• notebookcomputer
  • 17/02/2023

Dell Precision 5560 Review

If you want to chew through massive datasets or tackle colossal CGI rendering jobs with Dell's premier 15.6-inch mobile workstation, you want the Precision 7560. But what if you'd like something a little easier to carry than that 5.42-pound juggernaut? The Precision 5560 (starts at $1,839; $4,195 as tested) is based on Dell's elegant XPS 15 (9510) chassis and weighs only 4.3 pounds. It can't match the 7560's peak power—max RAM is 64GB instead of 128GB, for example—but it packs more processing cores and faster graphics than its rival the HP ZBook Firefly 15 G8. The trim Precision replaces the Firefly as our Editors' Choice winner among lightweight laptop workstations.

Two-Thirds of the Way Up the Ladder

Like all true workstations, the Precision 5560 carries independent software vendor (ISV) certifications for specialized apps. It's best suited for 2D or light 3D computer-aided design (CAD) rather than strenuous 3D rendering, virtual reality, or data science as the 7560 and its fellow flagships are, but it outstrips the ZBook Firefly 15 by offering an eight-core versus quad-core processor and an Nvidia RTX A2000 professional GPU that's three steps above the Nvidia T500 in the HP.

Our Experts Have Tested 131 Products in the Laptops Category in the Past YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)(Photo: Molly Flores)

Of course, you'll pay for such potency. Dell's base model 5560 is $1,839 but has only an Intel Core i5 CPU and lowly integrated graphics (we won't even apply the term "workstation" to a PC without a discrete GPU). Our test unit was a far greater investment at $4,195 with an eight-core, 2.5GHz (4.8GHz turbo) Core i7-11850H processor, the 4GB RTX A2000, 32GB of memory, a 2TB PCI Express Gen 4 solid-state drive, and the finest available display—an IPS touch screen with slightly taller 16:10 rather than the familiar 16:9 aspect ratio and 3,840-by-2,400-pixel resolution. The standard panel is 1,920 by 1,200 pixels; the Firefly offers only a choice of 1,920-by-1,080 screens.

Dell's spec sheet says the Precision 5560 can be had with Intel's Core i9-11950H or Xeon W-11955M, though at the time of this writing in mid-November 2021, I couldn't configure a unit with one of those CPUs online. Two M.2 slots allow up to 4TB of storage. There's no flex if you grasp the screen corners or press the keyboard deck.

4.0Excellent$2,524.36Check Stockat AmazonRead Our HP ZBook Studio G8 Review 4.0Excellent$2,799.00See Itat AmazonRead Our HP ZBook Firefly 15 G8 Review 4.0Excellent$5,873.99See Itat WalmartRead Our HP ZBook Fury 15 G8 Review 4.0Excellent$1,899.00 See Itat HPRead Our HP ZBook Power G8 Review 4.0Excellent$1,749.00See Itat DellRead Our Dell Precision 7560 Review 4.0Excellent$1,994.99See Itat AmazonRead Our HP ZBook 15 G6 Review 4.0Excellent$1,539.77See Itat AmazonRead Our HP ZBook Create G7 Review 4.0Excellent$2,479.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 Review 4.0Excellent$3,999.99See Itat RazerRead Our Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition Review 3.0Average$2,599.00See Itat MSIRead Our MSI WS66 Review(Photo: Molly Flores)

Clad in aluminum and magnesium alloy, the 5560 measures 0.73 by 13.6 by 9.1 inches, making it fractionally trimmer but a bit heavier than the HP ZBook Firefly 15 G8 (0.76 by 14.2 by 9.2 inches and 3.74 pounds). For comparison's sake, the Precision 7560 makes room for beefier components at 1.08 by 14.2 by 9.5 inches. A face recognition webcam and fingerprint reader built into the power button give you two ways to skip passwords with Windows Hello.

Like its XPS 15 sibling, the Precision 5560 skimps on ports, with just three USB Type-C ports—one USB-C 3.2 port on the right and two Thunderbolt 4 ports on the left. The AC adapter has a USB-C connector, and Dell provides a tiny USB-C dongle with one USB Type-A port and one HDMI video output.

(Photo: Molly Flores)(Photo: Molly Flores)

You'll also find an SD card slot and an audio jack on the right and a security lock slot on the left. Wi-Fi 6 (not 6E) and Bluetooth handle wireless communications.

A Screen Worth Seeing

The 5560 doesn't offer an OLED display option as the XPS 15 does, but if you opt for the 3,840-by-2,400 touch screen you won't miss it: The high-resolution panel offers fantastic brightness and contrast (rated at 500 nits and 1,600:1 respectively), wrapped in some of the thinnest bezels around—Dell cites a 92% screen-to-body ratio.

Dell Precision 5560 Review

Viewing angles are wide, though reflections on the touch glass come in at extreme perspectives, and fine details are razor-sharp. White backgrounds are brilliant, and colors pop with vivid depth and richness. I wish the screen tilted back a little further, but that's my only complaint.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Side-slit speakers pump out loud and clear sound, with surprisingly strong bass and no harshness or distortion even at top volume. It's easy to make out overlapping tracks. A Dell Optimizer utility includes a faux 3D audio toggle and conference-call settings for a quiet room, noisy office, or multiple voices. The webcam has the usual fuzzy 720p resolution and no privacy shutter; it captures reasonably well-lit and colorful images free of noise or static.

