Dell Precision M2400

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Dell’s Precision M2400 bucks a trend in mobile workstations of making them so big they become impractical to use as an everyday laptop. While most mobile mobile workstations come in two sizes – ‘big’ and ‘bigger’ – by keeping three models in its range Dell is able to offer a machine with a 14.1-inch widescreen display as well as the standard 15-inch and 17-inch.

In terms of memory, our review machine was kitted out generously with 8GB, but 4GB would be much better matched to a machine of this type

Just because the M2400 is compact and lightweight, it doesn’t mean it’s low on power, not in terms of processing anyway. While the Core 2 Duo T9800 (2.93GHz) doesn’t offer the multi-core performance of the Core 2 Extreme Quad Core QX9300 (2.53GHz) processor featured inside Dell’s Precision M6400, it is a much better (and faster) choice for straight CAD work. In terms of memory, our review machine was kitted out generously with 8GB, but 4GB would be much better matched to a machine of this type. This will also bring the price down considerably as 4GB DIMMS are still expensive and 2GB DIMMS can be used instead.

The limitations of such a compact machine are apparent when it comes to graphics. The Quadro FX 370 (256MB) is a good choice for basic 3D and certain applications such as Inventor that run equally well on all professional graphics cards, but as you can see from the benchmark scores, the performance in more demanding 3D applications can be disappointing.

Some will also see the screen as a hindrance, not so much due to its size, but its resolution, which at 1,280 x 800 is not ideally suited to detailed CAD work. However, an optional LED lit 1,440 x 900 display is also available and with DisplayPort and VGA ports fitted as standard, external displays are also fully supported.

The upside of having a smaller screen and lower powered graphics is that battery life is considerably better than the M6400. It is this, plus its compact chassis that put the M2400 in a class of its own for a workstation-class laptop. You probably wouldn’t want to use this as an everyday machine, but for those that need a certified platform for CAD that easily pops into your bag for those business trips, the M2400 is well worth a look.

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Greg Corke

www.dell.co.uk

Intel Core 2 Duo T9800 (2.93GHz)
8GB (2 x 4GB)
250GB hard drive
Nvidia Quadro FX370
Vista Business with XP 64 downgrade
14.1-inch TFT display (1,280 x 900)
From 2.16kg
26 x 335 x 244mm
Three year basic warranty (NBD)

Benchmarks (XP)

Graphics (bigger is better) SolidWorks 2009 – 8 3ds Max Design 2009 – 97 Inventor 2009 – 3.2
CPU (smaller is better) 3ds Max Design – 2,005 secs