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Dell Precision 5470 Workstation review: Portable workstation power


Pros

  • Sturdy, slim and lightweight design
  • Strong performance
  • Bright, colourful screen
  • 4x Thunderbolt/USB-C ports

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Modest battery life
  • FHD+ (1920 x 1200) resolution
  • 720p webcam

Dell’s Precision mobile workstations include a number of high-end 17-inch laptops that provide impressive performance, but their size, weight and limited battery life mean that they’re less than ideal for working on the move.

In contrast, the 14-inch Precision 5470 aims to provide a more portable option, with Dell claiming that it’s “the world’s thinnest and lightest 14-inch workstation”. In fact, at 1.48kg, the Precision 5470 is only slightly heavier than Apple’s recently upgraded 13-inch MacBook Pro (1.4kg), but it outguns the M2 MacBook Pro in terms of raw performance. That lightweight design comes with a heavyweight price, though, especially for the Core i7-based model reviewed here, and Dell also makes a few cost-cutting decisions that are disappointing for a laptop in this price range.

Dell Precision 5470 Workstation

Dell Precision 5470: 14-inch 16:10 display (FHD+ or QHD+), 12-generation Intel Core processors (Core i5, i7 or i9), up to 64GB of RAM and up to 4TB of SSD storage. All in a MIL-STD-810H-tested chassis weighing 1.48kg (3.26lb).

Image: Cliff Joseph / ZDNET

Design & features

The build quality of the Precision 5470 is impeccable. The laptop measures 19mm along the rear edge, tapering to 11mm at the front, 310mm wide and 210mm deep. Its aluminium casing is both light and sturdy (MIL-STD-810H tested), and well suited to life on the road. The keyboard and trackpad feel firm and responsive, and the keys travel well when typing at speed, and there’s a soft carbon-fibre palm rest on the front section of the keyboard panel.

Dell Precision 5470 Workstation: Keyboard

The backlit keyboard, flanked by speaker grilles, delivers a comfortable typing experience.

Image: Cliff Joseph / ZDNET

There are signs of compromise, though. The FHD+ (1920 x 1200) display (161.7dpi) delivers a 16:10 aspect ratio and the slimline bezels give it a smart, compact appearance with a 91% screen-to-body ratio. The display also provides 500 nits brightness, and produces a bold, colourful image with close to 180-degree viewing angles.

However, that resolution is quite modest for a laptop costing over $2,500, and it’s disappointing that you have to pay an additional $200 in order to upgrade to QHD+ (2560 x 1600) resolution. The display only supports the sRGB colour standard too, which should be fine for basic graphics and photo-editing work, but will disappoint creative users who need a more precisely calibrated display for graphics or video work.

And while the stereo speaker system — with two woofers and two tweeters — sounds quite full bodied, the 720p webcam is a disappointment, even though it has IR support for Windows Hello face authentication. The webcam performs quite well in dim light, but the slightly grainy image reveals the low resolution so it won’t be ideal for video calls or remote working.

Dell Precision 5470 Workstation: Ports

Left side (top): 3.5mm audio in/out, 2x Thunderbolt 4/USB-C (1x Power Delivery), optional SmartCard reader. Right side (above): MicroSD card reader, 2x Thunderbolt 4/USB-C (1x Power Delivery), lock slot.

Image: Cliff Joseph / ZDNET

The Precision 5470 is well connected, though, featuring Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax at 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6GHz) and Bluetooth 5.2, along with four Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 ports with DisplayPort support. There’s also a combination 3.5mm jack for audio input and output, and a MicroSD card slot. There are no HDMI or USB-A ports, though, so you’ll need to provide your own adapters for older displays or peripherals that use those connectors.

Prices & options

Dell’s website currently offers a number of pre-built configurations for the Precision 5470, all equipped with the same 14-inch display with FHD+ (1920 x 1200) resolution. Dell’s prices fluctuate quite a bit from day to day, but at the time of writing prices in the US start at $1,659 for the entry-level configuration with a 12th-generation Core i5-12500H processor and integrated Iris Xe Graphics, along with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state storage. Oddly, the UK pricing for that model is considerably higher at £2,928.59 (ex. VAT).

We tested the Core i7 model, which costs $2,679 in the US with a 12th-gen Core i7-12800H processor. This is a 14-core processor, incorporating six high-performance cores that can run at up to 4.8GHz, along with eight ‘efficient’ cores to preserve battery life for less demanding tasks. That price also includes 32GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and discrete Nvidia RTX A1000 graphics with 4GB of dedicated video memory. The UK pays a premium here as well, with that configuration weighing in at a hefty £3,666.48 (ex. VAT).

