Category Archives: Hardware Reviews

We are constantly getting a wide variety of hardware and software to test and exercise under a range of conditions. As you might expect, some work better than others, some play nicely with others (or not), and a few are genuinely pleasant surprises. Here you’ll find a collection of reviews on a range of products. We’ll be updating this section frequently as we run across new stuff, so come back soon and often!

X1 Nano First Look

Sometimes, you just get lucky. This Monday, I saw Rich Woods’ review of the Lenovo X1 Nano laptop at Immediately thereafter, I emailed my contact at Lenovo to ask for a review unit. Yesterday (one day later) I had that unit in my hands. That’s lucky! This mini-review is my X1 Nano first look report. Also, I’ll be writing about this light, compact, and powerful unit one or two more times in the next couple of weeks. Then, alas, I must return it.

Impressions from X1 Nano First Look

I’m a fan of the more compact X series ThinkPad laptops. I currently own an X220 Tablet (2012 vintage), 2 X380 Yogas (2018) and an X390 Yoga (2019). I like the portability of the 13″ form factor. I like the ease with which I can throw a unit (or two) into a carrying sleeve, a briefcase, or a backpack. On family trips especially, I’m used to taking two small laptops along. Thus, I can still keep up with email and post blogs while on the road. And my wife and son can use the other laptop when their smartphones aren’t enough.

I came into this review thinking the Nano would be a great candidate for family laptop on the road. I came out of it thinking that it would make an excellent (if lighter duty) candidate for work laptop on the road. I’ll need more time with the unit to suss this out further.

X1 Nano First Look.speccy

PiriForm’s free Speccy tool shows the basic components in this review unit.

X1 Nano Review Unit Speeds & Feeds

OK then, it’s got a Tiger Lake (11th generation) i5-1130G7 CPU, which runs at 1.10GHz on four cores and eight threads. Burst mode goes to 1.80 GHz for single-threaded tasks. It also comes with 16 GB of surprisingly fast LPDDR4-4266 RAM. It’s the first laptop I’ve used with Intel Iris Xe graphics. (Once again: these are surprisingly fast and also capable.)

There’s a Samsung OEM 512 GB SSD (NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4) that’s reasonably fast (NotebookCheck calls it “entry-level to mid-tier by H1 2020;” one year on, it’s pretty much straight-out entry level). It’s got a non-touch, 2560×1440 (2K), 450 nits, 16:10, sRGB display that’s crisp and readable at default resolution. The only ports on the device are two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C connections: one labeled for power-only, the other labeled for power and data.

It also sports a speedy Intel AX201 Wi-Fi chipset that meshed quite nicely with my Asus 802.11AX router. (Access speeds of 400 Mbps and better, in a busy, signal-rich office environment.) Oh, and it has a fingerprint reader and a 720p Windows Hello capable integrated Webcam, too.

What’s missing on this unit for those who don’t have a Thunderbolt dock handy? (I have several.) At least one USB 3.0 Type A port, and  a micro SD port for added, onboard flash storage. With even high-capacity uSDXC cards now pretty affordable, I do indeed wish Lenovo had found a way to squeeze one in somewhere.

What Makes the X1 Nano a Standout?

It weighs only 906 grams (1.99 lbs). It’s got a carbon fiber top deck and a  (nicely coated) magnesium bottom deck.  The keyboard is about 10% smaller than the one on my other X model ThinkPads. Even so, it feels (and works) so much like those others that I can’t tell any difference. And for somebody like me who makes his living by typing on a keyboard, that’s a big thing.

The display is also pleasingly bright and clear, and the Iris Xe graphics are fast, crisp and powerful. I’m no gamer, but I couldn’t make the display choke up even by throwing graphics pop-ups at it. Working with my usual mix of multiple Chrome, Firefox and Edge windows, plus MS Word for writing, I was impressed. It works and feels just like my now-aging but still capable i7-6700 Z170 desktop (32 GB RAM, Samsung 950 Pro SSD, GTX 1070) on my typical in-office workloads. Even comparing CrystalDiskMark 8.0.1 results for the two primary drives, they’re almost identical.

