Hardware

Dell Precision M4300 (First Look Review)

1 Jan, 2008 By: Ron LaFon

Weighing just 6.3 lbs, this mobile workstation is fully certified for those who use design software on the road or in the field.


In late June 2007, Dell made a flurry of new product announcements, among them the introduction of the Dell Precision M4300 mobile workstation. I was finally able to get my hands on one to evaluate for Cadalyst readers.

Like all systems in the Dell Precision workstation line, the M4300 is fully certified on a wide array of design and digital content creation (DCC) software and is designed for users who want to be able to use these applications on the road or in the field.

Dell Precision M4300
Dell Precision M4300

Weighing in at a relatively trim starting weight of 6.3 lbs, the M4300 measures a compact 1.39" x 14.2" x 10.34" and features a 15.4" wide-aspect ratio WUXGA screen with a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200. The M4300 is based on an Intel Core2 Duo T7700 dual-core microprocessor rated at 2.40 GHz. The unit I received for testing included 4 GB of 667-MHz DDR2 RAM and a 160 MB SATA 7200 RPM hard drive with DataBurst cache. Dual-channel memory with 36-bit addressing allows the M4300 to use all 4 GB of the installed memory.

Additional features of the Dell Precision M4300 mobile workstation included next-generation 802.11n support — which is as much as five times faster than 802.11g — and both integrated mobile broadband technology and 10/100/1000 networking capability. Also included was an 8x DVD±RW optical drive and an Intel Pro/Wireless 4965 mini card. A 1394 controller was integrated, as was audio. An integrated touchpad with UPEK fingerprint reader provided navigation and security. All Cadalyst testing was done with Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2.

Graphics on the Dell M4300 were handled by an NVIDIA Quadro FX360M graphics card that featured 512 MB of onboard memory. NVIDIA drivers v.6.14.11.119 were preinstalled and used for the benchmark tests, with the addition of NVIDIA's MAXtreme 9.00.01 accelerated 3ds Max driver for part of the tests.

The battery in the Dell Precision M4300 is a nine-cell lithium ion battery that proved to have good lasting power. With all the polling services such as Bluetooth disabled, the fully charged battery lasted 3 hours, 35 minutes sitting idle. With a continuous loop of the Cadalyst C2008 benchmark running, the battery life was 1 hour, 16 minutes.

I ran the Cadalyst C2008 benchmark on the M4300 with AutoCAD 2008, using the native AutoCAD drivers for both OpenGL and Direct3D. The C2008 total index score was 157 with the OpenGL drivers and 166 with Direct3D. Running dual side-by-side sessions, the combined C2008 total index score was 321 with Direct3D.

The Dell Precision M4300 is a compact mobile workstation for those who need to use workstation-class applications on the go.
The Dell Precision M4300 is a compact mobile workstation for those who need to use workstation-class applications on the go.

For the next benchmark, I performed the MAXBench 4 benchmark with Autodesk 3ds Max 9 in three different configurations — with the native OpenGL, native Direct3D, and NVIDIA MAXtreme 9.00.01 accelerated driver. The averaged high/low scores for the benchmark were 53.47 with the OpenGL driver, 82.11 with the native Direct3D driver, and 79.92 with the MAXtreme driver.

The final benchmark was the full SPECviewperf 10 benchmark (www.spec.org), which produced the following scores: 25.61 for 3dsmax-04, 26.14 for catia-02, 17.24 for ensight-03, 53.05 for maya-02, 27.37 for proe-04, 34.02 for sw-01, 6.29 for tcvis-01, and 6.26 for ugnx-01.

The base price of the Dell M4300 is $1,579, but equipped as it was for this review, the price is $3,335. Warranty coverage for the M4300 is three years for labor, parts, and onsite service, which is the Dell Economy Plan base warranty. Dell's warranty coverage includes 24-hour replacement parts and lifetime 24-hour telephone support.

Although the Dell M4300 is neither as beefy nor powerful as Dell's M6300 mobile workstation, its trim weight, excellent design, and extensive certifications make it a useful product for users who need a mid-range mobile workstation.


About the Author: Ron LaFon


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