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Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation

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Dell Precision mobile workstations are a very special direction of notebook design. And the name Precision (precision, accuracy) was not chosen by chance. The company’s engineers are tasked with creating uncompromising professional tools, which you can take with you. And the work is carried out in two complementary directions. First, all Precision must be as practical as possible. In every detail. Second, their performance should be on par with a powerful desktop PC. So you can create the most complex content without having to go back to the office or home.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
Dell Precision 15 (3520) is the new member of the Precision family of workstations. Let’s see together what the seventh generation Intel Core and Nvidia Quadro M620 managed to do.
But we won’t start with performance. How much should a 15-inch laptop with professional discrete graphics, a 6-hour battery life and pretty good upgrade options weigh? Usually it’s 2.4-2.6 kilograms or more. But the Precision 3520 is 2.2. It’s not a fluffy thing, but it doesn’t feel like it’s in my backpack. Moreover, when I carried it home in my bag with my work laptop, even together they could not pull away my hand. And it’s not because of any particular pumping of my fingers or triceps.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
The exterior of the Precision 15 (3520) is completely traditional. The radical black body with slightly rounded edges is diluted only by the silver Dell logo on the lid. It is assumed that the owner of this machine is used to stand out in the crowd with something other than his gadgets. But under the lid there is a full-size keyboard with a number pad and well-chosen key stroke. Although, frankly speaking, I don’t remember any unsuccessful keyboards in Dell mobile computers.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
The keyboard has room for a strain gauge joystick, which Dell calls Track Stick, but is better known under the pseudonym TrackPoint in the ThinkPad family. Frankly, given the convenience of modern touchpads, I don’t see much point in joysticks. And it’s more of a tribute to the few conservative pros than a really important feature. Nevertheless, I found one very useful feature: a light touch to the Track Stick activates the backlight of the keyboard. The latter has two gradations of brightness, but there is no real need to set the maximum level.
Inside
I’ll say this right away: this model is designed for pros, and it actually has no fixed configurations. The buyer is supposed to know his needs, and pick a machine to suit them, rather than trying to adjust to a ready-made option. The configuration I’ve been to is also made for a specific customer. And we’ll talk about pricing at the end of this post.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
The Precision 15 (3520) opens very simply, and the owner has access to all the components.