More to Come in Days Ahead

Right now, my response to this PC is an enthusiastic “So far, so good.” As equipped, this unit’s MSRP on its Lenovo product page is US$1727.40. That makes it about $100 less than a 10th generation,   i7-equipped, non Iris XE (Intel 620 UHD) touchscreen ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 5.

Were I myself to buy one of these, I would spring the extra $120 for an i7 CPU. It uses an M.2 2242 NVMe drive, of which 1 TB units are not yet readily available on the aftermarket. Thus, I would probably buy the 256 or 512 GB SSD and then do a swap myself, when higher-capacity, higher-performance options go up for sale.

Other than that, it’s a delightful little laptop. I recommend it highly, subject only to my reservations. Those are: few ports, no SDXC slot, and a mildly painful ouch factor on price. But that’s how it is for “thin-and-light” laptops, isn’t it?



Insane GPU Prices Make Recycling Old Tech Sensible

It’s time for me to refresh my desktop PC. The old motherboard runs a Z170 chipset with a Skylake I7-6700 processor. The former made its debut in August 2015 and the latter one month later. If memory serves, I built this machine in mid-2016. That makes the technology more than 5 years old, and the PC closing in fast on that age. I’ve been planning a new build for a while now. I just went back to check parts prices. For me, given a still working Nvidia GTX 1070 card in the current build,  today’s insane GPU prices make recycling old tech sensible.

What Insane GPU Prices Make Recycling Old Tech Sensible?

If memory serves, I paid around US$500 for my GPU when I bought it over 5 years ago. Guess what? That same card costs costs US$500 now! A more modern Nvidia 2070 card goes for around US$1,000. And the latest generation, top-of-the-line 3080 cards cost US$1,800 and up. I’m serious: these prices are really nuts!

Wait and See Is All I Can Do

I’d already planned to re-use my case. Other items in my planned bill of materials include a Ryzen 5 5600X 6-core CPU (US$420), Noctua NH-U12A cooler (US$150), MSI Meg X570 Unify mobo (US$400), 32GB (2×16) DDR4-3200 (US$155), 2xSabrent PCie 4.0 M.2 1 TB SSD (US$340), and a Seasonic Platinum PX-850W PSU (US$170). Total price, sans GPU: US$1,635. That’s more than I spent on my last build, but includes two fast, sizable SSDs and a beefier power supply.

As for a new GPU, it’s on hold until prices come down. I can live with the 1070 GTX until 2070/3070 prices recede from 4 figures. Or, I can wait for a windfall — or a wild hair — and take the plunge at another time. There’s no hurry.

For the moment, I can really and truly assert once again that current GPU prices are just crazy. Sigh. It’s always something, right?


Best Holiday Wishes For 2020

Dear Readers:

You may not celebrate the same holidays that we do here at Chez Tittel. That’s perfectly OK. But whatever joys and remembrances you can find as 2020 gives way to 2021, I hope you’ll savor and find pleasure in them. We’re gearing up for a nice long holiday weekend right now. Today, I’m sharing an image of my wife Dina’s magnificent rumcake with one and all. I wish you could smell it (heavenly!) but even as a photograph it’s a pretty tasty image. And please: accept our best holiday wishes for 2020, and our hopes that 2021 will manage to improve on this year in every possible way.

After Best Holiday Wishes for 2020, Then What?

I’ll be posting sparely and sparsely until January 4, when I’ll resume a normal working schedule. We’ll be off to a new year of Windows 10 adventures and misadventures. I’ll keep chronicling them as they come my way, so please stay tuned.

High-Tech Goodies from S. Claus

I’d been looking around for a battery pack stout enough to keep our iPad running for the best part of the day. I found it in a RAVPower Xtreme RP-PB41 charger (26800 mAh). My son, Gregory opted in for a Schiit Modi3+ D/A Converter to sweeten his headphone audio. The boss has take over custody of the Dell Optiplex Micro 7080 I’ve been writing about lately as her daily driver. Like her, it’s a boss machine! We’ll have plenty to play with after the formal exchange of gifts tomorrow morning.

Of all the toys I acquired this year, my favorite remains the Sabrent NVMe drive enclosure with an ADATA XPG 256 GB NVMe SSD inside. It’s what I use to store my library of ISO images for use with Ventoy (or ready mounting and rooting around inside). Still peachy!

