Dell Precision Workstation AIO 5720 review: A professional-level all-in-one with excellent GPU performance

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  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Competitively priced
  • High-end graphics performance
  • Easy repairs and upgrades
  • Plenty of build-to-order options

Cons

  • Ports and connectors are difficult to reach
  • Disappointing sound system
  • Poor hard drive performance

Like Apple, Dell has been steering its AIO range towards professional users in the last year or so, and the consumer-oriented XPS 27 has had its own 'pro' update in the shape of the Precision Workstation AIO 5720. The Precision AIO 5720 could even teach the iMac Pro a few things about streamlined design, as its 27-inch 4K display is surrounded by only the narrowest of borders; also, at 24 inches wide and 13.5 inches high, the glass panel is noticeably more compact than the 25.5 inch by 15.1 inch panel of its Apple rival.

The 5K display of the iMac Pro does have higher resolution, and both the iMac Pro and Microsoft's Surface Studio support the broadcast industry DCI-P3 colour-space for video editing. However, the Precision's 4K display (163.2dpi) produces an impressively bright and colourful image, and supports 100 percent of the Adobe RGB colour space, so it's well suited to tasks such as graphic design, illustration, and photography. It also includes both HDMI and DisplayPort interfaces, allowing you to easily work with a multiple-monitor setup if you need to. The Precision AIO 5720 has another ace up its sleeve as well, as it allows you to remove the back panel in order to replace and upgrade both memory and storage -- and with a little more effort it's even possible to remove the processor too, making the whole system far easier to service than most of its AIO rivals.

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Dell's 27-inch Precision Workstation AIO is based on its XPS 27 system, adding high-end components such as Xeon processors and Radeon Pro WX graphics cards.

Image: Dell

You've got plenty of scope for customization too. The mid-range model reviewed here is competitively priced, at £1,588.82 (ex. VAT; £1,906.58 inc.VAT, or $1,926) with a Core i5-7600 processor running at 3.5GHz (4.1GHz with TurboBoost), 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and a Radeon Pro WX 7100 GPU with 8GB of dedicated video memory. However, there are dozens of build-to-order options available, going right up to £2,916.12 (ex. VAT; £3,499.34 inc. VAT) with a 3.8GHz Xeon E3-1275 v6 CPU, 64GB of RAM and a 1TB solid-state drive (the US configuration peaks at a 3.7GHz Xeon, costing $3,757).

Those prices include Windows 10 Pro, but you can also add a license for Windows 7 Pro for another £32.50 (ex. VAT; £39 inc. VAT, or $21), or save £105 by choosing a 'no-OS' system that comes with only DOS on CD (an option that currently only appears to be available in the UK).

See also: New equipment budget policy

Those configurations and prices aren't quite in the same league as the iMac Pro, and Geekbench 4 reveals raw processor performance for the Precision's Core i5-7600 to be relatively modest, with scores of 4400 and 11,530 for single-core and multi-core performance respectively. In contrast, the iMac Pro's 8-core Xeon hits 31,400 for multi-core performance, which will clearly give it an advantage for tasks such as video editing with multiple streams of 4K video.

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However, the Precision AIO 5720's great strength is its Radeon Pro WX 7100 GPU, which manages an impressive 129fps when running the demanding Cinebench R15 graphics tests, indicating that it will make a powerful and competitively priced workstation for graphics and design software.

There are some rough edges, though. The use of a conventional hard drive in our review unit proves to be a real bottleneck, with the ATTO Disk Benchmark recording speeds of just 129MB/s and 125MB/s for write and read performance respectively. There's also a rather leisurely 45-second boot sequence to content with, followed by some further cursor-spinning before the system is fully ready to start work. Professional users with deadlines to worry about will probably want to upgrade to a faster solid-state drive. Alternatively, if you don't mind removing the back panel, it's also possible to install your own SSD using the PCIe slot inside the unit.

The internal speaker system is a little disappointing too. The Precision AIO 5720 boasts eight active drivers and two passive bass radiators -- effectively building a large soundbar into the base of the display for what Dell claims is 'studio quality' music recording and editing. Yet the sound emanating from the Precision seemed quite thin and insubstantial when listening to both streaming video and audio CDs.

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Image: Dell

Also, given the attention to detail in this system's compact and upgradeable design, it's odd that the various ports and connectors are infuriatingly inaccessible. There's one USB port on the right-hand edge of the display, but the other four USB ports, a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports, RJ-45 Ethernet, HDMI and DisplayPort connectors are all set into a cavity on the back panel and hidden behind the pedestal stand that supports the display.

Conclusions

The Precision 5720 is not without its flaws, but its high-end graphics performance ensures that it's well suited to tasks such as photography, design and illustration work. It's also considerably less expensive than rivals such as the iMac Pro and Microsoft's Surface Studio. And with its relatively easy user repairs and upgrades, it should find favour with budget-conscious IT managers too.

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