Dell’s Precision notebooks are mobile workstations, which has meant that performance used to take precedence over aesthetics – but these days that’s not the case.
Dell Precision 5520 Specification, Features, Price, Release Date And Review
We’ve reviewed the entry-level Precision 5520, but don’t think this machine is weak – it’s still got one of Intel’s latest processors and Nvidia graphics.
- CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost)
- Graphics: Nvidia Quadro M1200
- RAM: 8GB DDR4
- Screen: 15.6-inches, 1,920 x 1,080 non-touch IPS
- Storage: 256GB Toshiba XG3 SSD
- Optical drive: No
- Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, Combo audio jack, HDMI, SD card reader
- Connectivity: Intel Dual-Band Wireless – AC 7260, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.1
- Camera: 720p Webcam
- Weight: 3.9 pounds (1.78kg)
- Size: 0.86 x 14.1 x 9.2inches, 22 x 357 x 235mm (H x W x D)
Pricing and Availability
The model we’ve reviewed is the UK’s entry-level notebook. Its Core i5-7300HQ has four 2.5GHz cores Turbo Boost to 3.5GHz, but there’s no Hyper-Threading – so Core i7 machines will be better for multi-tasking.
The memory is mixed. There’s 8GB installed, but it’s only single-channel, and it doesn’t have ECC certification.
The CPU is joined by an Nvidia Quadro M1200, which has 640 stream processors, a 1,093MHz core and 4GB of memory – and, importantly, it’s ISV-certified.
Elsewhere, there’s a 256GB SSD, the machine is protected by a three-year warranty, and it’s got TPM 2.0.
It’s a fine specification, but rivals offer more. The HP ZBook Studio G3 has a Xeon processor, 32GB of memory, a 4K screen and a larger SSD, and the MSI WS63 has a better Quadro GPU, a Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. Both are beefier, although they cost around £400 more than the Dell.
Doubling the memory costs £130, and there are a dozen storage options. Upgrading to a 4K screen adds £253, and the battery can be doubled for £37.
Dell’s US approach is different. The firm sells four basic Precision models, with less fine-tuning.
The most affordable machine costs $1,399 and has a Core i5-7440HQ, integrated graphics, a basic hard disk and a 1080p screen. The $1,649 version upgrades to a Core i7-7820HQ and the Quadro M1200, and the $2,279 machine adds more memory, a 256GB SSD and a three-year warranty.
To get 4K you’ll have to spend $299. A few tweaks are available to storage and battery capacity, but that’s it for customisation.
The gunmetal lid extends to the panel’s bevelled edges, and the interior is coated in carbon fibre. The two-tone design looks superb, and build quality is good: the wrist-rest and the base barely flex, and the slim screen exhibits surprising strength.
Dell has built this sturdy system without making it bulky. Its 1.78kg weight undercuts both rivals, although its 22mm body makes it a tad thicker. It’s hardly a dealbreaker, though – this machine can still be easily carried.
It’s also worth noting the Precision’s width of 350mm, which makes it a couple of centimetres narrower than rivals – achieved by cramming the 15.6in screen inside a 14in chassis.
Less impressively, there isn’t any internal access and the battery can’t be removed.
The Dell has a backlit keyboard with a superb action: the buttons depress with consistency and comfort, so it’s easy to get up to speed. There’s not much travel, but that doesn’t matter – the rock-solid base and snappy motion provide ample feedback.
It’s not perfect; there’s no room for a numberpad, the Return key is only single-height, and the cursor buttons are tiny.
Dell has installed a Precision touchpad here, which means it supports the full range of two- and three-fingered gestures. The surface is smooth and precise, and the buttons are satisfyingly clicky.
The Dell Precision 5520’s GeekBench single-core result of 4,004 is fine, for instance, but the MSI WS63 and its Core i7-7700HQ was better by around 800 points.
The lack of Hyper-Threading impacts on the multi-core test, where the Dell scored a middling 10,404 – the MSI was five thousand points quicker, while the HP ZBook Studio G3 and its quad-core CPU was almost three thousand points faster.
- 3DMark: Sky Diver: 11816; Fire Strike: 3889; Time Spy: 1259
- Cinebench CPU: 506 points; Graphics: 89.65fps
- GeekBench: 4004 (single-core); 10404 (multi-core)
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3413 points
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 2 hours and 40 minutes
- Battery Life: 6 hours and 55 minutes
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: 32fps; (1080p, Low): 26fps (1080p, Medium)
- GTA V (1080p, Ultra): 35fps; (1080p, Low): 90fps
The Nvidia GPU provides a boost to graphical tasks. In the Cinebench graphics test the Precision managed 89.65fps, but the MSI and HP machines were faster. More pleasingly, the Dell’s 3DMark Fire Strike score of 3,889 is 500 points better than the HP.
The Dell Precision 5520 doesn’t match rivals in most benchmarks, but it’s hardly a slouch. The Core i5 processor has enough power to handle all but the most intensive applications, and the Quadro GPU still brings photo-editing and video work into view.
Dell’s machine ran without thermal issues. The processor’s peak temperature of 91°C is only a tad high, and the heat was properly distributed – the exterior remained cool. The CPU never throttled, and the noise never became intrusive. That’s a far better bill of health than the hot, whining HP.
Screen and Speakers
The 1080p IPS panel served up solid benchmarks. Its 1,718:1 contrast ratio is stunning, and the factory brightness level of 378cd/m2 is incredibly bright. Dialling the brightness down to a reasonable 150cd/m2 saw contrast remain excellent at 1,666:1, and black levels are fantastic.
The Dell Precision 5520 delivered an average Delta E of 2.21 – another solid figure that demonstrates highly accurate colours.
The final test, color coverage, proved that the Precision 5520 can render a solid 91.8% of the sRGB gamut but only 66.8% of the Adobe RGB gamut.
The speakers are mediocre. They’re loud and voices are clear, but the mid-range lacks width and clarity – so it sounds muddled whenever there’s a busier moment. There’s hardly any bass, either.