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Old 07-06-2008
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Default Dell Precision M2300 Review

Preface

The term mobile working station is a kind of overstatement in case of a notebook with a 14-inch screen. It must be admitted, though, that a diligent engineer will be able to work on it in the time of travel or at the ground of a project, while resorting to an external LCD at home or at office. The reason is Precision M2300 has a dedicated GPU, a pro one, to be precise. This is what differs it from from similarly built Latitude D630.

Chassis

The chassis of the Precision M2300 looks like a one of Latitude notebooks'. And actually it is almost identical with the case of D630 series. What differs them is a black application with an inscription Dell Precision. Although Dell could have been more original, there is not much point in putting an effort to being unique as Dell have a well tested unit available. Would an original chassis for Precision M2300 be just an art for art's sake? If so, one might wonder is there a reason to design different chassis for different series.

This professional Dell notebook is modest and elegant and not trivial at the same time. Black and silver metal pieces intermingle nicely, so it is difficult to believe that this notebook may not suite someoneís taste (of course excluding those, who are not fond of dark color scheme and are disgusted by simple design as they prefer posh marvels).

What is more, thanks to light metal alloy, the notebook itself is lightweight as for a 14-incher (4.83lbs), and especially as for a working station. Unfortunately, a huge battery (weighing 1.15lbs) makes the total weight quite significant (5.97lbs).

What makes Precision image unusual is a protruding battery that not everyone will be happy about. Adjusted to a cavity in the front part of the bottom, this two-piece element it juts out quite significantly (for an inch) off the silhouette and looks like a tumor on a healthy tissue.

On the other hand, however, this large and heavy battery is a counterweight for a massive, metal lid. Thanks to this solution it is possible to open the lid with just one hand, while, without the battery, this action requires involvement of both hands to prevent the notebook from overturning.

The protruding battery has also some drawbacks. Firstly, the gap between the base unit and the battery is a place where all the litter such as hair, dust and leftovers gather. Moreover, this solution implies some functional disturbances that result in limiting an area for the thumb, which is inconvenient while opening the lid. Less burdensome is the fact that while working with the device on the lap, the user shall rest hands on the jutting part of the battery. As during operation the battery is warming up, the user might be forced to take some of this heat on the wrists.

A metal construction is supposed to be structurally stable, though the top case bends a bit on the left hand side.

The lid of Precision M2300 is quite something. We rarely have a chance to see so firm, monolithic lid in a notebook. It does not bend under pressure and bending it sideways has no effect. The lid protects the screen in an ideal fashion. The only accusation to be made is that in the process of closing the notebook the latch not always work as it should and sometimes requires additional pressing of the lid.

The hinges are fabulously good. They are mighty huge, the lid moves with some difficulty, and is not trembling at all after changing position or exogenous shaking.

Keyboard and pointing devices

The keyboard arrangement and the size of the keys are all right, as they are Dell's trademark. Nevertheless, looking for drawbacks, it is worthwhile mentioning that the Delete key is not placed in the right upper corner what creates an impression that it is a bit hidden, although the user can easily get used to it.

The most inconvenient in this keyboard is a trackpoint stick placed in the middle of the unit. It is tough and stiff so it can bother the user while writing. Especially complicated is using the 'B', 'G', and 'H' keys. While pressing the mentioned keys, the user can't avoid contact with unpleasant material of the pointing stick as all of them have a bit of material removed so that a secondary pointing device could be fitted. Secondly, writing on this keyboard was not comfortable. It was caused by too large force and quite long travel. These aspects made typing quite effortful, not smooth and slower than on other keyboards. This strenuous work for longer time can be a bit demanding.

We havenít spot any creaking keys, which are to be found in some models of the Latitude range.

The touchpad has perfect sliding features and is optimally fitted into chassis. It should fully satisfy user with its characteristics, although it is necessary to customize its settings in control panel (we had to to speed up the cursor).

We didnít get on well with the trackpoint as it is quite uncomfortable and we were not eager to operate it. Comparing to the touchpad, the lack of solution enabling fast scrolling is bothersome (left-handed users are better off, as they can use the scrolling area of the touchpad, while keeping the more able hand on the pointing stick). Moreover, the settings of the pointing stick are also awkward: in order to prevent the cursor from running on the screen like crazy, the speed should be set at the first grade (at the second it is already too wild), because at zero grade the cursor is slow as a snail.

