Dell seems to be really proud of its 15-inch XPS laptop design, as they not only used it for the XPS 15 7590 for the fifth year in a row, but they also use it do build the Precision 5540 around it. As they did for the Precision 5520 before that. No need for further ranting, however, because we are not here to discuss the internal politics of manufacturers, but to focus on the specific device and give you our honest take on it.
So, what is the Precision 5540 and who is it for? Well, this notebook is a professional tool, for people that work with CAD software, video editors, programmers, designers and much more. It can be configured with a Core i9-9880H or Core i9-9980HK, as well as a Quadro T2000 graphics card. Now if that is not the Thor hammer of thin and light laptops, we don’t know what it is.
In addition to that, you have the option for a 4K OLED display, although, if you don’t need the super high resolution and the deep blacks, you can save some money by sticking to the 1080p IPS LCD.
You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/dell-precision-15-5540/
Dell Precision 15 5540 - Specs
All Dell Precision 15 5540 configurations
What’s in the box?
Inside the bland cardboard box, we found a sleek black one, that contains the laptop itself. In another compartment, you will find the 130W power adapter that charges the device via a barrel-style plug.
Design and construction
Obviously, this is not a new, unexplored design, we are looking it at today. However, it boasts an 11mm thin profile and weighs only 1.80 kg, which is truly impressive, given the hardware it packs. Although it is a little boring, the structural integrity of this piece is great. This is thanks to the combination of carbon fibers and aluminum. Still, when you hold it in your hands, the laptop feels rigid and premium above all.
Sadly, you won’t be able to open the lid of this notebook with a single hand (at least we couldn’t). Similarly to the older XPS-es, the Precision 5540 offers the people at the other end of a video chat, a great view of your nostrils. Thankfully, you can also unlock your laptop with it.
Another biometric feature you can use for enhanced security is the fingerprint reader mounted on top of the power on/off button. As of the base, it is covered by a soft-rubberized material, that feels extremely comfortable on the hands. People that have used an XPS or the Precision 5520 for the last couple of years, would be able to tell how this material ages, and we would love to read about this in the comments.
Keyboard-wise, there is a backlit unit, that has decent travel and clicky feedback, which results in a comfortable usage during long conversations or e-mails. Below it, you will see the fingerprint reader, which is fairly big and has excellent gliding properties. Another thing that is good about it is that you can click it almost all around the surface, which is a rarely seen feature on Windows laptops.
At the bottom panel, there is a rather big ventilation grill, as well as two speaker cut-outs. As expected, the hot air is exhausted from between the lid and the base.
On the left, there is the power plug, followed by a USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen. 1) port, then an HDMI connector, as well as a Thunderbolt 3 port and an audio jack. On the other side, you’ll see the battery charge button and indicators, a USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen. 1) port and an SD card reader.
Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance
Unsurprisingly, getting inside of this device is pretty much the same job as disassembling the XPS 15 7590. Remove 10 Torx-headed screws, then lift the little lid and remove two Phillips-head ones. After that, gently pry the bottom panel and the panel should open mostly by itself.
To cool both the 8-core Core i9-9880H and the Quadro T2000, Dell uses a design, comprising two heat pipes, connected to two heat sinks, and two-relatively big fans, blowing at them. Additionally, you can notice that there are two metal plates placed around both of the chips, and further below, there is a thermal pad connecting the chipset with the bottom panel.
For your convenience, the manufacturer has put two RAM SODIMMs. As of the storage, since this notebook features the smaller of the two battery sizes, you get a 2.5″ SATA drive slot alongside the M.2 PCIe x4 slot.
As we just said, this laptop comes in two iterations, concerning the battery – a 56Wh one and a 97Wh one.
Dell Precision 5540 is equipped with a Full HD IPS panel, model number SHP14BA (MWP1T-LQ156M1). Its diagonal is 15.6″ (39.62 cm), and the resolution – 1920 х 1080p. Additionally, the screen ratio is 16:9, the pixel density – 142 ppi, their pitch – 0.18 x 0.18 mm. The screen can be considered Retina when viewed from at least 60 cm (from this distance, the average human eye can’t see the individual pixels).
Viewing angles are good. We offer images at different angles to evaluate the quality.
The maximum measured brightness is extremely high – 553 nits (cd/m2) in the middle of the screen and 529 nits (cd/m2) average across the surface with a maximum deviation of 12%. The Correlated Color Temperature on a white screen and at maximum brightness is 7800K (average) – colder than the 6500K optimum for sRGB. The average color temperature through the grey scale before profiling is 7190K.