The Dell Precision 15 (3520) can come with a variety of processors, and my copy is built on the Core i5-7300HQ, not the most powerful version. For those who are willing to pay for speed, there are models with Core i7 and even Xeon E3-1505M v6. On the other hand, even the Core i5 does quite well, thankfully it’s not a bloated version for ultrabooks, but a normal 4-core chip with a working frequency of 2.5 GHz and 3.5 GHz under maximum load.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
It is worth paying attention to the fact that the RAM of Precision 15 (3520) is not soldered into the board, but consists of standard SO-DIMM DDR4. The processor can address up to 64 GB, but I was able to find evidence of using "only" 32 GB in this model. Given the fact that the back cover can be removed without any special tricks, you can make the upgrade on your own and at the right time. Another good news for those who need it: the workstation supports ECC memory.
Paired with the processor is the Nvidia Quadro M620 chip, which also started being released only in 2017. In the Quadro family it is one of the younger models, but we are still talking about a real Quadro. Users of 3DMax, LightWave, Maya, SolidWorks and other professional applications can enjoy all the benefits of certified Nvidia drivers for this family. As for entertainment, everything is very good here, too. Two gigabytes of GDDR5 memory with 128-bit bus and a chip with a working frequency of 756 MHz give us an average 45 frames per second in GTA5 and the same in the HD-version of World of Tanks with high graphics settings and anti-aliasing TSSAA-LQ. No, it’s not exactly a gamer’s machine, and harder games at max settings will give 15-20 FPS. But still, it is very much possible to play on the Dell Precision 15 (3520).
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
Separate compliments deserve a matte Full HD screen with IPS-matrix, distinguished not only by bright and true colors, but also very even backlighting without light spots on a black background. On such a screen you can do everything: work with code, edit images statically and dynamically, watch movies, etc. Of course, for a serious designer 15.6 inches diagonal is about nothing, but in this case there is a full-size HDMI connector for connecting an external display. Paired with it, the workstation will be absolutely full-featured.
The space in the case allowed to place the speakers of impressive size. They not only play loudly and with good bass, but also provide quite accurate positioning of objects in games. The latter is usually not very typical for laptops, at least not without headphones. But progress in compact audio is slowly getting there as well.
In the photo without the back cover it is easy to see that there is room for a 2.5" drive in the case. By default, my version has a 256GB Micron 1100 SSD with a four-channel Marvell 88SS1074 controller. Its write and read speeds are almost identical, about 500 Mbytes/sec. If you buy a model with SSD, and then suddenly feel like a classic, you won’t be able to install a regular HDD right away, there are no SATA connectors. But in Dell you can order a special kit with the disk, where the required adapter is included in the load. The price of the kit is not robbery. And, as far as I understand, once you put the HDD, you don’t have to give up the SSD.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
Also note that the models without built-in modem have all the necessary antennae wiring for the latter. So, if you suddenly feel the need, it will be no more difficult to install it than the RAM.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
The set of connectors is nice: besides the already mentioned HDMI, we have three USB 3.0, one USB Type C and a card reader. And the cherry on the cake are the VGA and Ethernet ports.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
So there’s no problem connecting to any, even the most ancient projector, as well as to the local network of businesses that still don’t trust Wi-Fi. No, seriously – it’s really handy when the developers have taken care of literally everything and you don’t have to buy any adapters.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
And, as is customary with Dell, almost all connectors are recessed into the motherboard, and where this is not possible, are reinforced with special fasteners. Even a hard sideways bump on a flash drive or cable won’t rip a port out of its slot.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
The base version of the Dell Precision 15 (3520) comes with a 4-cell 68Wh battery, but a 6-cell 92Wh is available as an option. Is there a need for more capacity? That’s for you to decide. Four cells is enough for 6.5-7 hours of operation in 2D mode. 3D and games reduce this time by half, but, importantly, battery life does not prevent the laptop from showing full performance. So if you know in advance that the loads away from the outlet can be significant, it is better to think about six cells right away. In other cases you can do with the basic version. With an impressively sized power supply (135 Watt, is that too much?) the battery charges to about 80% in about an hour and then charges for about the same amount of time before it is fully charged.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
It would be unfair of me not to warn the reader about one feature of this workstation. As I said above, it has a high performance processor and a discrete video chip. The former has a TDP of 45W, the latter TGP 30W. And a single propeller is responsible for their cooling. It is big, with unusual design of the blades, and the air duct is obviously made specially for this model. But still one propeller often has a bit of a hard time and accelerates to high revolutions. No, it does not reach the high-frequency squeal, but you can hear the cooler. Even when processing photos in Adobe Photoshop, which, as you know, has long been able to load the GPU. I remember laptops of 15 years ago that really roared, so I indulged the propeller in the Precision 3520. But if you are struggling for complete quietness in the workplace, it makes sense to give it a test drive before you buy it.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
The choice of operating systems is unusually wide. Dell, of course, recommends Windows 10 (we all love Windows 10!), but customers can also choose from Windows 8, Windows 7, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 7.2 and even Ubuntu.
Question price
We’re already used to manufacturers sticking out the price of a minimal configuration that you can’t really use. When it comes to a really productive machine, the price is quite staggering.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation
A powerful power supply is not so much needed for the workstation itself as for the various peripherals it can power.
In the case of the Dell Precision 15 (3520), things are a bit different. In Russia, Dell voices the price of a very impressive configuration, including a Core i7-7700HQ processor, Quadro M620, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, an increased battery (92Wh, 6 cells) and Windows 10 Professional. It costs 107, 166 rubles. This iron is really enough for most tasks, including quite "heavy". The rest depends on the needs of the future owner. The price can be both significantly reduced and significantly increased. As we already know, a lot can be changed. Even the matrix in the screen can be replaced by a cheaper one, if the owner is not planning to look at the image for hours. Just for information, on the American site the minimum configuration of Precision 15 (3520) costs $999 excluding taxes, and the maximum is $3, 100. As you can see, the room to maneuver is enormous.
Total
The quality and capabilities of a working tool are important in any profession. Forgive me for blasphemy, but it does not matter at all what lets you down at the crucial moment, a notebook or a punching machine – the result is always unpleasant and fraught with financial losses. Professional tools differ from amateur ones in the way that they by default take into account all peculiarities of the tasks faced by a professional in a particular sphere.
The Dell Precision 15 (3520), while maintaining all the advantages of a mobile computer, provides the performance of a desktop computer. And, moreover, managed to keep the flexibility of the desktop system, its suitability for future upgrades.
A solid, well-built machine that you can not only work on, but also play on. It’s great that modern technology has made this combination possible.
Dell Precision 15 (3520): A professional mobile workstation

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