Screen

The 14-inch WXGA+ screen is provided by CMO, and offering a 1440x900 resolution it has to be considered one of the Precision M2300 biggest assets. It should work well during professional tasks and in leisure time as well. It offers the user much space on the screen along with a descent size of standard desktop icons.

It is of course a matte screen with quite good parameters. The average maximum brightness is only a tad below 170nit. The illumination of the screen is quite even. Only the contrast is a bit too low to be fully content about this screen.

Performance

The tested unit was equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 (2.4 GHz) processor. Although it is a bit pricy, it meets high performance expectations and therefore its implementation to the mobile working station is fully justified.

The NVIDIA Quadro FX 360M used in is a professional graphics card for engineering purposes akin to GF 8400M GS, so its performance is comparable with NVS 140M. Nevertheless, it is strongly limited by the 64-bit memory interface and due to this it can't compete with mid- end dedicated sollutions (it looks like its performance will be matched by the latest ATI HD 3200 integrated card).

Even as this weakling, Quadro FX provides full support for engineering and graphic applications. Most of all, it ensures access for additional effects that will not work on a common graphic card.

Professional GPU guarantees also stability of work that is impossible to achieve in solutions for regular users, as it is produced from selected components and has purposely decreases clocks.

While making a choice, it is necessary to consider if CAD optimization is really necessary, or is it better to choose a cheaper configuration for amateur usage. The fact is that for non-engineers working with 2D graphics there is no point in choosing Quadro FX.

Noise

Although it is not supported by evidence from measurements results, we got the impression that Precision M2300 is a bit more noisy that most of Dellís notebooks. Despite that its affects the surroundings in relatively minor way in comparison with notebooks of other brands.

It must be admitted that the HDD is silent, though in a peaceful surrounding the purr of the plates will be noticeable. The heads on their part work almost noiselessly and their actions are practically imperceptible, though detectable, when we add more load to the computer and it has to read more data from the disk.

If the laptop is used with an aim on power-saving and kept on the lap, the fan sound shall not be a problem. It marks its presence for short time every 30 minutes or an hour. When the computer is working with a load the fans usually works on the first two levels, the third starts rarely, for example when the CPU is maximally stressed. In this extreme situation the noise level is not too high, but the nature of the sound is irritating - listening to the hair drier-like noise is anything but pleasant.

Heat

Precision M2300 not only makes more noise than an average Dell notebook, but also warms up more. This phenomenon might not be drastic and is confined to a couple of spots, but it is significant and perceptible. As a consequence of many hours of work the temperature of the metal chassis reaches maximum of over 45įC (116F) at the bottom and 35įC (96F) on the top case.

However, working in the power-saving mode with the notebook on the lap, the bottom warms up to 40įC (104F), what is detectable after an hour of work.

Sound

Similarly to Latitude D630, in Precision M2300 notebook there is only a single mono speaker placed just in front of the touchpad. Thanks to this solution the sound of a speaker reaches the user without any disturbances. Although the speaker is monophonic, it will do for non- demanding users and will not be seen as a Dellís drawback.

Battery life

The huge battery composes a kind of a beak, which shatters the harmonious look of Precision M2300. If the user is able to cope with this effect along with aforementioned limitations to the ergonomics it causes, the battery with a capacity of 85Whr will pay dividends, offering long battery runtime.

The maximum operating time will amount to not less than six hours. What is more, the wireless Internet connection can be used with almost no limits, as the powerful battery allows reaching the result of 5 hours without a quarter.

Summary

Precision M2300 is rather a niche product in Dellís notebook range and actually not many clients are aware of the fact that the Texan producer offers such a model with a 14-inch screen and a professional (albeit weak) GPU. The number of interested purchasers is not big, although there have to be some inclined to buy a machine which is as heavy as a notebook with a 15.4Ē screen and deals quite well with CAD applications. If you are not an engineer, though, it is better to choose a notebook with a mainstream or semi-professional graphics card.

Unless one is lured by other Precision M2300 assets, which are, among others: very strong and durable metal chassis, increased resolution of the screen providing the user with a homogene picture and, of course, a very long battery life.

On the other hand,, the huge battery will not suit everyoneís taste as it makes the notebook look ugly and (to some extent) functionality of the computer. Moreover, we werenít satisfied with Dellís keyboard, as in our opinion it heats up too much and is noisier than what other current notebooks of this brand have to offer.
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dell, evaluation, fx360m, hands-on, m2300, mobile, opinion, precision, test, workinstation, wxga+

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