Road warrior power trip: Mobile workstations worthy of the workstation name

The beefy Dell Precision M6400 and polished HP EliteBook 8730w squeeze high-end graphics and serious horsepower into large but luggable chassis

On the other hand, the Dell's four-socket advantage is a bit of a Faustian bargain, because any further expansion -- to 12GB or even the head-spinning 16GB level -- requires that you rip and replace the existing DIMMs. In fact, if you reconfigure the M6400 to use a pair of 4GB DDR-3 SO DIMMs to start, which is a prerequisite in order to allow for expansion beyond 8GB, the M6400 becomes more expensive than the HP by roughly $50. Add to this the generally more expensive nature of DDR-3 memory --currently twice as expensive as comparably sized DDR-2 modules -- and the HP's upgrade path suddenly looks a lot more attractive in the context of a large deployment.

The term "mobile workstation" used to be a misnomer, an inside joke among IT pros in the know. Not anymore. Today's offerings from Dell and HP put the "workstation" part of the equation first, supplementing the traditional high-end mobile graphics with the memory and disk options that true workstations deserve. Although the vendors take different approaches -- with Dell going for broke in the performance department and HP seeking the middle ground in balancing features with ergonomics and weight factors -- the net result is a pair of fairly evenly matched options that deserve a label that differentiates them from their (now more distant) business laptop cousins.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Performance (30.0%)
Usability (25.0%)
Manageability (15.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Expandability (20.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Dell Precision M6400 Mobile Workstation 9.0 8.0 7.0 7.0 9.0 8.3
HP EliteBook 8730w Mobile Workstation 8.0 9.0 9.0 7.0 7.0 8.1
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