trailer for the upcoming autobiographical film Green Book, I could make out the tiniest details in the set design, like individual records in Mahershala Ali's house during a wide shot of his chic living room and wisps of smoke rising from Viggo Mortensen's cigarette. The turquoise paint on the pianist's Chevy popped, as if the car had just driven off the show floor.
Similarly, in the trailer for the upcoming sci-fi film Kin, the neon lights and colorful explosions burst with rich, saturated blues and oranges. Matte displays don't typically have the same wow factor as their glossy counterparts, but I was in awe every time I visited my favorite websites on the Precision. My main complaint with the display is that skin tones look oversaturated, but you can adjust the color temperature using Dell's included display-calibration software.
The display's outstanding qualities were quantified in our testing. The panel reproduced a staggering 211 percent of the sRGB color gamut, achieving among the highest ratings we've seen. While the Lenovo ThinkPad P71 (183 percent) and HP ZBook 17 G4 (173 percent) also impressed, their panels were nowhere near as colorful as the Precision's. The workstation average is much lower, at 149 percent.
With this machine's matte display and impressive peak brightness, you should have no issue using the Precision 7730 in bright environments. The display reached a maximum brightness of 330 nits, which is higher than scores from the ThinkPad P71 (283 nits) and HP ZBook 17 G4 (256 nits). The workstation average is also dimmer, at 325 nits.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Pointing Stick
With an actuation force of 69 grams and a key travel of 1.6 millimeters (1.5mm to 2mm is recommended), the chiclet-style keyboard with numpad is comfortable to use, even during long typing sessions. Weighty and tactile, the backlit keys offer a rewarding amount of feedback and are well-spaced.
In the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I reached 114 words per minute, with an error rate of 5 percent. That matches my 95 percent accuracy rate but is slightly slower than my 119 word-per-minute average, likely because of the key's above-average actuation force.
For a device this large, the Precision 7730's 3.9 x 2.1-inch touchpad is inexplicably small. Fortunately, it made up for its size by responding quickly to my gestures, including pinch-to-zoom, four-finger tapping to open settings and three-finger swiping to change apps.
If touchpads aren't your thing, you can use the little rubber nub in the center of the Precision 7730's keyboard. That is, if you can find it. The black pointing stick doesn't have a colorful ring around it, so it blends in with the dark deck. Still, I had no problems using the pointing stick and secondary set of left-, right- and middle-click buttons to navigate the web.
The Precision 7730 is a performance powerhouse. Equipped with an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU and 32GB of RAM, the Precision 7730 quickly loaded 30 Microsoft Edge tabs, four of which played YouTube videos while two others streamed Fornite on Twitch.
With that demanding workload running in the background, the workstation opened the Xbox and 3D Paint Windows apps without breaking a sweat. Impressive, yes, but not surprising considering the Precision 7730 is meant to run the most-demanding tasks, like video encoding and 3D rendering.
It took the Precision 7730 only 1 minute and 19 seconds to complete our Excel Spreadsheet Test, which involves matching 65,000 names to their corresponding addresses. The workstation average is a few seconds slower, at 1:21.
This laptop scored an excellent 23,130 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test. That is significantly higher than the scores from the Lenovo ThinkPad P71 (15,972) and HP ZBook 17 G4 (15,839), and the workstation average (15,252).
The Precision also boasts very fast storage. In our File Transfer Test, the workstation's two 512GB M.2 PCIe SSDs duplicated 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 9 seconds, for a rate of 565 megabytes per second. That's quicker than the Lenovo ThinkPad P71's rate (463 MBps) and the workstation average (505.6 MBps), but it falls short of the mark from the blisteringly fast dual-SSDs in the HP ZBook 17 G4 (848 MBps).
When we made the Precision 7730 transcode a video from 4K to 1080p using the HandBrake app, the laptop finished in just 8 minutes and 59 seconds, which is nearly twice as fast as the workstation average (17:44).
The Nvidia Quadro P5200 GPU with 16GB of GDDR5 memory is powerful enough to run the most graphics-intensive programs or the latest games at high settings. With this GPU, the Precision 7730 scored a 3,953 on the 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra synthetic graphics test, beating the Lenovo ThinkPad P71 (3,588), HP ZBook 17 G4 (3,643) and the workstation average (1,490).