In the illustration below you can see how the display performs from uniformity perspective. The illustration below shows how matters are for operational brightness levels (approximately 140 nits) – in this particular case at 25% Brightness (White level = 139 cd/m2, Black level = 0.10 cd/m2). We detected a noticeable Nonuniformity of the screen around its upper edges, both in terms of brightness and color.
Values of dE2000 over 4.0 should not occur, and this parameter is one of the first you should check if you intend to use the laptop for color-sensitive work (a maximum tolerance of 2.0 ). The contrast ratio is very good – 1450:1 (1330:1 after profiling).
To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.
Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.
Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.
The yellow dotted line shows Dell Precision 5540’s color gamut coverage.
Its display covers 94% of the sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976.
Our “Design and Gaming” profile delivers optimal color temperature (6500K) at 140 cd/m2 luminance and sRGB gamma mode.
We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.
Below you can compare the scores of Dell Precision 5540 with the default settings (left), and with the “Gaming and Web design” profile (right).
The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.
The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle, and the surrounding light conditions.
Response time (Gaming capabilities)
We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and vice versa.
We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 36 ms.
Health impact – PWM / Blue Light
PWM (Screen flickering)
Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.
Dell Precision 5540’s display doesn’t flicker above 140 nits of brightness. Below that, the pulsations have a relatively low frequency, which may be an issue for some users. Thankfully, our Health-Guard profile eliminates this problem.
Blue light emissions
Installing our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.
Dell Precision 5540’s display has an IPS panel with a Full HD resolution, comfortable viewing angles, great maximum brightness, and a good contrast ratio. In addition to that, it covers 94% of sRGB and with the help of our Gaming and Web design profile, it can produce colors with great accuracy, which makes it especially appropriate for people, whose work is dependent on the color accuracy. Sadly, its backlight flickers at brightness below 140 nits and does so with a low frequency. This is where our Health-Guard profile shines, as it practically removes this issue for you.
Buy our profiles
Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package are meant for Dell Precision 5540 configurations with 15.6″ SHP14BA (MWP1T-LQ156M1, (FHD, 1920 × 1080) IPS.
*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at [email protected]
Read more about the profiles HERE.
In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.
Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.
Design and Gaming
This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.
Health-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.
Dell Precision 5540’s speakers produce loud sound with good quality. Its low, mid and high tones are clear of deviations.
All drivers and utilities for this notebook can be downloaded from here: https://www.dell.com/support/home/us/en/04/product-support/product/precision-15-5540-laptop/drivers
Now, we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. We got the model equipped with the smaller – 57Wh battery pack.
It was enough for 10 hours of Web browsing and 7 hours and 40 minutes of video playback.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
According to Dell, you can purchase this device with a wide variety of processors. At the bottom part of the spectrum, you have the Core i5-9400H. Then, there is the six-core Core i7-9750H and its vPro compatriot – the Core i7-9850H. After that, a Xeon CPU – the E-2276M. Lastly, there are the two 8-core mobile Coffee Lake processors – the Core i9-9880H and the Core i9-9980HK. It’s important to say that only two of all six listed CPUs don’t feature vPro support – the Core i7-9750H and the Core i9-9980HK.
Results are from the Cinebench 20 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
GPU-wise, you can either choose to stick with the integrated option or go for a Quadro professional graphics card. Both of the Quadro GPUs have 4GB of GDDR5 memory, as the first is called the Quadro T1000, and the other – Quadro T2000.
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Superposition benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Even though the NVIDIA Quadro T2000 is not intended for gaming, you will actually be able to play some of your favorite titles at decent fps.
|Far Cry 5||Full HD, Normal (Check settings)||Full HD, High (Check settings)||Full HD, Ultra (Check settings)|
|Quadro T2000||53 fps||50 fps||47 fps|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016)||Full HD, Lowest (Check settings)||Full HD, Medium (Check settings)||Full HD, Very High (Check settings)|
|Quadro T2000||93 fps||70 fps||36 fps|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018)||Full HD, Lowest (Check settings)||Full HD, Medium (Check settings)||Full HD, High (Check settings)|
|Quadro T2000||79 fps||46 fps||44 fps|
|Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands||Full HD, Medium (Check settings)||Full HD, High (Check settings)||Full HD, Very High (Check settings)|
|Quadro T2000||45 fps||42 fps||37 fps|
Temperatures and comfort
Max CPU load
In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.
