Dell M4500 Mobile Workstation Handles Tough Graphics Chores
The 15.6-inch Dell M4500 packs a computing and graphics kick into a neatly
packaged wide screen mobile workstation package that should be among the first
options offered to road warriors who travel frequently and must also have a
high performance notebook close at hand.
The M4500 can be configured to pack a one-two punch that places it among the most powerful 15.6-inch notebooks: the Intel Core i7 920MX quad core processor Extreme Edition along with Nvidia's Quadro FX 1800M to handle large complex graphics workloads. The starting weight for an M4500 is six pounds, which is substantial but still quite doable for frequent travelers.
The M4500 started shipping in May and starts at $1,803 at Dell.com. The Dell M4500 is a direct competitor to the Lenovo ThinkPad W501 and the HP EliteBook 8540w.
For mobile workers who require the maximum in graphics and compute capability, the maxed out 17-inch big brothers of the 15.6-inch systems should be considered, including the Dell M6500 or Lenovo W701 or the HP EliteBook 8740w 17-inch monster mobile workstations. The 15.6-inch Dell M4500 is for high-value employees who need much more than average performance but don't need the very top-of-the-line graphics capability.
The Dell Precision M4500 that I tested cost $3,808 at Dell.com. The system was decked out with an Intel Core i7 X920 2.00 GHz quad core processor, 1GB Nvidia Quadro FX1800M graphics - the most advanced Nvidia graphics processor for 15.6-inch mobile systems, 4GB of 1333MHz DDR3 RAM, a 250GB 7200rpm hard drive and a Blu-ray optical drive.
Competing systems from HP and Lenovo priced out in the same ballpark as the Dell M4500. Both the HP EliteBook 8540w and the Lenovo ThinkPad W510 have four DIMMs and can therefore max out at 16GB of RAM for an approximately $1,450 extra. With two DIMMs, the Dell M4500 must use much more expensive memory - $4,490 more - to get to16GB of RAM. All systems can use the Nvidia FX1800M graphics card. The Lenovo W510 can also match the Dell M4500 in using both the Intel Core i7 X920 processor.
The M4500 earned an impressive 7031 PCMark score using the Futuremark PCMark Vantage 64 benchmark. I ran all the suites in Vantage, including communications and productivity along with games and music. The M4500 scored well on the Windows Experience Index with a score of 5.7 on a scale from 1.0 to 7.9. The low-scoring component was the hard disk. Aside from this exception, the processor, RAM and graphics scores were between 6.6 and 7.2.
During my tests using normal office productivity tools, the M4500 was comfortable to use with a wide wrist rest, quiet fan operation and a well-designed keyboard. The widescreen 15.6-inch monitor is bright and yields vibrant color. The keyboard is well laid out and the track pad is roomy without being susceptible to stray palm touches.
Of importance in this class of mobile workstation, Dell has filled out an impressive list of independent software vendors who have certified their graphics, audiovisual or scientific applications for use on the M4500. For example, I used Autodesk 2011 on the system and was able to load and manipulate sample projects with ease.
The M4500 has no shortage of external I/O ports, including a 1394, VGA, Display Port, RJ-45, audio and eSATA/USB combo and four USB 2.0 ports (including the combo port.) There are also plenty of slots including one each for a Smart Card, ExpressCard 34, PC card and a Secure Digital card.