By Neil Bennett | on December 18, 2008
Price When Reviewed: 1079
Pros: Powerful; great ergonomics; small; light.
Cons: Mediocre, low-res screen; poor graphics chip.
Small and light are often relative terms with laptops aimed at creative pros, but Dell’s new Precision M2400 can be described as both in all seriousness.
Weighing as little as 2.16kg and measuring 335-x-244-x-26mm, it’s truly portable. In theory, the M2400 is a great tool for creatives who want to work on the move – but the test model Dell sent us didn’t live up to its potential.
Dell has managed to make the M2400 as small as it is by including a 14.1-inch LED screen, which is smaller than 15-inch screens used by most laptops for creatives. Two screen options are offered – a low-cost 1,280-x-800 pixel panel, and a 1440-x-900 panel with anti-glare. The model sent to us by Dell for testing had the 1,280-x-800 resolution screen.
Our model’s low-res screen was inadequate for tools such as After Effects, and even Photoshop felt cramped and painful to use. The inclusion of an LED backlight also seems more about saving power than improving the display’s picture quality, as its output is mediocre. We’d hope that the higher-resolution screen is better, though.
One screen feature we did like though was the ambient light sensor, which alters the backlight brightness to match your surroundings.
The screen is powered by an nVidia Quadro FX 370M graphics chip with 256MB RAM. The FX 370M is an entry-level chip, and achieved a poor Cinebench real-time score of 2,909.
Its Maya test scores were weak, too. Most 3D artists will require more than the 370M can deliver, and with tools from Photoshop to AE tapping graphics hardware power, so will many other types of creatives.
The poor graphics system and display let down what is otherwise a great mobile workstation. Based around a 2.8GHz dual core Intel T9600 processor, the M2400 delivered one of the fastest Cinebench rendering scores we’ve seen from a laptop – 5,693 – which is impressive from such a dinky unit. Its Photoshop CS3 image processing score was impressive too, considering that our test unit had only 2GB RAM.
The laptop is rather ugly, but well-designed ergonomically. The keyboard is responsive and comfortable to type on, and there’s a backlight to help type in darker conditions. There’s a physical on/off button for wireless networking to save battery power.
The higher-resolution screen might make the M2400 more palatable to creatives, but the entry-level graphics chip makes it hard to recommend.