The Precision 7730 played the racing game Dirt 3 at 223 frames per second, so drifting around hairpin turns should feel butter smooth. The Nvidia Quadro P5000-equipped HP ZBook 17 G4 ran the same title at 171 fps.
The bottom-firing speakers on the Precision 7730 are loud enough to fill a large-size room, but they don't sound good doing it. When I listened to the vocally driven song "Grace Beneath the Pines," Glen Hansard's powerful vocals were front and center, but the Irishman sounded muffled and the solemn piano chords that provide a pulse to this emotional tune were empty and hollow.
I had similar impressions when listening to John Mayer's up-paced single "New Light." Mayer's silky-smooth vocals sounded accurate enough, but drum hits lacked weight and this funky tune's instruments were all over the place.
The Precision 7730 doesn't last long on a charge, even with the optional 97Wh battery. The machine powered down after just 4 hours and 14 minutes on the Laptop Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. The Lenovo ThinkPad P71 (5:57) and HP ZBook 17 G4 (5:23) endured for more than an hour longer, and even they fall short of the workstation run-time average (6:49).
The Precision 7730's webcam is OK. The 720p lens captures a decent amount of detail, but it's not very bright, and the colors it produces look unnatural. In a selfie I snapped in our dimly lit office, the red hues in my face looked oversaturated, and the shirt I was wearing was so dark that I couldn't make out its pattern of white dots.
The Precision 7730 failed to stay cool after we played a 15-minute HD video on YouTube. While the touchpad maintained a comfortable 83 degrees Fahrenheit, the underside (108 degrees) and the keyboard center (96 degrees) warmed up to above our 95-degree comfort threshold. The vent on the underside reached a troubling 110 degrees.
Software and Warranty
The Precision 7730's Windows 10 Pro operating system doesn't come with a lot of preinstalled software. What's included is pretty useful, like Dell Power Manager, which tracks the health of your battery, and PremiereColor, which lets you adjust display color, brightness and white balance.
In total, 10 Dell-branded apps provide general warranty and tech support and help you optimize the workstation's performance. One notable program is the Dell Precision Optimizer, which uses AI to auto-optimize applications.
The bloatware Microsoft typically brings to Windows 10 is mostly absent on the Precision 7730. A few apps remain, like Microsoft Solitaire Collection and LinkedIn, but Candy Crush games are nowhere to be found.
The Dell Precision 7730 starts at $1,479 for the base model, which comes with a 1600 x 900 display, an Intel Core i5-8300H CPU, integrated Intel HD GFX graphics, 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB and 7,200-rpm HDD.
Our $5,534 review unit has a 4K display and ramps up the components to an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU, an Nvidia Quadro P5200 GPU, 32GB of memory and dual 512GB PCIe NVMe SSDs.
A top-of-the-line Precision 7730 has the same 4K display and P5200 GPU but upgrades you to an Intel Core Xeon E-2186M CPU, 128GB of RAM and 8TB of SSD storage. This model costs $10,928 without any add-ons.
There are endless configuration options to customize the Precision 7730 to your liking. Dell offers i5, i7 and Xeon CPUs; Radeon Pro and Nvidia Quadro GPUs; four 32GB RAM slots for up to 128GB; and up to four 2TB SSDs for up to 8TB. You can also change RAID configurations, upgrade to a backlit keyboard, boost the battery from 64Wh to 97Wh and opt for a fingerprint reader.
The Precision 7730 is an excellent workstation, with class-leading performance and a bright, vivid 4K display. A comfortable keyboard, premium design and capable GPU are icing on the cake. I just wish the laptop's battery life lasted a few hours longer and that the chassis didn't get uncomfortably warm under a heavy workload.
The Precision 7730 faces tough competition. The $6,059 HP ZBook 17 G4 also has a gorgeous display and super-fast performance, but it remained cool during our testing and has considerably longer battery life. On the other hand, the HP workstation's display is rather dim and it has a bland design. The $4,643 Lenovo ThinkPad P71 is another compelling workstation; it comes with a color-correcting 4K panel and fantastic keyboard. However, the P71's hard drive can't keep pace with the Precision 7730's.
Overall, the Precision 7730 is an excellent all-around workstation that I wholeheartedly recommend -- if you can afford it.
Credit: Laptop Mag