Hands on: Dell Precision 5510 review

An XPS 15 that's had a workstation makeover

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Dell has given the XPS 15 a workstation-style makeover, and it's ready to do business. Just make sure you have a spare external battery pack, because you'll need it.

For

  • Compact dimensions
  • Superb 4K display
  • Fast CPU and graphics

Against

  • Shallow keyboard
  • Windows 7 not designed for touch
  • Poor battery life

Dell's XPS 15 has been one of the true highlights in the 15-inch laptop space during 2016. It features the company's space-saving InfinityEdge tech, which slims down the chassis size by shrinking the display's bezels to mere millimeters.

It looks great and is practical to boot, allowing the machine to be slipped into a bag for easy transportation, so it was only a matter of time before Dell launched a version that's geared toward business. Step up the Precision 5510, which puts the "work" into workstation.

Dell Precision 5510

Essentially an XPS 15 that's had a workstation-style makeover, it swaps Windows 10 for the much more business-friendly Windows 7. And when it comes to specs, Dell has stripped away unnecessary features from the XPS 15 to bring the cost down. You won't find an SSD here, nor gaming-grade graphics.

There are two configurations on sale, the first starting at £1,170 (around £1,550 or AUS$2,034) alongside a higher spec model costing £1,286. (around US$1,567 or AUS$). The latter ships with a slightly weaker processor but superior dedicated workstation graphics.

Dell Precision 5510

The Precision 5510 is every bit the looker the XPS 15 is. Its two-tone silver and black design gives off an "Oreo" effect that appears elegant and premium. It's an exercise in minimalism for the most part, with nothing on the lid except for Dell's dark logo. The less-is-more approach is only broken on the keyboard base, where Intel and Windows 7 stickers have been lazily applied by hand. There's superb build quality at every angle, with the magnesium-alloy body standing up well to knocks and scrapes.

Dell Precision 5510


Whichever 5510 configuration you opt for, both machines will weigh the same 3.9 pounds. That's the exact same weight as the version of the XPS 15 that comes without the dedicated GTX 960M graphics card, and it's pleasingly light considering the machine's size. It's just about light enough to lift with one hand, and you can flip open the lid with a finger too.

Speaking of the display, you'll be hard pressed to find a better looking screen on a 15-inch laptop. There are multiple wins here - from the display's crisp Ultra HD resolution (3,840 x 1,440) to its impressive color saturation, wide viewing angles and high color accuracy thanks to 100% coverage of the Adobe RGB spectrum. Photographers and multimedia workers can feel at ease working with this panel.

Dell Precision 5510

The XPS 15 was already geared toward professionals thanks to these qualities, so Dell hasn't had to tweak anything in this department. The display remains plenty bright, rated at 400 nits, making the Precision 5510's bold and vibrant display excellent for outdoor use.

Dell Precision 5510

There's ample room to snap applications to each half of the display, and you can have multiple legacy applications open while having room on the desktop to spare. Note that the some legacy business programs might not play nicely on the 4K display if they're optimized, and Windows 7 is also a strange environment to prod and poke at the touchscreen.

Dell Precision 5510

Productivity is a breeze on the Precision 5510 thanks to the computing muscle under the hood. Our review sample came with an Intel Xeon CPU E3-1505M v5 clocked at 2.8GHz, backed up by 16GB of RAM. Apps load instantly, and boot times are swift.

Whether you're running demanding applications or multiple legacy apps, this laptop will be able to handle them without a hitch. We would've liked more ports, however, with including HDMI, USB 3.1 (Type-C), two USB 3.1 ports and a microSD slot being the only ones to be found.

Dell Precision 5510

Unfortunately the keyboard, one of the less impressive aspects of the XPS 15, remains unchanged on the Precision 5510. It suffers from a lack of key travel, with each keypress leaving more to be satisfied. It's absolutely fine, serviceable even, for typing shorter documents, but wrist cramp begins to set in once the word count reaches into the thousands.

On the plus side it's backlit so you can see what you're typing up in the dark, and it's twinned with an excellent Dell Precision clickpad that's as good as any on a Mac - a rarity for a Windows machine.

Benchmarks

  • Cinebench R15: OpenGL: 55.67 fps; CPU: 621 points
  • Geekbench (Single-Core): 3,810 points; (Multi-Core) 14,059 points
  • Battery test (1080p looped video streamed over Wi-Fi in Edge, 50% brightness): 3 hours 3 minutes

The Precision 5510 gave out some impressive benchmark scores in our early testing, with the best result coming from Geekbench's Multi-Core CPU test - 14,059 points. The Xeon CPU E3-1505M inside is truly designed for heavy lifting and even scores higher than the XPS 15's Intel Core i7-6700HQ that achieved 12,449 points in the same benchmark.

The 5510's graphics performance was only slightly behind the XPS 15, scoring 55.67 points in Cinebench's graphics test, versus the 69.46 fps achieved by the GTX 960M in the XPS 15.

Dell Precision 5510

Early verdict

It must have been easy for Dell to convert the XPS 15 into a workstation, such was its initial qualities. The Precision 15 5000 is solidly-built, surprisingly compact and lightweight for its size and comes with a fantastic display. We suspect that, like the XPS 15, the Precision 15 5000 will only seriously suffer in the department of battery life due to the power-sucking 4K screen. Still, for business users looking for a capable laptop that ships with the familiar surroundings of Windows 7, the Precision 5510 should rank highly.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.