The backlit keyboard commits the HP faux pas of arranging the cursor arrow keys in a row, with half-sized up and down arrows stacked between left and right, and requires the Fn key paired with arrows for Page Up and Page Down although there are real Home and End keys. It has a flat and shallow rather than snappy typing feel, but with a bit of practice you can maintain a brisk pace.

The touchpad is enormous and glides and taps smoothly, taking just a bit of pressure for a quiet click, but it has no buttons, let alone the middle button used by many ISV apps. (Windows recognizes a two-finger tap as a right-click and lets you configure a three-finger tap as a middle click.) Dell's laptop workstations don't offer a keyboard pointing stick as Lenovo's and HP's do.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The abovementioned Dell Optimizer software can fine-tune performance settings for individual apps, prioritize network bandwidth for videoconferences, and use the webcam as a proximity sensor to lock the workstation when you leave and awaken it when you return. Other additions to the Windows 10 Pro preload (I was offered the update to Windows 11 during testing) include Dell PremierColor, which lets you choose vibrant, low-blue-light, SD or HD video, internet (sRGB), photo (Adobe RGB), or cinema (DCI-P3) color gamuts; and Dell Power Manager, which monitors battery health and lets you choose cooling settings based on your tolerance for fan noise. I ran our benchmarks in Ultra Performance mode except for our battery test in Optimized.

Testing the Precision 5560: Thick and Thin Workstations Collide

For our benchmark charts, I compared the Precision 5560 to four other 15.6-inch mobile workstations. Its lightweight competitor, the HP ZBook Firefly, unfortunately hasn't completed our new testing regimen, but the HP ZBook Power G8 is that company's most affordable entry and comparably equipped to the 5560.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The other three—the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2, the Dell Precision 7560, and the HP ZBook Fury 15 G8—are heavier, more expensive flagship models. You can see the quintet's basic specs in the table below.

The main benchmark of UL's PCMark 10 simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also run PCMark 10's Full System Drive test to assess the load time and throughput of a laptop's storage. (See more about how we test laptops.)

Three benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate a PC's suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon's Cinebench R23 uses that company's Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs' Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (lower times are better).

Our final productivity test is workstation maker Puget Systems' PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe's famous image editor to rate a PC's performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It's an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.

We consider a PCMark 10 score of 4,000 points to indicate excellent productivity for Microsoft Office or Google Workspace; these machines are merely idling during Word and PowerPoint duty. The Precision 5560's Core i7 held its own against Core i9s in our CPU tests, and the system is an outstanding choice for serious Photoshop work.

We test Windows PCs' graphics with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL's 3DMark, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs).

We also run two tests from the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which stresses both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase tests, rendered offscreen to accommodate different display resolutions, exercise graphics and compute shaders using the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation respectively. The more frames per second (fps), the better.

The 5560's top graphics option, the RTX A2000, is only Nvidia's fourth fastest professional GPU, but for the most part performed better in the Dell than in the ZBook Power G8. It'll satisfy if not necessarily thrill CAD and CGI designers and after-hours gamers.

We run two additional programs to simulate workstation applications. The first, Blender, is an open-source 3D suite for modeling, animation, simulation, and compositing. We record the time it takes for its built-in Cycles path tracer to render two photo-realistic scenes of BMW cars, one using the system's CPU and one the GPU (lower times are better).

Perhaps our most important workstation test, SPECviewperf 2020, renders, rotates, and zooms in and out of solid and wireframe models using viewsets from popular independent software vendor (ISV) apps. We run the 1080p resolution tests based on PTC's Creo CAD platform; Autodesk's Maya modeling and simulation software for film, TV, and games; and Dassault Systemes' SolidWorks 3D rendering package. The more frames per second, the better.

Kudos to Dell—the Precision 5560 topped the ZBook Power, while the Core i7- and RTX A4000-equipped Precision 7560 held its own against the Core i9- and RTX A5000-based ZBook Fury and ThinkPad. The 5560 doesn't pretend to be the fastest mobile workstation on the market, but it's a thoroughly capable rig.

We test laptops' battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of Steel) with display brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100%. We make sure the battery is fully charged before the test, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off.

We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its Windows software to measure a laptop screen's color saturation—what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—and its 50% and peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).

The Precision 5560's battery life proved more than sufficient (laptop workstations spend more time on AC power than general-purpose notebooks or ultraportables). And its display brightness and color coverage were outstanding, rivaling the ritzy DreamColor panel of the HP Fury 15.

Not the Fastest, But One of the Finest

Two or three more ports would be nice, but the Dell Precision 5560 easily earns an Editors' Choice award as a first-rate mobile workstation. It delivers performance only a step behind bulkier flagships in a noticeably thinner and lighter package, with one of the best-looking screens in the laptop game. Like its XPS 15 archetype, it's a winner.

(Photo: Molly Flores)4.5Editors' ChoiceSee It$1,839.00 at DellStarts at $1,839.00View More

The workstation sibling of the celebrated Dell XPS 15, the Precision 5560 is a slim, splendid-screened laptop that can handle all but the toughest professional apps.

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