Dell Precision M2800 hands-on: a budget laptop for creative pros

  • Price When Reviewed: from $1,199 (around £715). UK pricing TBC

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Dell’s Precision M2800 is an attempt to get cost-conscious creatives to buy a ‘mobile workstation’ rather than a consumer or business laptop such as the company’s own Latitude line. This new 15-inch laptop is a relatively chunky beast – especially sat next to its slim-and-light cousin, the Precision M3800 or my MacBook Pro (the laptop that the M3800 was created to compete with) – but it’s a lot cheaper. We’ve yet to be told UK pricing, but in the US it starts at $1,199 (around £715).

Dell says that the key benefits of the M2800 are that it’s certified for use with pro-grade creative applications from Photoshop and After Effects to Maya – and it has the higher level of reliability and performance users get from a mobile workstation over a standard laptop.

The M2800’s tech specs include an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor, up to 16GB RAM, an AMD FirePro W4170M graphics chip with 2GB of its own RAM (backed up with Intel HD 4600 graphics for when you want to save battery life), and up to 1TB of storage. There are two options for the 15.6-inch screen: 1,366x768 (which Dell calls HD) or 1,920x1080 (FHD, or full HD) – there’s no ‘QHD+’ 3,200x1,800 version as you find on the M3800.

Dell launched of the M2800 alongside the SXSW film, music and interactive festival in Austin, Texas. At the launch event, I got a small amount of time with a M2800 with a Core i7 4810 quad-core chip running at 2.8GHz, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. It was an ‘early model’, so I wasn’t able to test it – but from the specs I’d expect a level of performance that would be suitable for relatively demanding design or photography work, or moderate video editing. I wasn’t given the price for this configuration, but I expect it to be affordable for many students and those starting out in the creative industries.

Sitting on my lap, the M2800 is as heavy and warm as you’d expect from a traditional 15-inch laptop. Its design could best be described as basic – the base is a good couple of inches thick and the aesthetics are stripped back to some matte silver piping around plain black shell. It won’t turn heads because it’s beautiful, but then it also won’t turn them because its ugly like many cheap laptops.

If you want style and grace though, you can get that from the M3800 – but you’ll have to pay for it. If you want to spend as little as possible and still be able to run the likes of Photoshop or Maya in a certified environment, the M2800 might be what you’re looking for.

We're expecting a shipping model of the M2800 for review before it ships this spring, so we'll be publishing a full review soon.

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