Help Me, LAPTOP: Precision 7520 vs. ThinkPad P51 – Laptop Mag

When you absolutely, positively have to get the most raw computing power out of your laptop for 3D modeling or engineering, you need a mobile workstation. That’s precisely what forum user egg_cam needs; specifically, egg_cam is trying to decide between the Dell Precision 7520 and Lenovo ThinkPad P51. We’ve reviewed both high-end 15-inch laptops, so we can definitely help with this choice.

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Let’s take a look at how the Precision 7520 compares to the ThinkPad P51 in terms of design, value, battery life, display and keyboard/touchpad.

Design

The Lenovo ThinkPad P51 and Dell Precision 7520 are both heavy, bulky laptops that prioritize power over portability. The ThinkPad P51 is a little lighter, weighing 5.8 pounds, while the Precision 7520 tips the scales at a 6.3 pounds. Dell’s workstation is also noticeably thicker, with a z-height of 1.3 inches, compared to 1.02 inches on the P51.

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Neither laptop will win a beauty contest, but the Precision has a slightly more-premium design, with a carbon-fiber lid and metal chassis, which looks a lot better than the raven-black ThinkPad. Both laptops are designed to pass MIL-SPEC durability tests for extreme shocks, vibrations and temperatures.

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Winner:
Draw. The ThinkPad is noticeably lighter, but the Precision has a more attractive design.

Keyboard, Touchpad and Pointing Stick

Both workstations have comfortable, responsive keyboards. Normally, ThinkPad keyboards are the best in the industry, but on the P51 we tested, the keys felt a little stiff. So, the typing experience with these two machines seems like a wash. Both sets of keys have the same 1.7mm of vertical travel (1.5 to 2mm is typical).

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The Dell and the Lenovo each have touchpads with three discrete buttons that provide a more accurate navigation experience than the buttonless click pads we find on most laptops. Both pads provided accurate navigation in our tests, but Lenovo’s was ever-so-slightly larger, at 4 x 2.2 inches, compared to 3.9 x 2.2 inches on the Dell.

Though not everyone uses pointing sticks, they provide the most accurate and convenient form of navigation you can get on a laptop. Both of these workstations have their own sticks between the G and H keys, but Lenovo’s bright red TrackPoint has a much more pleasant texture than Dell’s blue nub.

Winner: The ThinkPad P51 has a better pointing stick and slightly larger touchpad.

Battery Life 

Both laptops are so heavy that you probably won’t be using them much when you’re far from an outlet. Nevertheless, the ThinkPad P51 lasts significantly longer on a charge than the Precision 7520. Lenovo’s laptop endured for 8 hours and 2 minutes on our battery test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi, while Dell’s workstation pooped out after just 6:28. 

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

Winner: ThinkPad P51 

Performance

When you’re choosing a laptop that can come with a variety of processors and graphics cards, the performance depends a great deal on which components you choose. The Precision 7520 and ThinkPad P51 we tested had the same Intel Xeon CPU E3-1535M v6 CPUs and identical Nvidia Quadro M2200 graphics cards. Nevertheless, the Precision 7520 had a slight edge on all the benchmarks we performed.

Dell’s laptop scored 15,958 on Geekbench 4, a synthetic test that measures overall performance, while Lenovo’s system returned a mark of 15,332. On 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a graphics benchmark, the Precision scored 156,543 compared to the P51’s 137,005.

Winner: Dell Precision 7520

Display

Both laptops are available with a wide variety of screens, but we tested each with a 4K, nontouch panel on board. The Dell Precision 7520’s screen reproduced a colorful 99.9 percent of the sRGB gamut while providing a luminous 365 nits of brightness.

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The ThinkPad P51 was more vibrant (172 percent of the sRGB gamut) but much dimmer (271 nits). As a result, in our testing, colors faded at wider viewing angles on the P51. The ThinkPad also comes with a built-in color calibrator, which helps adjust the temperature for photo and video editors.

Winner: The Dell Precision 7520 is less colorful, but much brighter.

Value

Both Dell.com and Lenovo.com have frequent sales, so the prices at publication time will undoubtedly change in the future. As of this writing, the Precision 7520 starts at $1,199 and the entry-level ThinkPad P51 configuration goes for $1,439. However, the base model of the ThinkPad comes with a Core i7 processor and Nvidia Quadro M1200 graphics, while the base Precision has only a Core i5 and Intel integrated graphics. When you configure the Precision with the same specs as the Lenovo, it costs $1,533, about $100 more than the ThinkPad.

MORE: The Best Laptops for Every Need

When you compare both laptops with our review configurations — a 4K display, an Intel Xeon CPU, 32GB of RAM, Nvidia Quadro M2200 graphics and a 512GB PCIe SSD — the Precision costs $3,564 and the ThinkPad P51 goes for $2,915. That’s a $600 difference in favor of the ThinkPad.

Winner: The ThinkPad P51 is much less expensive.

Bottom Line

Let’s be clear: These two laptops are very similar, and you can’t really go wrong with either one. But if the prices were similar, I’d go for the Precision 7520, because of its brighter screen and slightly better performance.

However, I’m recommending the ThinkPad P51, as it’s hundreds of dollars cheaper. And let’s not forget that it also lasts longer on a charge and comes with a color calibrator.

Credit: Laptop Mag

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP’s real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
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