Good looks. Great Power.
What is the first thing to know about the latest Precision 5540 mobile workstation? Despite having the same good looks as the Precision 5530, everything else is brand new. That includes the GPU, the CPU, the display, memory and storage. All of this new technology brings new power. This little devil is fast.
We all enjoy sliding a good looking workstation into our shoulder bag. However, no matter how slick our mobile workstation looks, it has to get the job done.
The Precision 5540 delivers.
Let's begin with usability. What you see and what you touch.
What you see is a new 15-inch OLED display with its deep dark blacks framed in a marvellously thin bezel.
This combination optimises the relationship between the 5540's size and its viewable screen real estate. And it delivers a wide spectrum of colours which can be critical to certain users and enjoyable for all users.
The low-profile keyboard is not as flat as a MacBook Pro, but it is close and the keyboard's feel is solid and responsive. The touchpad is also responsive, as well as large. It benefits in size by omitting the mouse-buttons at the top and bottom of the touchpad.
An OLED display delivers deep black on the Dell Precision 5540 (middle)
The keyboard has a firm feel. The touchpad is large with good sensitivity.
The keyboard has a firm feel. The touchpad is large with good sensitivity. As a thin-and-light mobile workstation, there are no extra mouse buttons at the top and bottom of the touchpad. It is a personal choice, but I prefer the large touchpad to the extra mouse buttons.
And beyond what you see, there is that which sees you. Dell has found a webcam which is small enough to fit at the top of the Precision 5540's ultra-thin bezel. This allows them to place the webcam in the typical position at the top of the display, unlike the previous model.
The connectivity remains the same. The Precision 5540 has one Thunderbolt port, two USB 3.2 Gen.1 ports, an SD card reader, an HDMI port and one headphone jack.
One word about the OLED display. It definitely delivers great blacks and can display a wide range of colours — one billion of them. However, colour can be subjective and I found the saturation levels to be very high. It could be useful for some users to calibrate the colours when having the right colour is key to the project.
Everything else is new and improved
But the rest of the technology is fresh and fast. The OLED display mentioned above is new. The GPU options are the new NVIDIA Quadro T1000 and — as in our test machine — the Quadro T2000.
The processor selection includes the latest Intel Core i9 with eight cores in place of six. The test unit came with the Core i9 9980HK. It has a clock speed of 2.40 GHz and a max turbo frequency of 5.0 GHz.
Memory capacity has been increased from 32 GB to 64 GB. The storage options for the Precision 5540 include one SATA drive and one NVMe M.2 SSD drive. The maximum capacity SSD is a 2 TB Class 40 SSD and the fastest SSD is a Class 50 1 TB SSD.
Across the board performance
The Precision 5540 doesn't lack a performance boost in any category. The new CPUs add cores and increase clocks. This increases the Cinebench CPU test performance by more than 25%.
The Precision 5540 generation uses the Quadro T2000 and T1000. Both use NVIDIA's new Turing GPU architecture. This architecture delivers a significant performance increase. The Viewperf tests, which are very good at isolating GPU performance, show an increase from nearly 25% to nearly 110% with three tests showing a 40%+ performance increase.
It goes without saying that increasing the memory capacity from 32 GB to 64 GB for this thin and light mobile workstation will benefit many users. My tests routinely run up to 25-30 GB with only a single application running. And while that is fine for performance testing, real-life has users with three or more applications running simultaneously. The 64 GB capacity is something that my own workflows could use.
And while the broad outline of storage capacity has not changed with one M.2 SSD drive and a second SATA drive, the performance of the storage continues to be excellent. It offers options for very fast to extremely fast and can be configured with a balance of performance and capacity.
The system that I tested includes:
- NVIDIA Quadro T2000 Max-Q
- Intel Core i9980HK CPU
- 64 GB RAM
- 2 TB Class 40 SSD
- A 4K OLED display
The Precision 5540 uses the Quadro T2000 Max-Q with a TDP (total power dissipation) of 40W. The Quadro T2000 has a TDP of 60W. This is done by lowering the clock speed of the Quadro T2000 Max-Q. It has a base/boost clock of 1200 MHz / 1620 MHz. The Quadro T2000 has a base/boost clock of 1575 MHz / 1785 MHz.
The Quadro T2000 Mobile GPU Upgrade
The Precision 5540 uses NVIDIA's Quadro T2000 GPU. This GPU was launched in May 2019 and is based on NVIDIA's Turing GPU architecture which is also used in Quadro RTX products.
Why only a T moniker? While the Quadro T2000 has a Turing GPU architecture, the GPU has neither the Tensor Cores (used in AI) nor the RT cores (used in ray-tracing) found in Quadro RTX GPUs.
The lack of the R and the X doesn't hurt the performance in our tests. This GPU compares very well with the Precision 5530's Quadro P2000. The T2000 not only has a new graphics architecture. It has more cores. It has faster clock speeds. It has higher memory bandwidth. It has a faster texture rate. And it has much faster single-precision floating-point performance.
NVIDIA created two versions of the Quadro T2000 for mobile workstations. They are the Quadro T2000 and the Quadro T2000 Max-Q. The difference? The Max-Q version has a lower clock speed so that the TDP comes in at 40W compared to the T2000 at 60W.
In Europe, this configuration comes in at 3900€ and in the USA it runs $4400. Both costs exclude local VAT/sales tax.
Performance with style
The stylish design of the Precision 5540 doesn't mean that it lacks power. I compared the 5540 model with the 5530. The gains with the new GPU and new CPU are appreciable. The comparison to the Precision 5530 shows performance gains across the board. Only two tests have improvements in the single digits. Most tests jumped essentially 25 percentage points and more. In some tests, the results double, triple, or even quadruple.
Viewperf isolates GPU performance in a workstation well. The Quadro T2000 delivers performance gains from 23% to 108% compared to the Quadro P2000.
Octane tests CUDA application performance for several rendering tests. In the Octane tests, the Quadro T2000 performs significantly faster than the Quadro P2000 with gains of 295% to 360%.
Cinebench 15 GPU
The Cinebench 15 GPU tests resulted in a 10% increase for the Quadro T2000 compared to the Quadro P2000.
In Premiere Pro, the differences range from 11% to almost 40%. In the case of the lower difference, the GPUs are not running at a 100% load, but waiting to be fed data by the CPU which explains a lower difference.
Here, the fractal effect test is CPU bound and the difference is 11%. The green screen rendering test uses both the CPU and GPU. In this test, the difference is 68%.
Cinebench 15 CPU
Here, the Precision 5540 performance is 26% faster. This is a result that matches reasonably well the addition of two cores and the slightly higher clock speeds.
A Final Perspective
Same good looks on the outside. Newer, faster tech on the inside. That is the Dell Precision 5540 in a nutshell.