And again, best holiday wishes from all of us to all of you. May 2021 be a vast step up from 2020 for everyone.



Practice Shows Little Speed Difference USB 3.0 versus USB-C

Just for grins, I conducted an experiment on one of my Lenovo X380 Yoga laptops. I hooked up two identical Seagate ST2000LM003 2TB HDDs drives. One is in an Intatek FE2004C USB-C drive enclosure; the other in a StarTech 52510BPU33 USB-3 drive enclosure. Using the two drives, and comparing them in CrystalDiskMark, practice shows little speed difference USB 3.0 versus USB-C. That’s the point of the following graphic in this story, fact.

Practice Shows Little Speed Difference USB 3.0 versus USB-C.3top-Cbottom

USB 3 on top; USB-C on the bottom. Big block transfers favor C, but random access favors 3. It’s a toss-up!

If Practice Shows Little Speed Difference USB 3.0 versus USB-C, Then What?

This makes me feel OK about hanging onto my older USB 3 drive enclosures because there’s only a small performance difference between them. It’s not like the results make me want to surplus all of my old USB 3 enclosures and replace them with their USB-C counterparts. This is good for the general exchequer, if for no other reason.

Check Out Uwe Sieber’s USBTreeView

As it happens, it’s not as easy as I thought it would be to determine what kind of USB interface a specific drive enclosure is using. Nir Sofer’s otherwise excellent USB Device Viewer (USBdeview.exe) didn’t clue me in. I turned to Uwe Sieber’s USB Device Tree Viewer (USBTreeView.exe) instead.

In the summary section, the device information in that utility distinguishes which USB version is in use for a targeted device. It alone was able to tell me that my D: drive (the USB 3 attached device) was running USB Version 3.0.  It also informed me that my E: drive (the USB-C attached device) was running USB 3.1 Gen ? You see the latter info from Sieber’s utility as the lead-in graphic for this story.

That latter designation is less informative than it could be, but I know my X380 only supports Gen 1 anyway. Thus, that particular the mystery is not too shrouded in obfuscation to penetrate.

When Do New-Tech Enclosures Make Sense?

I could see upgrading from USB 3 or 3.1 to Thunderbolt for SSD enclosures, particularly those for NVMe devices. I’m not sure even m.2 SSDs are enough to justify the extra outlay. But hey: that sounds like a great reason to order one or two such items and try it out to see what happens. Stay tuned!


Dell 7080 Micro RAM Puzzler Solved

When something appears to be good to be true, watch out! I keep poking around on my new Dell 7080 Micro and learned something interesting, but also mildly distressing, about the configuration I ordered. The essentials show up as the DRAM frequency in the lead-in graphic for this story. The rated speed for that module is 2933 MHz, the reported rate is 1463.2 (doubled = ~2926 MHz). Something is amiss, eh? A quick trip to the manual’s memory section means makes this Dell 7080 Micro RAM puzzler solved.

RTFM = Dell 7080 Micro RAM Puzzler Solved

When I did the math, I saw the reported memory clock rate was half the SODIMM module’s rated speed. Immediately I suspected something might be up with dual-channel vs. single-channel memory performance. Ack! I was right: the very first entry in the memory section of the 7080 Micro manual reads as follows:

Dell 7080 Micro RAM Puzzler Solved.manual-noteI’m now aware that doubling up on memory is the right way to go on this machine. Sigh.

Turns out that the clock rate information is what it should be, though. DDR memory like this fetches two chunks of data with each cycle cycle. Hence the term “double data rate,” or DDR.

Doubling Up Is Good, So That’s What I’m Doing

I just ordered a pair of 16 GB G.Skill RipJaws modules for the machine. They’re rated for DDR4 3200, which means they’ll loaf along at the 7080 Micro’s default clock rate of 2933 with ease. I’m guessing further that the winsat mem command will show an improvement from its current level of 15954 MB/sec (the P-5550 reports 32945 by comparison, and I’m expecting something more along those lines). We’ll see.

But wait! I still have Dell’s Review Unit of the 7080 Micro, so I just booted it up to run the winsat mem command there. It has two 16 GB memory modules. And sure enough, the results are significantly higher than those for the single module unit: 26323 MB/sec hits more than halfway between the single-module value of 15954 and the P-5550 value of 32945. That’s an improvement of just over 31 percent. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’ll see on my unit once it’s upgraded, too. (Same CPU, same motherboard, so why not?)