If you delve a little deeper, Dell’s US website also includes a ‘build your own’ option that includes a number of additional upgrades (from the Core i7 model), including a Core i9-12900H processor for $325.05, and a touch-sensitive 14-inch display with QHD+ (2560×1600) resolution (215.6dpi) for $257.71.

It’s also worth mentioning that there is another 14-inch laptop available in Dell’s Precision range, called the Precision 3470. This has a very similar design and specification to the Precision 5470 reviewed here, although its graphics capabilities are more modest, relying on integrated graphics, and an FHD+ display with just 250 nits brightness. At the time of writing, the Precision 3470 starts at $1,479 for a Core i5-1250P model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage.

Performance

It’s not quite in the same league as its 17-inch stablemates, but the Precision 5470 provides strong performance that will appeal to many professional and creative users.

The M2 processor in Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Pro, scores 1,900 for single-core performance in the Geekbench 5 CPU test, slightly ahead of the Precision 5470’s 1,700 score. However, the Dell laptop turns the tables with its multi-core performance, scoring 11,000 compared to 8,986 for the M2 MacBook Pro. It pulls even further ahead on Geekbench’s Compute test for graphics performance, scoring 51,700 while the MacBook Pro manages only 30,180.

That graphical performance is confirmed when running 3DMark Wildlife Extremewhere the MacBook Pro scores 30fps while the Precision 5470 sits comfortably at 40fps. To be fair, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is less expensive at around $2,000, but the MacBook Pro also includes a 2560 by 1600 display at no extra cost, and delivers battery life that the Precision 5470 simply can’t match.

In fact, Dell’s website does its best to avoid the topic of battery life, but in our battery test the Precision 5470 lasted for 7 hours and 22 minutes when streaming full-screen video from the BBC iPlayer using the integrated Iris Xe Graphics and with the screen brightness set to 50%. If you’re not using wi-fi all day long then you should certainly be able to get a full day’s work out of the Precision 5470, but that’s still nowhere near the 19 hours and 56 minutes we got from the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Conclusions

The slimline, lightweight design of the Precision 5470 is attractive, and will appeal to professional users who need a powerful laptop that’s portable enough to carry on long trips or when working outdoors.

However, the Precision 5470 perhaps puts too much emphasis on portability, leaving room for improvement elsewhere. Battery life is relatively modest, even when using integrated graphics, and the FHD+ display and 720p webcam are both disappointing compared to what’s offered by many of its rivals in this price range.


Dell Precision 5470 Workstation specifications

Processor Intel Core i5-12500H, Core i5-12600H, Core i7-12700H, Core i7-12800H, Core i9-12900HK, Core i9-12900H
OS Windows 11 (Home, Pro), Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.6, Ubuntu Linux 20.04
RAM 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB (LPDDR5)
Storage 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB (M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD)
GPU Intel Iris Xe Graphics (integrated), 4GB Nvidia RTX A1000 (discrete)
Display 14-inch FHD+ (1920 x 1200) anti-glare, non-touch,
100% sRGB, 500 nits • QHD+ (2560 x 1600) 60Hz, anti-reflection, touch, 100% sRGB, 500 nits, active pen support
Ports 4x ThunderBolt 4/USB-C ports with Power Delivery and
DisplayPort, 3.5mm audio in/out; also ships with USB-A and HDMI dongle
Slots MicroSD card slot, lock slot, SmartCard reader (optional)
Camera 720p @ 30 fps, HD IR camera with ALS sensor
Audio 4x 2W speakers, 2x microphones
Wi-Fi Intel AX211 Wi-Fi 6E (WiFi 802.11ax, 2.4/5/6GHz)
Bluetooth 5.2
Battery 4-cell, 72Wh
Battery charging 90W (integrated GPU), 130W (discrete GPU)
Security TPM 2.0, SmartCard/ControlVault 3 (optional), fingerprint reader (integrated in power button)
Dimensions 310.60mm x 210.30mm x 11.09mm-18.95mm (12.22in. x 8.27in. x 0.43in.-0.74in.)
Weight 1.48kg (3.26lb)
Price from $1,659 / £2,928.59 (ex. VAT)

Alternatives to consider

There are a number of 14-inch laptops that now aim to provide workstation levels of performance, with Apple’s MacBook Pro range setting the standard for battery life. But if battery life isn’t a top priority, there are larger 16-inch and 17-inch laptops that can genuinely compete with traditional desktop workstations.

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