Introducing the Dell Precision M6700

When you think about it, the enterprise workstation market really only has three key players. You have HP, who produce some excellent mobile workstations but have been stagnating horribly on the desktop side. You have Dell, who produce what are in my opinion the best desktop workstations but seem to be substantially less exciting on the notebook end. And you have Lenovo, who excels in neither discipline but offers a fairly balanced portfolio in exchange. This presents a problem, and it's a problem we're looking at today.

What we really want and need is a single vendor to order notebooks and desktops from and be able to call it a day. While HP's desktops aren't bad, they're overpriced compared to Dell's offerings. Today we have the updated Dell Precision M6700 on hand, a robust notebook featuring a full sRGB IPS panel with user-configurable gamma, a Kepler-based workstation GPU, and Intel's Ivy Bridge quad core processor. But with workstations it's not just about the internals, it's about the design and the experience. Did Dell come up with a worthy competitor to HP's EliteBooks, or did they just come up short?

Three years ago, this wasn't the way things were. HP had great desktops and Dell had great notebooks, but the situation seems to have almost completely flipped. The design language on HP's enterprise class notebooks suddenly unified, offering a combination of style, serviceability, usability, and performance that was able to compete with Dell's Precision line as well as Lenovo's sadly declining ThinkPads. As you'll see, though, just as HP's desktop workstation department seems to be coasting, Dell's mobile workstation department is having a hard time playing catch-up.

Dell Precision M6700 Notebook
Processor Intel Core i7-3920XM
(4x2.9GHz + HTT, 3.8GHz Turbo, 22nm, 8MB L3, 55W)
Chipset Intel QM77
Memory 4x4GB Kingston DDR3-1866 (expandable to 4x8GB)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro K5000M 4GB GDDR5
(1344 CUDA cores, 601MHz/3GHz core/memory, 256-bit memory bus)
Display 17.3" LED Matte 16:9 IPS 1920x1080
LG Philips LP173WF3
Hard Drive(s) Samsung PM830 128GB mSATA 6Gbps SSD

Seagate Momentus 7200.5 750GB 7200-RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive HL-DT-ST Slot-Loading DVD+/-RW GS30N
Networking Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6300 802.11a/b/g/n 3x3
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio IDT 92HD93BXX HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Mic and headphone jacks
Battery 9-Cell, 97Wh
Front Side Latch
Right Side Wireless toggle
HDD caddy
2x USB 3.0
Left Side Kensington lock
2x USB 2.0
6-pin FireWire
Mic and headphone jacks
SD/MMC card reader
ExpressCard/54 slot
Slot-loading optical drive
Back Side Vent
eSATA/USB combo port
AC adapter
Operating System Windows 7 Professional SP1 64-bit
Dimensions 16.41" x 10.65" x 1.3-1.42"
416.7mm x 270.6mm x 33.1-36.1mm
Weight 7.76lbs / 3.52kg
Extras PremierColor display
Flash reader (SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
USB 3.0
SIM card slot
Optional WWAN
Fingerprint reader
Backlit keyboard
Warranty 3-year parts and labor
Pricing Starts at $1,614
As configured: $4,533

On the hardware side, the Dell Precision M6700 certainly has a lot going for it. While Dell's BIOS doesn't allow for any overclocking, the Intel Core i7-3920XM is still an incredibly fast processor, with a nominal clock speed of 2.9GHz, able to turbo up to 3.6GHz on all four cores, 3.7GHz on two cores, or 3.8GHz on one core. These turbo speeds put it within striking distance of desktop Ivy Bridge CPUs.

The NVIDIA Quadro K5000M is an interesting story in and of itself. While last generation's mobile workstation GPUs continued to be served by die harvesting GF100, the K5000M inherits all the strengths and disadvantages of GK104. Single precision performance should be top flight, but GK104 is more of a gaming chip than a compute chip (similar to GF104/GF114), and so its double precision performance is liable to be below last generation's Quadro 5010M, and we'll see when we get to the workstation benchmarks. For this reason, the 5010M continues to be available. The K5000M is clocked slower than the current top of the line mobile gaming GPU, the GTX 680M, running at just 601MHz on the CUDA cores and 3GHz effective on the GDDR5, with no boost clock.

Internally, Dell also offers an mSATA port at SATA 6Gbps speed as well as two 2.5" drive bays and the ability to remove the optical drive and replace it with a third 2.5" bay, allowing for potentially four storage devices. Also included are a SIM card slot and space for a WWAN card. Externally you have a card reader, USB 2.0 and 3.0, ExpressCard/54, 6-pin FireWire, eSATA, and every modern display connector except DVI.