I’ll know for sure sometime later today, because Amazon says my order will arrive no later than 10 PM tonight. While I was at it, I also purchased a Samsung EVO 860 1 TB SATA SSD to park in the 7080 Micro’s currently vacant SATA slot. The RAM set me back about $115, and the drive $100, both of which I consider excellent prices.

Given that the 7080 Micro was already pretty fast, I’m guessing this will make it just a tad faster. I’ll report the results of my checks after upgrading the RAM and installing the new SSD later today. Stay tuned!

Note Added 2 Days Later

Amazon didn’t deliver the goods until today. Took me all of 5 minutes to unbutton the 7080 Micro case. Only tool needed was a Phillips Head screwdriver. The SATA drive mounted into its sleeve with no tools, but I had to undo the thumbscrew on the outside of the case and remove the fan assembly (3-spring-tensioned PH screws) to replace the old memory module with 2 new ones.

Now for the good news: new test results are astounding. When I just ran the winsat mem command on the 7080 Micro I purchased, the results came back at 34430. That number seems to fall in a range from 34430 to 34450 on multiple iterations.

Guess what? This 7080 Micro’s RAM speed is slightly FASTER (just over 4%) than the Precision Workstation 5550. Woo hoo! Turned out to be a good investment. In fact, the new memory numbers are just over twice as fast for dual-channel RAM as they were for single channel. By doubling up, I got a great performance boost.

The moral of the story is: if you buy a Dell Micro 7080 make sure to populate both SO-DIMM slots, so you can get the best performance out of however much RAM you give it to work with. It makes a BIG difference.


Interesting Single-Builder SSD Benefits

Just read an absolutely fascinating story at Tom’s Hardware by Sean Webster. Entitled Not-So-Solid State: SSD Makers Swap Parts Without Telling Us, it’s worth a read. The main point it makes is that many builders of SSDs — most notably Adata and its XPG brand — build SSDs using parts from multiple makers. Their products do change over time because of availability of component parts such as controllers and flash memory chips. In the case the story lays out, a highly recommended drive suffered performance losses owing to replacement of better faster parts with newer slower ones. This leads me to understand there can be interesting single-builder SSD benefits .

Where Interesting Single-Builder SSD Benefits Come From

Samsung, chief among SSD makers, builds all of the parts that go onto its SSDs. Thus, it controls the mix of elements on those devices completely. When constituent parts change, the company always changes its model numbers so that buyers know there’s “something different” on board. Tom’s points to practices from WD, Kingston, Crucial and other makers to indicate that the majority do indeed change model numbers as constituent parts change, too. Thus, the most interesting single-builder SSD benefits clearly come from end-to-end supply chain control. Third-party builders don’t have that luxury, because they buy parts from multiple suppliers.

Where does all this leave me? In fact, I bought an Adata/XPG SSD for my Ventoy “Big Drive.” It’s a 256 GB SX8200 Pro model, the very item that Tom’s Hardware finds fault with in the afore-linked story. Good thing I only use this device for storing and occasionally loading Windows ISOs. It’s new enough that I’m sure it’s subject to the flaws that Tom’s uncovered. If I were using it as a boot or internal SSD I’d be irate. As it is, running it over USB 3.1 means I’d never come close to the theoretical maximum read/write rates anyway.

The Moral of the Story

Ironically, this XPG device is one of two non-Samsung NVMe devices I currently own. The other such device is a Toshiba that came pre-installed in a cheap-o purchase of a year-old Lenovo X380 Yoga laptop. I wasn’t expecting top-of-the-line components because I paid under 50% of the unit’s original MSRP. But from now on, I’m sticking with Samsung NVMe drives, so I can avoid performance dings from covert or undisclosed parts changes in the SSDs I buy and use.

