Unrivalled portability for a workstation-class laptop makes it a true ‘mobile’ platform for CAD, though 3D performance is limited under some applications. By Greg Corke.
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 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.
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 but performance in more demanding 3D applications, such as 3ds Max, 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.