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Dell Precision 5540 Mobile Workstation

The laptop for drone user and graphics creatives

Just when you think you’ve got a great mobile computing solution, something always comes along to upset the market. In addition to the added compute demands of rendering and encoding 4K video, consumer drone footage benefits mightily from substantial post-processing to reduce noise, correct artifacts, and perform color grading.

The Dell precision 15 5540 is a great workhorse for photo and video editing .

The Precision 5540 is very similar to an XPS model, with a few workstation twists, like the option for a Quadro GPU and some thermal tweaks, along with being certified for a lot of creative and engineering software. Physically the Precision 5540 looks nearly identical to 9560.

Dell also provides about the same extensive set of ports it has for several years. There is a USB-C port that is now Thunderbolt 3 compatible, HDMI, 2 traditional USB ports, a mic/headphone jack, and a welcome SD card reader. Hard-wired Ethernet is long gone, but Dell does ship a USB-C Ethernet dongle along with the machine. Video callers will be thrilled that Dell has squeezed the webcam into the tiny bezel above the screen, instead of having it next to the keyboard.

Check the Precision 5540 with Windows 10 Home, Pro on our shop.


The Dell Precision 5540 F42X733 in stock comes with Intel Corei7, 2.6GHz, 512 SSD, 16GB RAM, NVIDIA Quadro RTX T2000 4GB Nvidia Geforce Webcam, Wlan, Bluetooth, No Optical Drive,15.6” Screen, Backlit Keyboard, Windows 10 Pro. The screen supports 100 percent of Adobe RGB is the 4K IGZO4 Touch version.

The Precision 5540 Is a Performance Beast for a 4-pound Laptop

By the numbers, the Precision 5540 is a large upgrade over the last-gen XPS. The 8-core i9-9980HK has a lower base clock than the 9560’s i7 (2.4GHz versus 2.8GHz) but it boosts to a maximum of 5GHz and doesn’t throttle nearly as much. Running Cinebench R20 (CPU rendering) the 9560 crashed to a low of .8GHz, helping reduce its score to just over 1000. The 5540 never went below 2.9 GHz which, along with its 8 cores, allowed it to score over 3200. That performance ratio was more than matched in Intel’s XTU benchmark, at 2800 versus 850.

Similarly, the Quadro T2000 is a big upgrade. 3DMark’s TimeSpy jumped from 1800 to 3200, for example. The results for FireStrike were also good, jumping from 5000 to 7400. Following along with a monitor on the CPU temperature and clock speed, a small amount of thermal throttling occurred, but the CPU was always able to perform above its base clock.

What? No RTX?

Having just covered Nvidia’s big push to roll out its RTX capabilities to “Creatives,” I was well aware that even though the T2000 GPU in the Precision 5540 is a beast by mobile standards, it doesn’t have any of the dedicated RTX functionality. In the end, I decided I’m okay with that. It isn’t clear how much true RTX capability is in applications Nvidia touts, so I don’t know what the performance gain would be.

In particular, while I do a lot of rendering, encoding, and image processing, I don’t game on my laptop (much) or use it for ray tracing very often. Similarly, serious AI work will still be the province of my desktop machines or the cloud, which have beefier GPUs and more GPU memory. Plus, the mobile workstations with real RTX GPUs are even heavier and more expensive. If Nvidia is successful in establishing RTX as a permanent part of its architecture, I’m sure that will change over time.

Using the Dell Precision 5540

Overall, the Precision 5540 is a joy to use. The screen is stunning and capable of being incredibly bright. Having the (optional) fingerprint reader in the power button makes returning to the machine simple and intuitive. And the machine is fast. It not only benchmarks fast, it feels fast and is responsive (which you’d certainly expect from all that power under the hood). You can order it with a spinning hard drive as the primary drive, but I find it hard to believe that would ever make sense.

Unfortunately, much like many other Windows computers, the Precision 5540 continues to struggle with sleep-related issues when running Windows 10. The first one I ran across was that the default “connected standby” or whatever the current term is for the default sleep mode is, would enable the machine to fire back up after I closed it and put it in my photo backpack. Forcing it to hibernate solved that problem, but it really shouldn’t be a problem at all in a state of the art high-end machine. The other issue I had with two different units is that after resuming from sleep the WiFi speed was crushed to less than 10% of what it had been before.


Overall, the performance of Precision 5540 is satisfactory. It performs perfectly when processing 360-degree panoramas and lots of 4K drone footage.

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