Who knew this kind of thing might happen? I certainly didn’t and I’m grateful to Tom’s for calling it to the world’s attention. It will certainly guide my future NVMe SSD buying habits…



DIY Desktops vs Prefab Still Favor DIY

I got started building PCs back in the mid-1990s when I hired a talented young man who worked in the PC parts department at Fry’s to come work with me. He showed me the ins and outs of system construction. Along the way I learned that careful parts selection could indeed deliver a faster, more capable system for less than the price of an OEM pre-fab desktop. That’s why, IMO, DIY desktops vs prefab still favor DIY, 25 years on.

Why Assert: DIY Desktops vs Prefab Still Favor DIY

As I write this item, it’s Cyber Monday. We’re in the market for another desktop here at Chez Tittel. As my son’s PC is getting older — i7-6700 and Z170 vintage, now 5 years old — it’s time to start planning a replacement. My findings show DIY still gets more than prefab, as I will illustrate.

Doing the DIY Thing

Given that major deals are available today, I decided to see what I could get for around $2K either pre-fab or DIY. I’ve already got a case and plenty of HDD storage, so what I need is a PC with a capable CPU, 32 GB RAM, a 1 TB NVMe SSD for boot/system drive, and a next-to-top-rung AMD or Nvidia graphics card. I found some motherboard/CPU bundles for about $550, memory for about $115, Nvidia 2070 $600, Samsung 980 Pro 1 TB $230,  Seasonic 650 Platinum PSU $130 for a total of $1,625. Even if  I price in the case (Antec P8 for $90) and an 8TB drive ($165) total pricing comes in at $1,880.

Looking at Prefab options

Looking around online at Newegg or amazon, with a $1,900 budget (I used a number range of $1,850 to $2,000 for my searches). I mostly came up with 16 GB RAM configurations, 4 to 8 core CPUs,  lower-end GPUs (e.g. Nvidia 1060 or 1070X), 512GB – 1 TB NVMe SSDs (at least 1 generation back from the Samsung 980 Pro), and 1 TB HDD storage. That’s quite a bit less oomph than the same DIY budget, as you’d expect. I did see some pretty amazing refurbished deals on one or two generations back (most Intel) CPUs and kit. It still looks like refurb is the way to go if you want to buy an OEM desktop, especially if it comes straight from the OEM with a like-new warranty (no sytem warranties on DIY systems, only component-level warranties apply).

As an example of a killer refurb deal, here’s an HP Z840 workstation with two Xeon 8-core CPUs, 256 GB DDR4 RAM (!), 1TB SSD + 1 TB HDD, and a Quadro K4000 professional graphics card for $1,750. Now that’s pretty tempting…

This bad boy comes with 16 cores and 256GB RAM. Zounds!
This bad boy comes with 16 cores and 256GB RAM. Zounds!

I’m still sold on DIY

When it’s all said and done, I guess I’m OCD enough that I like picking all my own parts, and putting my own systems together. I do think you get more for your money, but you also have to have the time, the patience and the knowledge to put things together and to troubleshoot and support them for yourself. I realize that puts me in a minority, but I can live with that.



Pluton Enacts Prego CPU Philosophy

Here’s a blast from the past. In 1984, jarred spaghetti sauce maker Prego immortalized the phrase “It’s in there!” for its products. (Note: the link is to a YouTube copy of that very same TV advertisement.) But the tag line lives on, and comes with occasionally interesting applications. It helped me understand that Microsoft’s introduction of Pluton enacts Prego CPU philosophy.

What in Heck Does “Pluton Enacts Prego CPU Philosophy” Mean?

It means that functions currently associated with a separate chip called the “Trusted Platform Module” (aka TPM) move onboard the CPU die. That’s why I’m stuck on the Prego tag line “It’s in there!” It succinctly sums up what Pluton is and does.

On November 17, MS Director of Enterprise and OS Security David Weston wrote a post to the Microsoft Security blog. It explains Pluton nicely. The post is entitled “Meet the Microsoft Pluton processor — the security chip designed for the future of Windows PCs.” Therein, Weston reveals the notion of a ‘Pluton Processor’ as something of a misnomer — but a useful one.  Here’s what he says to help explain Pluton, already “pioneered in Xbox and Azure Sphere.” (Note: I added the emphasis in blue bolded text):

Our vision for the future of Windows PCs is security at the very core, built into the CPU, where hardware and software are tightly integrated in a unified approach designed to eliminate entire vectors of attack. This revolutionary security processor design will make it significantly more difficult for attackers to hide beneath the operating system, and improve our ability to guard against physical attacks, prevent the theft of credential and encryption keys, and provide the ability to recover from software bugs.

