Workstations are not regular Ultrabooks or notebook laptops. Mobile workstations are powerful mini-computers designed to be mobile alternatives to workstations. In this article, we compare two giants in the arena of workstations. Which can deliver more power, the Dell Precision 7730 or the Lenovo ThinkPad P71?
Dell Precision 7730 Build
The Precision 7730 has a similar appearance to its predecessor. The case is smaller but shares the same keyboard, trackpad, and port layout as the Precision 7720.
The Precision 7730’s 17-inch display provides a cinematic experience. Its bright 4K display is extremely detailed, and the colors it creates are vibrant and rich. The panel accurately reproduced 211 percent of the sRGB color gamut, making it one of the best on the market. You should have no trouble using the Precision 7730 in bright conditions because of its matte display and high peak brightness. Speaking of the display’s brightness, the screen can glow to a brightness of 330nit.
The Precision 7730’s 3.9 x 2.1-inch touchpad is strangely small for a computer of this size. It made up for its size, though, by responding quickly to my movements, such as pinch-to-zoom and four-finger tapping. If touchpads aren’t your thing, the Precision 7730’s keyboard has a small rubber nub in the centre. That is, assuming you can locate it. Because the black pointing stick lacks a colourful ring, it blends in with the dark deck. Some reviewers have claimed to have achieved a speed test of more than 100 wpm. You can also navigate the web with the pointing stick and a secondary set of left, right, and middle-click keys to change apps and three-finger swipe to open settings.
In terms of performance, the Precision 7730 does not fail to deliver. This machine is powered by an 8th generation Intel Core i9-8950HK processor. One unique feature of workstations is that their CPUs can support humongous amounts of RAM. The Precision 7730 is not different. It can house a RAM of up to 32 GB. That’s twice the amount the premium notebook can hold. With that much RAM, this beast would handle multitasking effortlessly. You can run multiple tabs, play video games, even have a video streaming in the background-this workstation wouldn’t break a sweat. However, that’s what workstations are built for-POWER!
According to notebookcheck.net, the machine scored above 23,000 on a Geekbench 4 overall performance test. Bear in mind that the average score on the same test is 15,000. So the Precision did pretty well in these regards.
So far, the precision has impressed us with its, processing power, display, and RAM. Would its storage drive also maintain the outstanding results? Let’s find out. The machine indeed holds water in this regard, boasting of a not just a very fast storage, but houses two 512Gb M.2 PCIe SSDs which can copy data at the rate of 565 megabytes per second. This also means that 3D rendering on this machine is going to be super-fast. If you’re thinking of getting this machine just for daily use, then that’s too much power you don’t really need.
As expected from a workstation, the Precision does not disappoint with regards to the graphics chip it houses. It features an NVidia Quadro P3200 GPU with 15GB of VRAM. That is a very powerful GPU with plenty of RAM of its own. However, there has been much speculation as to the durability of the Quadro P3200, which some claim is a weak graphic card. Nonetheless, the graphics card and the GPU are mutually exclusive. In other words, the graphics card doesn’t hamper the performance of the GPU.
The ThinkPad P72 (review down below!) has a similar Quadro P3200 score and similar benchmark scores to the Precision 7730. According to laptopmag.com, the Precision 7730 performed very well on the GPU benchmark. It scored a 3,953 on the 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra synthetic graphics test, beating the workstation average of 1,490.
Testing the capability of the Precision 7730 in reality by playing some games also proved that the machine does live up to expectations. The racing game Dirt 3 can be played at 223 frames per second.
Considering how much power this beast can deliver, one wouldn’t expect the battery life to impress the user. Well, our suspicions were confirmed, the battery life of the Precision 7730 is just around 4 hours on regular use. That’s the worst let-down of this machine. Other than its poor battery life, the machine is definitely a desktop PC challenger.
Other feature of the device
Aside the ground breaking performance of this monstrous machine, Dell added some features we are all too familiar with. To begin, let’s check out the ports.
First, we want to see if the machine has a thunderbolt port. Fantastically, the Precision provides two Thunderbolt 3 ports and an SD card slot, both mounted on the left side of the device. On the right side, we get two USB Type-A ports, a Kensington lock, and, thankfully, a 3.5mm headphone jack.
It doesn’t stop there though. This machine is supposed to battle with the regular PC and it does so gracefully. Besides the regular ports, there are other stationary ports like an HDM port, a mini DisplayPort, the DC power jack, and let’s not forget the Ethernet port for networking. Dell added another USB 3.1 Type-A port, making this the third one.
For security, the first level of security available on the machine is the fingerprint sensor. Other options include a smart-car reader and an NFC sensor for contactless smart cards.
The precision 7730, like most laptops, possesses lenses that don’t produce bright images. Most laptop manufacturers struggle with their webcams. The webcam offers the regular 720p lens, which doesn’t do well in bright conditions and also does worse in dim light conditions. You’d have to get an external webcam if your activities involve, using a webcam.
