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December 4, 2020

First Look: Dell Precision Workstation P-5550


There are few things in life I like more than getting new computers delivered to my door. In this case it’s a review unit from the nice folks in the Dell Technologies business reviews side of the house. This particular unit is a reasonably tricked-out Precision 5500 Mobile Workstation, with a publicity still as the lead-in graphic above. It’s got a solid milled aluminum shell above and below, with a carbon fiber keyboard deck and very narrow bezels. As delivered, my review unit carries a retail price tag of US$4,181.15 (but with the holidays and Black Friday coming, and Dell’s occasional discounts, most buyers won’t have to pony up full list price).

Unboxing and Setup

I can say this is one of the easiest OOB experiences I’ve ever had with any laptop. Inside the cardboard shipping box, a second all-black “presentation box” opens with a magnetic catch. And presto — there’s the P5550. I had to read the instructions to identify the blank key at the top right of the keyboard as the on/off switch (it’s not labeled, because it’s also a fingerprint scanner from Goodix, a manufacturer hitherto unknown to me).

As with most pre-configured review units, it opened up into a local admin account with no password. That makes the handoff to reviewers super easy, and I quickly added a Microsoft account of my choosing (also with admin privileges). Once I figured out how to turn the unit on, I was impressed by its blazing speeds. I went from off to desktop in under 10 seconds; restart takes only a couple of seconds longer than that. This beats every other machine I own (including the 2018 vintage Lenovo X1 Extreme itself no slouch) by at least 5 or 6 seconds.

Working with the Hello technologies supported on the unit was also easy and friendly (though I did have a little learning curve to climb in figuring out how to capture the tops and sides of my forefinger’s front digit for the fingerprint scan). Setting up the Hello Camera — which shows up in Device Manager as Windows Hello Face Software Device and is pretty sparing with information about the maker — was also quick and easy, noticeably faster than the same setup on the X1 Extreme (my only other Hello Face equipped device at present). I used Chocolatey to install “a bunch of stuff” on the P5550, and was pleasantly surprised by the lack of bloatware on the PC as provided.

Dell Factory utilities

Conveniently, all the built-in Dell tools start with Dell in their program names. I had 5 at first, and the Document Hub showed up this morning.

Low Bloatware Utility Package

Dell includes a handful of its own utilities as part of the initial configuration including those depicted in the Start Menu screen cap above. Here’s a capsule summary for each one, in order of appearance:

+ Dell Command|Update: checks online for the latest BIOS, Driver, firmware and Dell application updates for your PC. If it finds any, downloads and installs them as well. Reads service tag info automatically.
+ Dell Digital Delivery: provides download and software purchased from Dell. A crafty way to avoid installing real bloatware on PCs, it’s currently offering a copy of McAfee Small Business (30-day-trial) to those who want it. Not me!
+ Dell Document Hub: a so-called “digital collaboration tool” that can use cloud-based OCR to convert scanned documents to editable files. Picked up my network based Dell 2155cn Color Laser AIO without difficulty, too.
+ Dell Optimizer: a performance, application, audio and power management hub for Dell PCs and laptops. I’ll be digging into this more deeply in another story.
+ Dell Power Manager: a battery and power usage monitor that also controls thermal management (thermal settings and fan controls).
+ Dell Premier Color: When I ran this I got a “does not support this system configuration” error message, probably because I’m using the built-in UHD graphics right now, not the Nvidia Quadro T2000 GPU.

There are also a couple of other Dell apps that don’t show up in the Start menu, including a number of DellSupportAssist items, plus DellRemoteAssist. As such things go — pre-installed OEM software, that is — this is pretty modest. By and large, it’s more helpful than otherwise and consumes under 130 MB of disk space. I’ve seen much more on other OEM PCs, both in terms of size and number.

This P5550’s Technical Specifications

I know  this is what everybody’s been waiting for, so they can see what the US$4,100-plus price tag includes. Here goes:

+ CPU: Intel Core Processor i7-10875H (8 Core, 16MB Cache, 2.30 GHz to 5.10 GHz, 45W, vPro)
+ OS: Windows 10 Pro (English/French/Spanish language packs pre-loaded)
+ GPU: NVIDIA Quadro T2000 4GB
+ Display: 15.6″ Ultrasharp UHD+ (3840×2400, touch, IR Camera)
+ RAM: 32 GB (2x16GB) DDR4 2933 Non-ECC memory
+ Storage: M.2 1TB PCIE NVMe Class 50 SSD (SK Hynix PC601A)
+ Networking: Intel Dual Band Wireless AX201 2×2 + Bluetooth
+ PSU: 130W E5 Type C Power Adapter
+ Intel vPro Technology enabled

Here’s the list of ports and such (take a virtual tour of the Precision 5550):

+ 1 USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port
+ 2 Full-size SD card slot
+ 3 Universal audio jack (mini-RCA)
+ 4 Wedge lock security slot
+ 5 2xUSB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3
+ 6 Shipped in the box, there’s a cute little USB-C to HDMI/USB 3 mini-hub

There’s a second (unoccupied) NVMe slot underneath the keyboard, for those with some tinkering ingenuity and the budget to add another NVMe drive to the box. Memory is socketed, so it’s possible to upgrade to 64 GB for those who want to lay out the cash for 2×32 GB DDR4 2933 (about US$250 or thereabouts). The Service Manual (PDF format) is, as always, available through the unit’s product page.

So far, I can say the system has been a pleasure to work with briefly and get (partially) set up. I still have to install some benchmarking and measurement tools before I can really start working it out. But so far is definitely so good. The list price is a bit steep (CDW offers the same CPU and RAM, 512 GB SSD, Quadro T1000, and Full HD 1920×1200 display for US$2775, so make of that what you will). This model is new enough that it’s still commanding the “brand spanking new” price which is always close to MSRP. In six months to a year, that will change.

There you have it for my initial review of this snappy and pricey Dell unit. In follow-up pieces, I’ll put it through its paces and reflect on my user experiences. I’m going to turn my 16-year-old soon loose on it for some gaming, too and see what HE thinks. Stay tuned.

 

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

One Response “First Look: Dell Precision Workstation P-5550”

  1. Steven
    November 27, 2020 at 03:36

    Thanks for this first look at the Dell Precision Workstation P-5550! What results did you get for the WinAreo WEI Tool / winsat formal performance tests on it?

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