Thus, Pluton is not really a processor per se. It’s a set of circuitry included on the die and tightly integrated into the CPU itself. This prevents attacks on communications lanes between a physically disjoint TPM chip and the CPU.

There’s a Scare Factor There

Apparently, recent research shows that the bus interface between TPM and CPU “provides the ability to share information between the main CPU and security processor…” At the same time, “…it also provides an opportunity for attackers to steal or modify information in-transit using a physical attack.” (Note: the preceding link takes readers to a Pulse Security research paper. It explains how sniffing attacks against a TPM permit BitLocker key extraction, used to read an encrypted drive.)

The Pulse Security paper describes ways to boost security to foil such an attack. But MS apparently took the work very seriously. In fact, it introduced Pluton to make communications lanes between CPU and a security processor  impervious to attack.

Can Pluton Boost Windows PC Security?

Sure it can. It will indeed make sniffing attacks like those Pulse Security describes nearly impossible. And it should usher in a new, more secure approach to computing. This applies directly to handling “credentials, user identities, encryption keys, and personal data” (Weston’s words).

The real key, however, is that MS has all of Windows CPU makers on board with Pluton. That means AMD, Intel and Qualcomm . It will be interesting to see how long it takes for them to incorporate Pluton into their CPUs. We’ll wait awhile before the first Pluton-bearing chips hit the marketplace. I’m betting that Pluton will show up for both Windows Server and client OS chips as well (that’s not explicit in Weston’s post).

My best guess is that we’re probably two generations out. For all three makers of CPUs mentioned, it’s likely that their next-gen designs are too far along to incorporate the redesign and layout rework that incorporating a security facility on the die will require. That’s why it’s more likely two (or more) generations out, IMO. Stay tuned, and I’ll keep you posted.


Dell 7080 Micro Performance Amazes

Well, shut the front door, please! Just for grins I started running some of my desultory benchmarks and speed tests on the Dell Micro 7080 I just bought to replace the old mini-ITX box. When you see the numbers and screencaps I’ll be sharing in the following ‘graphs, you’ll understand why my title for this item is “Dell 7080 Micro Performance Amazes.”

Why say: Dell 7080 Micro Performance Amazes?

The numbers do not lie. They’re all pretty incredible, too. Here are some start/boot numbers, with the 7080 left and the (much more expensive) P-5550 numbers right:

Table 1: Shutdown, cold Boot, Restart Times
Description Action 7080 Micro P-5550
 Desktop to machine off  Shutdown  7.92 sec  13.02 sec
 Turned off to desktop  Cold boot  10.46 sec  16.01 sec
Desktop to desktop   Restart 21.26 sec  30.01 sec 

Across the board, then, the $1,200 7080 Micro is significantly faster than the $4K-plus Precision 5550 Workstation. Of course, this takes no account of the more expensive unit’s Radeon Pro GPU. The 7080 Micro simply relies on its built-in Intel UHD Graphics 630 circuitry to render bits on its Dell 2717D UltraSharp monitor, and does so reasonably well. But this comparison is unfair to the P-5550 because UHD 630 is not like a dedicated GPU, especially a professional-grade one like the P-5550’s Nvidia Quadro T2000.

But Wait, There’s More…

The CrystalDiskMark results are also mostly faster than those from the P-5550. The lead-in screenshot shows the 7080 Micro’s CDM results. Compare those for the P-5550 and you get the following, where I’ve bolded the best times in each category so you can see that the 7080 Micro beats the P-5550 in 6 out of 8 categories.