Average core frequency (base frequency + X); CPU temp.
|Intel Core i9-9880H (45W TDP)||0:02 – 0:10 sec||0:15 – 0:30 sec||10:00 – 15:00 min|
|Dell Precision 5540||3.29 GHz (B+43%) @ 80°C||3.14 GHz (B+37%) @ 96°C||2.67 GHz (B+16%) @ 88°C|
|HP ZBook 17 G6||3.56 GHz (B+55%) @ 89°C||2.86 GHz (B+24%) @ 76°C||2.77 GHz (B+20%) @ 79°C|
Despite the fact that a 15-inch slim notebook is able to perform pretty decently with this 8-core CPU, we can easily see the thermal limitations in the chart. While the clock speed is relatively impressive in the first and the second checkpoints, we see that the temperature is far warmer than that of the behemoth ZBook 17 G6.
|NVIDIA Quadro T2000||GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min)||GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min)|
|Dell Precision 5540||1200 MHz @ 74°C||1222 MHz @ 74°C|
Since this is the first time we are testing this GPU, we can’t give you an objective comparison to other notebooks. However, the 74C seems to be cooler than what we’ve expected.
Comfort during combined load
Inevitably, the powerful hardware and the slim body take a toll on comfortability. During a combined load, we measured 52C maximum temperature on the keyboard deck.
If it wasn’t clear so far, let’s put it straight, the Precision 5540 is a thin and light notebook that’s meant for professionals. Not only for those of you that need a powerful laptop that looks good and presents itself to the public but also that can run CAD programs with all the necessary certificates. While the Quadro T2000 is not a powerhouse itself, it does a far better job in 3D applications and more importantly, gives you the opportunity to get more accurate and informative support, should you encounter any issues.
Of course, you can use it for gaming, but keep in mind that it is far from the intended purpose of this device. If you want to play games, you can save a lot of money by going for the G-series of Dell, or the Acer Helios 300 15 2019 for instance.
So, let’s continue with the battery life, shall we? Well, since this model has the smaller 56Wh unit, we didn’t get as much as we hoped – 10 hours of Web browsing and 7 hours and 40 minutes of video playback. Yes, this is not that bad, but when you compare the results to the outstanding performance of the XPS 15 7590, that featured the 97Wh battery pack, you can clearly see what we’re talking about.
Dell Precision 5540’s display has an IPS panel (SHP14BA (MWP1T-LQ156M1)) with a Full HD resolution, comfortable viewing angles, great maximum brightness, and a good contrast ratio. In addition to that, it covers 94% of sRGB and with the help of our Gaming and Web design profile, it can produce colors with great accuracy, which makes it especially appropriate for people, whose work is dependent on the color accuracy. Sadly, its backlight flickers at brightness below 140 nits and does so with a low frequency. This is where our Health-Guard profile shines, as it practically removes this issue for you.
Although the laptop is very light and extremely thin, for the performance it packs, it has incredible structural integrity. The carbon fiber-aluminum combo makes the body very strong and premium looking at the same time. We also enjoyed seeing an SD card reader, Thunderbolt 3 connector, two RAM SODIMM slots, and a PCIe x4-enabled M.2 slot.
Also, the IR face recognition and fingerprint reader bring safety to another level. However, we would change some stuff here and there. For instance, the camera position is terrible. Even the XPS 15 7590 has its own camera placed above the display. Additionally, we would make the keyboard bigger and would love to have a NumberPad section, especially on a professional tool, that is the Precision 5540.
So, if you are willing to give that much money, the Precision 5540 won’t let you down. However, if you want to extract the maximum of it, go for the 97Wh battery pack (that takes a toll on the 2.5″ drive slot, though), or take a look at the HP ZBook 17 G6, which is extremely powerful, but is a lot less portable than this one.
- Sturdy premium design, combining aluminum with carbon fiber
- Powerful hardware and a professional Quadro GPU inside
- M.2 supports PCIe x4 drives
- Easy to upgrade
- Covers 94% of sRGB and our Gaming and Web design profile makes it appropriate for color-sensitive work (SHP14BA (MWP1T-LQ156M1))
- Our Gaming and Web design profile helps it reach an Average dE of 0.7 (SHP14BA (MWP1T-LQ156M1))
- Optional IR face recognition and fingerprint reader
- Has an SD card slot and a Thunderbolt 3 port onboard
- High price
- Gets warm on the outside under heavy load
- Uses aggressive PWM to adjust the brightness until 140 nits (our Health-Guard profile fixes that) (SHP14BA (MWP1T-LQ156M1))
You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/dell-precision-15-5540/