Dell Powers New Laptops, Workstations With Latest Intel Chips

Michelle Maisto covers mobile devices, Android and Apple for eWEEK and is also a food writer.

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New lineup of Dell Vostro laptops feature Intel Core i7 processors and high-end M4500 workstation is first to combine Nvidia Quadro graphics

Dell has made two new product announcements today designed to appeal to small-to-midsized business (SMBs), with a new line of Vostro laptops, alongside high-performance computing (HPC) environments, with the M4500, a 15.6-inch mobile workstation that Dell said is the world’s most powerful and the first to combine new Intel processors with Nvidia Quadro FX 1800M graphics.

With the new lineup of Vostro laptops and the high-end M4500 workstation, Dell is addressing the needs of both SMB customers requiring secure, reliable and nimble solutions, as well as professionals in areas such as media and entertainment, oil and gas, architecture and engineering, who need the most robust offerings on the market.

For the former comes the Vostro 3000 series, a line of 13, 14, 15 and 17-inch laptops designed as “big sister” products to the 13-inch Vostro V13 introduced in December.

Where the V13, which starts at just $449 (£300), offers a choice Intel ultra-low voltage processors, the 3000 series features full-performance hard drives that scale up to Intel Core i7 processors, based on the chipmaker’s Nehalem architecture, support up to 6GB of double-data rate 3 (DDR3) SDRAM memory and, in the instance of the 17-inch 3700, offers the option of up to 1GB of Nvidia GeForce discrete graphics.

Still, Peggy Kaley, Dell’s senior product manager for Vostro, told eWEEK: “This series is far less spec focused and more pain focused. Small business professionals have limited resources and their time should be spent on the focus of their businesses.”

Kaley said that Dell identified three significant pain points that pose challenges for SMBs that her company is addressing with the 3000 series.

The first is the need to stretch a budget, where Kaley pointed to features such as the possibility of eight hours of battery life and the option of a backlit keyboard, which previously was only offered in Dell’s Latitude line. The 13-inch 3300, despite being “one of the industry’s thinnest commercial laptops,” includes an optical drive, where all models come with webcams and microphones, and all but the 3000 include an HDMI port.

Pricing for the three smaller models starts under $600 (£401), while the 3700 starts near $650 (£435).

Support is the second pain point and the 3000 series features Dell’s ProSupport, with which, for a one-time annual fee, customers can choose a level of 24-hour support, which includes having a single point of contract and a promised two-minute call pickup time.

Data security and safety, the third pain point, are huge issues for SMBs, Kaley added. “We try to resolve this,” she said, “by offering the right features, like optional encrypted hard drives, fingerprint readers, free-fall sensor-enabled hard drives and software called Dell DataSafe,” an online solution that users can set once and forget about, assured of regular backups at their designated internals.

Staff and infrastructure, however, aren’t major issues for the second group Dell addressed today, also with product updates.

The computer maker also introduced refreshes to three of its tower workstations — the Dell Precision T7500, T5500 and T3500, which will be among the first to feature Intel’s Xeon 5600 processors. More details on these are still to come.

Additionally, it introduced the M4500, which follows from the M6500, introduced in February, and is the first 15.6-inch mobile workstation to offer SSD MiniCard storage.

The M4500 is the world’s most powerful 15.6-inch mobile workstation,” Mano Gialusis, a Dell senior product marketing manager, told eWEEK. “We’re able to make that claim due to a couple of key pieces [including that] we’re the only manufacturer to have Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition and next-generation Nvidia FX 1800M graphics. We were also able to get 1GB of memory on a 15-incher, which we’re pretty happy about.”

The optional 64GB SSD MiniCard plugs into the M4500’s PCI port and is another point of pride because Dell’s competitors, said Gialusis, have to remove their optical drive to offer a similar solution.

“We can keep our optical drive, keep our primary drive, and have the SS MiniCard in the system,” he said. “A typical use case for me is someone who has separate hard drives for separate jobs, or needs to lock up a file. You could fill up one hard drive, with say animation files, and you can pull it out and put it away, and maybe pop in another hard drive for another project.”

Other features on the M4500 include an optional HD+ sRGB LED 15.6-inch display with a 100 percent user-selectable colour gamut support; an optional 3-megapixel camera; mobile broadband support and Qualcomm’s Gobi 2.0 technology; a weight of 6 pounds and support for 32- and 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows 7.

Also included are Dell Precision ON technology. Precision ON Reader offers a quick look at email or calendar apps, without powering up the operating system, while Precision ON Flash — focusing more on security than quick convenience — lets users, over Wi-Fi or mobile broadband, connect to the enterprise backend without connecting to the operating system (OS).

Pricing and a timetable for the M4500 and new tower workstations are still a work in progress. The Vostro 3000 series, however, and which comes in silver, red or brown, is now available in US and parts of Asia, with availability extending to Europe, Latin America and other geographies from 16 March.

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