• Price: 1081

  • Company: Dell

  • Pros: Fast processor. Bright screen.

  • Cons: Uninspiring performance.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

The Precision M4300 is an upgraded version of the popular Precision M70 mobile workstation – featuring the latest generation of chips and chipsets from Intel’s Santa Rosa platform.

As with the M70, the M4300’s chassis is based on Dell’s Latitude line of notebooks for businesspeople, and its looks are as corporate as a pinstripe suit. Though the design hasn’t changed much, the M4300 does boast a screen that’s up to ten per cent brighter than the M70, according to Dell.

Our test unit had a hi-def 1,920-x-1,200 screen, which some users will find too compressed on a 15.4-inch screen – but you do have the option of a 1,680-x-1,050 resolution or even 1,200-x-800.

The Santa Rosa platform doesn’t up the speed of Intel’s processors by much – the included, top-of-the-line T7700 chip runs at 2.4GHz, only 66MHz faster than the 2.33GHz T7600 available in the M70. However, the new chips do deliver a power boost due to improvements in the underlying architecture, which sees the front-side bus speed increased from 667MHz to 800MHz. The overall boost works out at between five and 10 per cent.

However, in our tests the M4300’s performance was mediocre. It was faster than the HP 8710w in our After Effect CS3 and Cinebench rendering test – unsurprising as the 8710w has a 2.2GHz chip – but the difference in power was tiny. The M4300 was slower than the 17-inch Apple MacBook Pro in Photoshop and Cinebench rendering.

The Quadro 360M is the second lowest-powered graphics chip in nVidia’s mobile workstation line – and it was soundly beaten by the Quadro FX 1600M used by the HP 8710w. The M4300’s battery life score of 159 minutes was mediocre, too.

We used Cinebench to test the Precision M4300. The M4300 received an OpenGL score of 2,786 and a rendering score of 4,662 (1.84x) in the new Cinebench 10. We’ve yet to see a truly great mobile workstation using the Santa Rosa platform, and the Precision M4300 isn’t it.