Lenovo ThinkPad P71
The ThinkPad P71 is one of those “spine breakers.” It’s a very bulky machine. Lenovo has produced one of the most successful brands of workstations, especially with their P-series. The ThinkPad P71, as I said, is a huge device, weighing around 8.0 pounds (3.6kg). The 15-inch machine is not one that easily fits into medium-sized bags and will not fail to remind you of how heavy it is. So, the Lenovo ThinkPad P71 is definitely an immobile workstation.
One great advantage of using Lenovo’s products is the maintained design. Members of the P-series have retained the general build design and look just a little different from their predecessors. I don’t imply that modifications haven’t been made, Lenovo adds or improves on its previous model while still maintaining the selling points of prior models.
Like its predecessor, the ThinkPad P70, the ThinkPad P71 features a chiclet keyboard. The chiclet keyboard is known for offering excellent tactical feedback when pressed on. The lack of a backlit keyboard does not take away from the delightful user experience of the keyboard. A dedicated number pad is mounted on the right side of the keypad, which would be most suitable for office tasks, especially if your job involves punching in many numbers.
You also don’t need to take your hand away from the keypad since it still retains the iconic TrackPoint. If you aren’t used to the TrackPoint, you could still use the trackpad that sits below the keyboard. Noticeably, the track pad sits just in-between two pairs of click-buttons. One at the top and the other at the bottom.
Now let’s get into what we’ve all been waiting for, the performance. The ThinkPad P71, being the latest model, would obviously be the most powerful workstation of the brand’s mobile workstations. Most of the ThinkPad P71’s power comes from its high-end CPU. The machine has many configuration options. The base model is equipped with an Intel Core i5-8300H and can be upgraded to a Core i9-8950HK. However, those are not the only configuration options for the machine. It can also feature,
- Intel Core i5-8400H: A slight upgrade from the base model.
- Intel Core i7-8750H:
- Intel Core i7-8850H:
That’s not all though; it can even go beyond the Core i9 to the Xeon E-2176 and Xeon E-2186 processors. The Xeon Processors are ultra-fast and the most suitable option should you want to use the device as a server. There are also a variety of GPU options, but we’ll get into that later. The ThinkPad is built solely for power, and it does not fail to deliver on that promise. It is one of the few workstations that can support RAM of up to 128 GB running at 2666MHz.
The CPU runs at a base clock speed of 2.6GHz–4.3GHz depending on the grade of CPU you install into the machine. Nonetheless, all CPUs perform really well in this regard and even support Intel’s turbo boost feature. Now, to what we’ve all been waiting for. How does the ThinkPad P71 perform on the benchmarks? The Core i7-8850H is a hexa-core processor based on Intel’s Coffee Lake architecture and scores a 15,972 on the Geekbench’s performance benchmark, which sits well above the average desktop-replacement average of 12, 979. In fact, when it comes to raw power, the P71 beats the Dell Precision 7720 running on Xeon E3-1535M with 8GB of RAM.
Lenovo has done a great job of providing a graphics card unit that can support a variety of GPUs. Therefore, you don’t have to pay for a powerful GPU that you don’t really need, and can upgrade the GPU to fit your budget. The base model of the machine features the NVidia Quadro P5000 GPU, which is a little step up from the P3000 of the same series. On a 3D benchmark test, the machine scored a 3,588 which is fairly good but not the best performance when compared to competitors that feature the same GPU. Nonetheless, the GPU can take on demanding games when you tweak their graphic settings a little bit.
Most workstation feature similar SSD storages. However, the difference in performance stems from how each workstation can read, process, and transfer data. The ThinkPad-on the high-end can come with a P71 which according to a test carried out by notebookcheck.net, can copy files worth 4.97GB in 11seconds. Like I said, performance of the SSD can be affected by the machine because competitors that use the same SSD offer a much better performance. While, the transfer rate doesn’t impress, it wouldn’t deter the performance during word processing or productivity task.
Ports & Connectivity
Lenovo has a habit of retaining its signature build, just like it does its array of ports. Like its predecessor, it possesses two Thunderbolt 3 ports and a 4K HDMI port with a frequency of 30Hz. It also features regular USB Type-A and USB Type-C.
Lenovo has a reputation of delivering high quality screens with competitive brightness levels. On the P71, Lenovo provides two options for the display. The first being the 1080p standard display and another 4K UHD screen. Luckily, the cost of the screen does not affect the brightness as we would expect. Both screens can shine at 300nits. The matte screen surface on both displays fair well under bright lighting conditions and has great viewing angles. It is worthy of note that Lenovo takes off the touch screen feature usually found on the P-series. Considering the performance of both display options on the P71, it is still a good deal.
Both machines, the Precision 7730 and ThinkPad 7720, are both excellent devices. They both provide excellent display panels, a variety of budget-friendly CPU and GPU configurations, and a ton of connectivity features. Which should you get between the Precision 7730 and ThinkPad 7720? It all depends on which brand you’re most comfortable and familiar with. The Precision 7730 has a poor battery life, thanks to the power-consuming GPU, which offers better performance than that of the ThinkPad 7720.