Mobile workstation comparison

Posted: 10.03.17

Four different machines 

At Siggraph Dell announced a new Anniversary edition thin and light 5520 Precision mobile workstation in recognition of the brands 20-year contribution to the mobile space. While Dell was celebrating their 20th anniversary PNY took the occasion to throw their hat in the ring by introducing their first workstation product, the Prevail Pro P4000 & P3000 mobile workstations. 

We had the opportunity to stack up the 20-year veteran against the new upstart this week, as well as others. 

When evaluating a mobile workstation, from our point of view, we think the Pmark with weight (pounds) included is a very good base. But, there are (at least) two ways to use the Pmark.

First, let’s review what goes into a Pmark: Price, Performance, Power, and in the case of a mobile device, Pounds. 

The equation is pretty straight forward: 


  1. One way to use it is to pick a performance number that favors your favorite product, and then use the published specifications.
  2. Another way is to run a battery of tests and take the average score., and use published specifications.
  3. A third method is to use an average score, measure the actual power being consumed during test.
  4. And lastly (for this litany) is to use number three above and include the weight of the power supply (PSU).

We will show you our results for item two, and four.

The machines
Many people will look at the following list and say that’s not a fair comparison, different CPUs, different GPUs, and different screen size. Yes, all true, but this is a comparison. There will always be variances in design and products, but these products are built for the same purpose, to provide the user with the best mobile workstation experience. 

For the performance tests, we ran ViewPerf 12.1, Cinebench R15, Passmark, and GeekBench 4. As you might expect, some machines did better in one test than another, however, the Dell 7710 did best in all tests except ViewPerf, an in that one the PNY P4000 did 22% better than the 7710 this was expected given the 7710’s larger form factor. 

But, in terms of the Pmark, anyway you want to use it, once again the @Xi PowerGO 15/7 took the prize in specifications, while the Del 5510 won on measured results.

Many reviewers will simply use ViewPerf for evaluating a workstation, and that’s what the consortium’s test was designed for. ViewPerf, developed and maintained by the Spec organization, is a tried and trusted series of tests that incorporates several real-world applications, and so it is not considered a simulated test, like the others. 

ViewPerf uses Catiia, Creo, Maya, Siemens, and Solidworks, as well as a data set from MRI files, and energy.

Each one of those tests is given a unique score, and so if you are working in a specific field, like say CAD, then you can look at the Siemens or Catia results to judge how well the workstation you are considering might do on your data.

For the purposes of calculating the Pmark, we took the average of those test scores for the ViewPerf entry in our overall average performance number. However, ViewPerf is an important enough test we thought its results should be shown separately.

Depending upon what your personal preferences are, one of these machines should satisfy you. Jon for example wants a lot of pixels, and no weight. The Dell 5520 is his choice. Alex likes a big high-resolution screen and isn’t afraid of a little bulk, so he tends toward the Dell 7710. I’m a power freak and for me the PNY is the best choice, while Kathleen thinks the @Xi is the coolest looking, well performing machine. Notice, none of us put price even in the equation. Generally speaking we don’t think many users of professional workstations, especially mobile units put price very high on their list. 

What do we think?
The machines have a mix of Xeon and I7 CPUs, and this will probably be the last year we’ll see that. With the introduction of the W series Xeon processors from Dell, workstation suppliers will be strongly discouraged from using an I7 as a workstation processor. Intel may even go so far as to punish such companies by denying marketing dollars.

Also, late this year AMD’s workstation CPU will be out, and possibly late this year, but early next year for sure we will start to see AMD CPU based workstations, both mobile and desktop/side/under/rack. We also expect to see AMD APU entry-level workstations, mostly in the mobile segment.

However, BOXX just announced a Threadripper-based workstation, and we’ll be testing that soon.

Epilog – cons of Pmark
Alex Herrera isn’t a fan of Pmark. Reason being, it applies equal value to all the metrics (e.g. performance, price, power weight) when buyers will be looking at different features he feels price-performance is worth making a “combo” mark, but beyond that, you’ve got buyers that care about performance far more than weight, for example. Or vice versa. And ditto for power.

For performance, Alex does not think it’s true that “Many reviewers will simply use ViewPerf for evaluating a workstation, and that’s what the consortium’s test was designed for.”

Viewperf is one good test, but it definitely is not a comprehensive system-level test. It stresses the rendering side only, mostly GPU. Cinebench also pure rendering. Alex thinks SPECwpc is a much better, holistic battery of tests which does evaluate the entire system (and which happens to include virtually all the Viewperf datasets).