Table 2: CrystalDiskMark Comparisons
CDM Label Action 7080 Micro P-5550
 SEQ1M/Q8T1 Read 3364.8 3373.64
   Write  2790.49 2334.67 
 SEQ1M/Q1T1  Read  2147.04 1716.39 
   Write 2800.90   2056.88
 RND4K/Q32T16  Read  1972.38  630.64
   Write  2152.12  358.26
 RND4K/Q1T1  Read  60.54  41.21
   Write  108.21  119.34

I’m particularly impressed with the 4K Random write numbers with queue depth of 32 and thread count of 16, at which the 7080 Micro kills the P-5550 (read is more than 3 times faster; write is more than 6 times faster). With a queue depth and thread counts of 1 each, it’s a split decision: the 7080 Micro is almost 50% faster at reads, and the P-5550 is about 10% faster at writes. Even when the P-5550 comes out ahead it’s by less than 10% in both cases. To me, that puts the 7080 Micro way, way ahead of the P-5550, especially considering the price differential.

Am I happy with my 7080 Micro purchase? So far, heck yes! More to come as I have more time to do benchmarking. This week is jammed up, but maybe Thanksgiving week I’ll find more time. Stay tuned.


Astonishing Dell Precision 5550 Workstation Encounter

OK, then. Just yesterday, I noticed that Windows Update offered the Dell review unit I’ve got the 20H2 upgrade/enablement package. What happened next surely qualifies as an astonishing Dell Precision 5550 Workstation encounter. Bottom line: it took less than TWO MINUTES to download, install and process the enablement package for 20H2. This is easily 3 times faster than on any other machine on which I’ve run that package, including my brand-new Dell 7080 Micro PC. I knew this machine was fast and capable, but this takes the cake. Really.

It’s odd to see 16 hyperthreads/8 cores show up on a laptop. Apparently, they’re all ready (if not actually thirsty) for work.
[Image is shown 2x actual size for readability. CPU Meter Gadget.]

After Astonishing Dell Precision 5550 Workstation Encounter, Then What?

Good question! I need to run a bunch of benchmarks on this system, then gather up those results for publication here. But in the meantime, this system has taken everything I’ve thrown at it, and simply KILLED it. As you can see from the preceding CPU Meter gadget screencap, this machine comes equipped with an i7-10875H CPU and 32 GB of RAM. So far, I haven’t been able to slow it down much, if at all, by throwing work at it. Desultory benchmarks, like CrystalDiskMark, are frankly breathtaking (this is far and away the fastest system in my house right now). Even CrystalDiskMark turns in some pretty impressive read/write numbers:

By comparison, CrystalDiskMark results from my production desktop with its i7-6700, Asrock Z170 Extreme7+, and a Samsung 950 Pro 512GB SSD, are mostly lower. The top line reads: 1954 (read) and 1459 (write): 58% and 62%, respectively. The second line reads 1550 (read) and 855 (write): 90% and 41%, respectively. This changes in line 3 which reads: 1230 (read) and 391 (write): 194% and 109%, respectively. The two bottom lines are nearly identical, with a 42.49 (read) and 98.99 (write): 103% and 83%, respectively. There’s no question that newer-generation M.2 PCIe technology is faster on bulk reads and writes. And as you’d expect, random reads and writes being shorter and scattered about, those metrics don’t vary overmuch.

Performance Theory, As Usual, Beats Practice

According to its specifications, The P-5550’s SSD is an SK Hynix PC601A 1TB SSD. It’s a PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe device with theoretical maximum of 958 MB/sec per lane, or 3,832 MB/sec for all four lanes. The actual performance is always slower, as the top-line numbers from the preceding CrystalDiskMark output show. But it’s not half-bad and is, in fact, the best-performing NVMe SSD currently at my disposal. At over US$4K for this laptop as configured, it’s pretty pricey: but you do get a lot for the money.

The Cold Boot/Restart Numbers

Here’s a set of average times, taken across three sets of measurements for typical PC on/off maneuvers:

+ From desktop to machine turned off (shutdown): 13.02 sec
+ From turned off to desktop prompt (cold boot): 16.01 sec
+ From desktop to desktop (restart): 30.01 sec

Across the rest of my stable of PCs, these times are at least 50% faster than anything else I’ve got. I still have don’t these measurements for the Dell 7080 Micro PCs, though. Given that they’re also brand-new and have similar CPUs and NVMe drives, i’m expecting numbers more like than unlike the preceding ones. Stay tuned! I’ll report that soon in another post.

For the moment, suffice it to say that the “Workstation” in the Precision 5550 product name is not just wishful thinking. This system delivers speed, graphics and compute power, in a beautiful, compact package.Facebooklinkedin