What happens when a workstation combines blazing fast graphics, a 4K resolution display a mobile Xeon CPU, loads of RAM and fast SSD storage? We take a look at the Precision 7720 to give you the answer.

The fastest mobile workstation on the market?

The Precision 7720 delivers top-of-the-line mobile workstation performance

It is certainly the fastest mobile workstation from Dell. Ever. The Precision 7720 doesn’t leave us wanting in any category. You can find the Precision 7720 data sheet here, for all the details. The most important points include:

  • NVIDIA Quadro P5000 graphics matched to a 4K resolution display. The combination satisfies the most demanding visual workloads from VR to video, to special effects to engineering visualization.
  • Quad-core, hyper-threaded Xeon CPUs running with maximum frequencies married to 64 GB of main memory to feed the graphics pipeline and to crunch numbers for simulations and renderings.
  • Terabytes of SSD storage to keep you moving fast with plenty of capacity.
  • High-performance connectivity via Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.0, and an integrated SD card reader.

Performance: what it is all about

This is the mobile workstation that you buy when you need the most of everything: graphics power, CPU performance, display resolution, RAM and storage capacity. Performance is this workstation’s middle name and the testing results do not disappoint us.

We were amused watching some of the benchmarks run – even those tests that kill other workstations were fast enough to make us smile. PW put the Dell through the paces with benchmarks for graphics performance, computing, and GPU processing. We used Viewperf for graphics, Premier Pro for GPU processing, After Effects for CPU performance, as well as virtual reality applications to test immersive environments.

The Quadro P5000 is a GPU-rocket on Viewperf. This class of mobile GPU, when combined with the right CPU to feed it, delivers the best graphics results PW has ever seen in a mobile workstation. Data sets like that from the 3DS MAX test were often just a blur. And others, like the Energy data set, that normally chunk through one … frame … after … another, ran fluidly. We provide you the test results and place them in context with a comparison to a desktop workstation. The match-up is not apples-to-apples and is not meant to be. It is meant to give you a better idea what the Precision 7720’s performance numbers mean.

And when PW talks about VR-Ready, we are talking all about performance. For professional workstation users, VR-Ready is much more than immersing a user in a vivid virtual reality environment. It is about creating the virtual reality environment. Many of PW’s favorite tools like Premier Pro and After Effects, among others, are used to create VR environments.

And the Quadro P5000 GPU brings a lot of performance to Adobe’s Premier Pro CC.  One key to getting the most from Premier Pro’s rendering engine is to use professional, edit-friendly compression formats like ProRes or DNxHR.  PW ran the workstation through interactive playback tests to look at the editing performance and we provide rendering times for video output. Our results provide Quadro-accelerated rendering and software-only rendering performance. In our Premier Pro projects, the GPU renders final output in real time and is 300% to 500% faster than software-only rendering. (Results are the time to render relative to the video duration, eg: 100% is rendering in realtime, less that 100% is faster than realtime, and greater than 100% is slower than real time. For example, a result of 300% means that a one minute video sequence requires three minutes to render.)

Top-of-the-line everything

There is no doubt. The Precision 7720 is loaded with the best and fastest of everything. Starting with the Quadro P5000 GPU married to Dell’s 4K resolution display. The display provides the high resolution that you expect and the Quadro P5000 delivers the performance that you need. This is a very good solution visually demanding applications – simulation analysis, high-end video, special effects, and virtual reality, and others.

The CPU in our test system is the Intel Xeon E3-1535M which is clocked at 3.10 GHz and can run as fast as 4.20 GHz. The CPU is connected to either 32 GB of 2667 MHz memory or 64 GB of 2400 MHz memory. This combination of memory and CPU provides the speed you need for CFD simulations, rendering output & video effects, among other applications.

As we do a lot of video at PW, we appreciate the terabytes of storage available on the Precision 7720. The large capacity storage option along with high-speed connectivity is fundamental to providing a productive tool for video professionals as well as to other domain professionals with large datasets.

High-performance connectivity includes connections for Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, SD card storage (up to 2 TB devices), mini-DisplayPort as well as HDMI.  The latter was particularly useful when connecting this mobile workstation to the HTC VIVE head-mounted display (HMD).

The price of performance

Top-of-the-line technology comes at a price. A price in terms of weight and power. This 17” mobile workstation weighs in at 3.64 Kg / 8.02 Lbs. all by itself. Add the 240W power adapter and this workstation tips the scales at 4.6 Kg / 10.14 Lbs.   

It’s also not hard to weigh in at more than $7500 or 7500€ for the top-of-the-line Dell Precision 7720 configuration. That won’t surprise most readers. And to be fair, a similarly configured desktop workstation will fall into price ranges quite close to these.

Neither the weight nor the price will deter you when you need the power and the features that this workstation offers.

Which configuration is right for you?

The best configuration possible.

If you are one of those customers who needs a Dell Precision 7720, then by definition, you need the maximum configuration. Let’s be honest here. If you are not that customer, then you should by a different mobile workstation. From Dell, the Precision 5520 is a capable and powerful mobile workstation. But it cannot meet all the demands that a Precision 7720 customer has.

Concretely, this means that you do get the 4K display and not the Full-HD display (how 2007!). It means that you do get the Quadro P5000 and not the P3000 or P4000 which can be found in lesser machines. It means that you do get a full 64 GB of RAM (or 32 GB of the high-speed RAM) and not some feeble 16 GB that is barely adequate for most professional applications. It mean that you do load up your system with 3 or 4 TB of fast storage and not some “standard” configuration (meaning price-point-driven) 512 GB configuration.

If you are a true 7720 customer, then this makes perfect sense. If it doesn’t make sense to you, then that alone tells you that you will be better served to look at some of the nice 15 inch mobile workstations on the market.

Where’s the Beef?

There aren’t many weak points with the Dell Precision 7720. If you need the power, then the weight and the costs are not a problem. The machine has the technology, performance, and features that a demanding professional needs.

Interestingly enough, the only potential weakness PW noticed on the 7720 was very low-tech. Dell provides easy access to the battery and storage from the underside of the system. The latch is quite easy to flip open… maybe too easy. With a new system, the latch causes no problem at all. But a machine this powerful is destined to be on the road for many years to come and PW doesn’t have confidence that this closure will be up to the job.

That said, it is a low-tech, non-critical, potential problem in the future for which a good piece of tape would be an adequate, and equally low-tech, solution.

The PW Perspective

The Precision 7720 is the power-user’s mobile workstation and nothing less. A top-of-the-line configuration has the maximum power and capacity that is available in 2017. The Quadro is blazing fast for VR, visualization, and video. The Xeon CPU crunches numbers fast for simulations and special effects. The 4K display is, simply, what professionals need today. And the 4 TB of storage lets you work without worrying about shifting data around to external disks.

The bottom line: if you need this much power, then nothing else will do.

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