Powerful laptop can have i7 processor, 2GB of video memory. Also, how Dell helped the movie Gravity

AUSTIN, Tex – Dell is moving to address what it has identified as an unserved gap in the workstation market with the launch of the Precision M2800, a 15-inch mobile workstation.

As part of a Dell press event on Friday in the shadow of the annual South by Southwest music and film conference here, Dell unveiled the unit, which complements its M3800 and M4800 models.

Andy Rhodes, general manager of the company’s global workstation business, said there was a need by buyers for a PC with power in the right form factor but and an accessible price point.

“Students going to college doing engineering degrees — a lot of them can’t get access to workstations and have to compromise with a white box solution, or something that just isn’t up to the job they need to do,”  Rhodes gave as an example.

Others included emerging economies and larger companies that tier their engineering ranks – all either have to make do with underpowered equipment or stay chained to their desks, constraining their productivity and job performance.

“We’ve examined all these underserved markets and found the gap in the market was a 15-in. mobile at the right price point,” said Rhodes. “We’re trying to remove the cost barriers to workstation performance and mission criticality in the 15” mobile space.”

Dell's Andy Rhodes unveils the M2800.
Dell’s Andy Rhodes unveils the M2800.

According to Dell, the Precision M2800 aims to bridge the gap between business-class laptops and mobile workstations with an affordable ISV-certified system with professional graphics and processors. Configuration options include fourth-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, AMD FirePro W4170M graphics with 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 video memory, up to 16GB of system memory and up to 1TB of storage. The 15.6” UltraSharp display is available in HD or FHD (1920 x 1080), and the M2800 will be ISV-certified for common workstation applications such as Autodesk AutoCAD, Inventor and Revit, Dassault Systèmes Solidworks and PTC Creo.

“These customers at the right price point can get an ISV-certified mobile workstation, so they know it will work on the apps they care about the most, they know they’ll get the performance they need with the Dell performance optimizer tool and up to Intel Core i7, as well as professional graphics,” said Rhodes. “No longer do they have to compromise.”

Dell's M2800 Precision mobile workstation.
Dell’s M2800 Precision mobile workstation.

The M2800 is compatible with Dell’s existing docking solutions, offering investment protection for customers looking to upgrade from a Latitude laptop, and it weighs in at about 5.6 lbs. It starts at $1,119 and will be available this spring.

Also at the press event Dell mentioned that the digital effects on Gravity, the Sandra Bullock/George Clooney space drama which won a number of Oscars at the recent Academy Awards  including the trophy for Best Visual Effects, was produced on its Precision tower workstations.

Framestore, a digital effects and animations studio, explained its work on the riveting astronaut drama. set in orbit high above the Earth.

“During this process there were a lot of unknowns,” said CTO Steve MacPherson. “One was how many resources we would need computationally to deliver this. When we started filming, Dell was one of our partners but not a key partner. By the time filming ended, Dell was a key partner.”

And Framestore needed considerable computing power. Some 80 per cent of the scenes in Gravity were animated and computer generated. In some scenes, only Bullock’s face was used; the rest was created by animators on PCs. Bullock and Clooney spent much of the shoot in elaborate harnesses, acting out scenes for the motion capture cameras that would be digitally animated by Framestore’s graphic artists.

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