Dell Precision 5520: Can Dell’s best office machine work its magic? The Dell Precision 5520 offers good quality, with solid components.
Agreat screen, and welcome ergonomics, and it looks the part – but it’s expensive, and rivals are more powerful.
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Dell’s Precision notebooks are mobile workstations, which means performance used to take precedence over aesthetics – but that’s not the case these days.
The machine delivers high-quality components within a system trimmed from silk metal and carbon fiber and is thin and light.
We reviewed the entry-level Precision 5520, but don’t think this machine is weak – it still has one of Intel’s latest processors and Nvidia graphics.
Dell Precision 5520 Pricing and Availability
The model we reviewed is the UK’s entry-level notebook. Its Core i5-7300HQ has four 2.5GHz cores Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz, but no Hyper-Threading – so Core i7 machines will be better for multitasking.
Memory is mixed. There’s 8GB installed, but it’s single-channel only and doesn’t have ECC certification.
The CPU includes an Nvidia Quadro M1200, with 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.
That’s a great 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, Core i7 processor, and 16GB of RAM. Both are beefier, though they cost £400 more than the Dell.
Our precision is priced at £2,101, and every component can be customized. Several Core i7 chips are available and there are also Xeons, with the E3-1505M adding £270 to the price.
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 American approach is different. The firm sells four basic precision models with less fine-tuning.
The most affordable machine costs $1,399 and features 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 Quadro M1200, and the $2,279 machine adds more memory, a 256GB SSD, and a three-year warranty.
The priciest US version costs $2,979 and features a Xeon processor, 32GB of memory, a 512GB SSD, and a Quadro. Nevertheless, it retains the 1080p screen.
You’ll have to spend $299 to get 4K. There are a few tweaks available for storage and battery capacity, but that’s for customization.
SPEC SHEET Dell Precision 5520
- 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)
Dell Precision 5520 Design
The gunmetal lid extends to the beveled edges of the panel, and the interior is wrapped in carbon fiber. The two-tone design looks great, and the build quality is good: the wrist rest and base are barely flexible, and the thin screen exhibits surprising strength.
Dell has built this robust system without making it bulky. Its 1.78 kg weight dwarfs both competitors, although its 22 mm body makes it a little thicker. That’s hardly a deal breaker, though – this machine can still be easily carried.
It’s also worth noting the 350mm precision width, which makes it a few centimeters shorter than rivals – achieved by cramming a 15.6in screen inside a 14in chassis.
The Precision 5520 has a battery indicator and card reader, as well as two USB 3 ports and a Thunderbolt connection, but no DisplayPort. There are useful applications for managing battery and power, and Precision Optimizer has profiles for common work tools, such as CAD and graphic design utilities.
Less impressively, there is no internal access and the battery cannot be removed.
The Dell has a backlit keyboard with great action: the buttons are depressed with consistency and comfort, so it’s easy to get up to speed. There isn’t much travel, but that doesn’t matter – the rock-solid base and fast movement provide plenty of feedback.
It’s not perfect; There’s no room for a number pad, the return has only one height, and the cursor buttons are tiny.
Dell has fitted a precision touchpad here, which means it supports the full range of two- and three-finger gestures. The surface is smooth and precise, and the buttons are satisfyingly clicky.
Dell Precision 5520 Pros and Cons
- +Superb physical design
- +High-quality keyboard
- +Dedicated Nvidia Quadro graphics
- –High price
- –Similarly-priced rivals are more powerful
- –No internal access