Rounding out the trimmings, our review unit has Dell's PremierColor IPS display which is touted to offer the full AdobeRGB gamut; this is essentially to compete with HP's own DreamColor display. Unfortunately we did run into some issues with PremierColor and our calibration/measurement software, ColorEyes Display Pro, which we'll discuss later on. But Dell has a healthy number of choices for displays, including a basic 900p display, 1080p, 120Hz 3D Vision Ready 1080p, and the PremierColor IPS panel.

In and Around the Dell Precision M6700
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  • ShieTar - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Manufacturers are able to produce significantly moer powerful performances for desktop platforms. The article above already shows a single Quadro K5000 in a Lenovo D30 outperforming the notebook. Dell will be happy to give you dual K5000s in a precision T7600. nVidia will happily tell you that even 4 K5000s are an option with Quadro Sync.

    If anybody will send this kind of 12k$ to 20k$ Workstation to Anandtech for testing is a whole different question.

    Also, AMDs 8-cores are not the desktop counterpart to this notebook. Think quad-socket 16-cores instead.
  • silenceisgold - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Anandtech, can you all figure out why Dell can't get any 15.6" IPS displays for the M4700? I just got one right after they took the IPS option off of their website, but the option is still everywhere on their support documentation. It really ticks me off that we just payed a ton of money for one of these, and I can't return it for one with a proper display. It would be awesome if you could blow the lid off of whatever sourcing issues they are having, since their customer service won't say anything at all.
  • Alvern - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Somebody on Notebook Review said that Dell couldn't get quality screens from their supplier
  • silenceisgold - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    ok, that's great. but why? LG (which I believe is the supplier) has been making IPS screens now for ages, what's going on now that would change that?

    And why did they yank the option without some sort of notification on their site. The support manual says there should be a 3D option too; not there as well.
  • critical_ - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    The M4700 had corner tint issues on the IPS display which, we assume, is what led to Dell dropping that option.
  • twtech - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Instead of trying to squeeze the keypad in, I'd prefer they just skipped it, and used the space to provide desktop-size keys. I actually don't even use a keypad on my desktop at work. As a programmer, I frequently type in numbers, but they're almost always mixed in with letters and symbols.

    I realize that some people do use the keypad, and I'm not saying that all laptops should be built that way, but I would like to have the option to buy a Windows laptop with that configuration from someone.
  • spiceshaper - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Alternating my gaze between a Microsoft Natural Keyboard and my M4700. Can't really see the difference in the key sizes.
  • Tech-Curious - Sunday, December 16, 2012 - link

    Are the notebook's keys slightly closer together? That's the only thing that leaps to mind when I read twtech's complaint. My 17" laptop has a full keyboard similar to the Dell's, and it does feel significantly more cramped, even disregarding the placement of the arrow/numpad keys.

    The keys are the same size, though. You're right about that.
  • superjaw - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    As a user of the M6700 and MBP, I have to say most of the criticisms not to be founded.
    The case and build quality both are top notch, the palm rest has been switched to a pleasant soft touch rubberized. It is also extremely user serviceable all the way down to using MXM standard GPUs and socketed processors.

    I don't think the hardware options can be knocked in any way, full Ivy Bridge processor options and a wide range of GPU, storage, display, and connectivity options.
    Personally I don't have the IPS screen (I prefer the battery life of Optimus 7+hours), but from what I've read on the forums the Dell IPS screen when properly calibrated has a larger gamut than the HP screen.

    I appreciate an honest review that points out the potential flaws, but this review seemed to immediately counter any glimmer of positively with some sort of comment about disappointment that gives a 8.5/10 laptop a 3/10 perception. Any machine has it's negatives but it really is not a fair portrayal of an excellent machine.

    Here are some prime nbr threads:
  • hrrmph - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I wish the reviewers would be harshly critical of both the Dell and the HP mobile workstations. Actually, all 17" machines for that matter. But, especially the Dell and the HP, since we all know what they purport to be:

    They are supposed to be the ultimate in mobile computing and desktop replacement.

    I get very hopeful each time they offer a new model... but, upon closer scrutiny each 'new' model looks like a bowl of yesterday's runny oatmeal mixed with a few chunks of fresh fruit.

    It'll do, but its not an ideal representation of what could be currently had if someone would bother to do the cooking they get paid for...

    ...and we all know it.


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