Dell Precision 7530: build questions, and feedback sought

Discussion in 'Dell Latitude, Vostro, and Precision' started by captainmidnight, Nov 28, 2018.

  1. captainmidnight

    captainmidnight Notebook Enthusiast

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    I am about to purchase a quite high end Dell Precision 7530 mobile workstation laptop. I have a few questions, and would love any feedback.

    This machine is going to replace a 4 year old Dell Precision T1700 desktop workstation. It seems that the computational power I want can now be gotten in a laptop, and the mobility aspect is appealing, hence this particular model.

    The CPU has to be a Xeon because I will never buy a machine without ECC DRAM. (I think that it should be illegal to use unreliable non-ECC DRAM in anything but throwaway read only devices like tablets, but that is a rant for another time...)

    I initially configured an Intel Core Xeon E-2176M on Dell's website. I did that when I was thinking of buying a new desktop workstation as well. Now that I decided to simply have a high end laptop and no desktop, I am thinking of paying up for the top end Intel Core Xeon E-2186M. I think that the 2186M is the same chip as the 2176M except that:
    --it is slightly higher clocked
    --on top of turbo boost, it has an extra thermal velocity boost
    I am OK with paying the extra couple 100$ for the 2186M if the actual performance boost scales with the frequency. But if anyone thinks that this is a waste, lemme know.

    I should mention that I will use this machine at times for heavy computations. When it is at my home, I intend to store it in a vertical stand like this in order to save desk space. When in that stand, the laptop will be connected to my 28 inch 4K desktop monitor. So its lid will be closed.

    Question: is it problematic to run a laptop like this for long periods doing massive calculations with the lid closed? I would assume that closing the lid makes it slightly harder to cool the system. On the other hand, if Dell engineering is worth anything, then they should have designed for this use case.

    I am thinking about initially only getting 32 GB of ECC DRAM, because that is all that I need right now. But I will get it as 2 * 16 GB DIMMs, leaving two DIMM slots free, so that I can add another 32 GB in the future should my needs change.

    Question: do you take a performance hit if you do not fully populate your DIMMs like this? I would especially like to know how the performance of a 2 * 16 GB system compares to that of a 4 * 8 GB system.

    For storage, I configured on Dell's website the absolute cheapest option that I could, which is a 256 GB PCIe NVMe SSD. (No hard drive is allowed if you choose their bigger 6 cell battery, which is another choice I made).

    I chose the cheapest option because Dell stupidly does not tell you the models of the SSDs. They do tell you the graphics card models, why not the SSDs? Note to Dell: that is why discerning customers never buy your higher end SSDs...

    I instead have already ordered a Samsung 970 EVO 2 TB drive from Amazon on a Cyber Monday deal.

    Question: it should be quite easy to clone the original shipped drive to my new Samsung SSD, right? The 7530 has 3 M.2 slots, so all I should have to do is to open up the 7530, insert the new Sammy, run cloning software, and then remove the shipped SSD, correct? (I intend to keep the original drive as a back up.)

    Once the new Samsung is in as the sole SSD, I then intend to enable BitLocker software only encryption on that entire drive because SSD hardware encryption has recently been shown to be utter crap. (True, it is also unclear how good BitLocker is, since it is closed source. Would use Veracrypt if I was sure that it would be seamless with UEFI, Win 10 updates, etc.)

    Question: anyone have experience doing BitLocker full disk software encryption with their laptop boot SSD?

    Finally, I am choosing the 4K monitor (15.6" UltraSharp UHD IGZO, 3840x2160). My desktop monitor has been a 4K since last year, and like business class plane tickets, once you've gone 4K you can never go back...

    Only weird thing that I noticed on Dell's website is that if you choose that 4K monitor, they then force you to also choose a discrete video card; I chose the cheapest option (Radeon Pro WX 4150 w/4GB GDDR5).

    Question: why does Dell make you choose a discrete graphics card with the 4K monitor? Either Xeon CPU (2176M or 2186M) comes with integrated graphics that fully support 4K. Source:
    Max Resolution
    HDMI 4096x2304 @24 Hz
    DP 4096x2304 @60 Hz
    eDP 4096x2304 @60 Hz

    I love integrated graphics because their performance is always good enough for me (I do not game or do CAD). I only care about 4K support. I hate the extra cost, power waste, and space waste of discrete graphics cards.
     
  2. Aaron44126

    Aaron44126 Notebook Virtuoso

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    1. Regarding running with the system closed.
    That should not impact cooling. These systems draw air in from the bottom and out through the sides/back. Some systems push air out around the keyboard or through exhaust ports beneath the screen, but this system does not. It doesn't matter if the lid is open or shut, as long as you are not blocking the exhaust ports with your stand (the "back side" of the system should be facing up if you are using it in a stand).

    2. Regarding fully populating DIMMs. They are dual-channel so as long as you install them in pairs, I do not believe there will be a performance penalty. I would suggest getting 2x16GB in case you would like to upgrade down the line.

    3. Cloning the shipped drive is no problem. Lots of people do this to move from HDD to SSD. Your procedure sounds fine. When installing your second SSD, take note of the little plastic/film thing that needs to be removed from the underside of the preinstalled heatsink.

    4. I use BitLocker with all of my systems. It works fine. Modern BitLocker uses XTS-AES. I'm not aware of any feasible attacks against it other than sniping the key out of memory (which would be the case for any software-based encryption system you employ) or the TPM. You can further protect your system by requiring a passphrase at startup, then even the TPM would not have the complete key. You have to be sure to keep your recovery key around somewhere. You will be prompted for it if the system detects a configuration change (add/remove certain hardware, BIOS update, ...).

    5. Regarding 4K dGPU requirement. I have no idea. You can run the system with at least three 4K screens (including the built-in one) all off of the Intel GPU. This is what happens if you turn graphics switching on and opt not to engage the dGPU, I've tested it and it works all the way back to the 7510/7710. They must think that if you are going to drive that resolution then you must be doing something that would need dGPU support... You can at least cut the "power waste" by turning switchable graphics on and then disabling the Radeon in Device Manager.
     
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  3. captainmidnight

    captainmidnight Notebook Enthusiast

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    Aaron44126: thanks the detailed and excellent reply!
     
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