Dell Precision M3800 review

Price when reviewed

As ever, our only qualms concern the screen’s staggeringly high resolution; something we’ve moaned about previously in our reviews of laptops equipped with high-DPI displays. While Windows’ scaling settings render many applications at a sensible size, many others end up with text, icons and menus so tiny as to be borderline unusable – before taking the plunge, it’s worth doing some research into whether or not the applications you use properly support high-DPI displays.

Dell Precision M3800


Look around the Dell’s slender edges, and there’s a reasonable amount of connectivity on show. There’s a full-sized SD card reader, one USB 2 port, three USB 3 ports, HDMI and a mini-DisplayPort output. The presence of Bluetooth 4 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi is reassuring, too. The only major disappointments are the lack of an Ethernet socket and, in particular, Thunderbolt, which would have been a perfect addition to a slim laptop with limited internal expandability.

The M3800’s slim chassis has other downsides. Upgradability suffers most acutely, and while it is possible to unscrew the ten Torx screws on the underside and access some parts – the mSATA SSD, empty 2.5in HDD bay and two RAM slots – it isn’t as easy to swap out parts as it is with Dell’s larger Precision mobile workstations, and the battery is more fiddly to replace. Cooling is also something of an issue. Although we didn’t notice any throttling or slowdowns while benchmarking, we couldn’t help but hear the fan noise. Start pushing the Dell’s CPU or GPU, and its low-profile fans spin up with an intrusive whirr.

Some users will also miss the keyboard and touchpoint from chunkier Precision models – we definitely did. There’s little wrong with the M3800’s backlit Scrabble-tile keyboard. It’s a pleasure to type on. However, it doesn’t have the desktop-like key travel of the other Precisions we’ve tested, and there’s no numeric keypad. The loss of the touchpoint is another minor niggle, but it’s the M3800’s buttonless touchpad that’s least endearing. We had to spend some time getting the sensitivity just right, and for a professional machine the integrated buttons don’t work reliably enough. Discrete, physical buttons would have been a much better bet.

Dell Precision M3800


Dell has done well to pack usable amounts of workstation power into such an attractive lightweight package and, while we’re still not sure about the benefits of high-DPI displays, the quality on offer is superb. Our biggest worry, however, concerns future-proofing: the slim chassis compromises on easy upgradability, and the lack of Thunderbolt limits external expansion. If you can live with those compromises, you’re unlikely to be disappointed; the Precision M3800 is as stylish and speedy as Windows mobile workstations come. However, there’s definitely room for improvement.



Warranty1yr on-site

Physical specifications

Dimensions372 x 254 x 21mm (WDH)
Travelling weight2.5kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core i7-4702HQ
RAM capacity16.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total2

Screen and video

Screen size15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal3,200
Resolution screen vertical1,800
Resolution3200 x 1800
HDMI outputs1
DisplayPort outputs1


Spindle speedN/A
Internal disk interfacemSATA
Hard diskLite-On LMT-256M6M
Optical driveNone
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0


Wired adapter speedN/A
802.11a supportyes
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno
Bluetooth supportyes

Other Features

USB ports (downstream)1
3.5mm audio jacks1
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readeryes
MMC (multimedia card) readeryes
Pointing device typeTouchpad/touchscreen
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating1.2mp
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use5hr 42min
Overall Real World Benchmark score0.93
Responsiveness score0.82
Media score1.02
Multitasking score0.96

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
OS familyWindows 8

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