Price: £2,110 plus VAT (base price)
The Precision M50 sits in the same case as its predecessor, the M40, with the same excellent 15-inch, 1,600-x-1,200-pixel UltraSharp screen – but almost everything else about the machine has been changed. The M40’s 1.2GHz PIII has become a P4 at 1.8 or 2.0GHz, with a choice of 256MB, 512MB or 1GB of RAM. One of the M40’s main problems was that it had a fixed 512MB of RAM, with no upgrade opportunity; the M50 is more flexible. The overall quality has also improved behind the numbers, with the M50 featuring an Intel Mobile 845MP chipset with a 400MHz bus speed and the fast 266MHz PC2100 DDR flavour of RAM. There’s also a choice of 40GB or 60GB 5,400rpm hard drives, an 8x CD-RW drive, a wide range of optional extras through a modular bay, and a choice of Windows 2000 or XP Professional operating systems. The graphics card has been upgraded to the NVidia Quadro4 500 Go GL, which is, quite simply, the business. It delivers seriously stunning graphics performance from its 64MB of DDR RAM, and is certified with all the main 3D packages. The machine is also certified with editing systems such as Avid Xpress DV. Our review M50 featured a 1.8GHz chip, 512MB of RAM, and a 60GB hard drive. Overall, it performed fantastically. It ran complex scenes within 3DS Max and LightWave with ease, and let Avid Xpress DV run multiple layers, graphics and effects in real time without a hitch. The M50 wasn’t hugely fast in our 2D Photoshop test, though. It was faster than the M40, but slower than the PIII 1GB RAM Celsius H from Fujitsu Siemens – but took just 45 minutes to render a LightWave scene that took the M40 70 minutes, and IBM’s Thinkpad A31p 55 minutes. We also had a cheeky go at the latest first-person shoot-’em-up game, Gore, on it and were amazed at the graphics quality and speed – even at full 1,600-x-1,200-pixel resolution. As you’d expect, this kind of power comes at a price, though this has dropped since the unit was first announced. Our review model costs £2,315 plus VAT – extremely reasonable compared to the competition – and a full 2.0GHz/1GB/60GB set-up costs a smidgeon less than three grand.