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Review: Dell Precision 7730 and 5530 Mobile Workstations

In a world of cheap, plastic, throwaway computers and overpriced art pieces requiring dozens of dongles, Dell has firmly established itself as a professional workstation provider. Their pricing may be on par with Apple computers, but you may find a much better experience with the Precision line of mobile workstations.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been dipping my toes back into the PC waters by trying out a pair of Dell mobile workstations. I’ve been a Mac-exclusive user for over a decade. But, like many other disenchanted Apple fans, I’ve been disappointed by their new laptop offerings. So when Dell asked me to try out some of their newest offerings for creative pros, I gladly accepted.

I was sent a Precision 7730 and 5530. The 5530 configured as I tested runs $3,647.18. It features a 15.6” UHD resolution touch- and pen-enabled screen. Internally, it sports an Intel 6-core Xeon 2.7GHZ processor, 32GB of memory, 512GB SSD and Nvidia Quadro P2000 graphics. The 7730 costs $5,534.07, featuring a gigantic 17.3” UHD screen. Under the hood, there’s an Intel Core i9-8950HK, 32GB of RAM, 512GB SSD and Nvidia Quadro P5200 with 16GB of memory.

The 5530 (Figure 1, below) feels like a fairly standard laptop. It features a glossy screen, making it a familiar surface for finger and pen interaction. The keyboard surface is a “grippy” rubberized plastic. The trackpad is Apple-esque in that it’s a solid, smooth piece with only a short, printed white line at the bottom separating a left click from a right click. The exterior casing is a dark brushed metal with an attractive, subtle logo stamped into the lid. Compared to my 15.3” MacBook Pro, the 5530 is nearly the exact same size and weight, but it features a profile that tapers towards the front lip.

Figure 1. The 15.6” Dell Precision 5530

The 7730 (Figure 2, below) feels like a standard laptop of the early 1990s given its monstrous size and weight. Calling this computer a laptop is a stretch, which is likely why Dell calls it a mobile workstation. It is certainly laptop usable, but it’s more at home on a desk. You don’t find a lot of 17” or larger laptops these days, so Dell is certainly filling a niche here. It’s fair to call the 7730 a desktop replacement given its full-size desktop capabilities and power.

Figure 2. The 17.3” Dell Precision 7730 (open, background) and the 5530 (closed, foreground)

Fans of being able to upgrade components will be happy to know that the underside of the 7730 contains a user-serviceable area for accessing the hard drive and battery (Figure 3, below). This machine also features a trackpad with three physical buttons below and above as well as a thumb button in the middle of the keyboard to control the cursor on screen.

Figure 3. The 7730’s user-serviceable access area for the battery and SSD

Both laptops have at least the basic ports needed for day-to-day video work. There are multiple USB 3 ports, headphone jacks, SD card readers, and USB-C/Thunderbolt ports. The 7730 features additional ports on the rear of the machine like a mini DisplayPort connection, HDMI out and ethernet port (Figure 4, below).

Figure 4. Additional ports on the rear of the 7730