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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  • Gunbuster - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    I like how the HP gallery shots are pretty much pristine, yet the M6700 has greasy fingerprints all over it and you didn't even bother to remove the plastic sheet over the SD card slot.
  • p05esto - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    The coating on the Dell interior is like a rubberized metal that stays warmer to the touch and does not leave fingerprints as easily. It's also feels softer and much MUCH nicer than aluminum. I'll say it again, this review is just terrible and even the pictures are horrible in the review. Yes, I own this laptop, but I own like 20 computers so I'm not that biased.
  • araczynski - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    i generally like dell's hardware, but that's just fugly. reminds me of the Winbook Si models from back in the day.
  • p05esto - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    I bought an M6700 and LOVE it. The IPS screen and better resolution than the HP was what sealed the screen. Really 1080 on the HP, who would want that crap?

    This Dell M6700 has no equal, NONE. Only a couple laptops have IPS screens and only the Dell has the good resolution. This workstation laptop (Quad i7, 16GB Ram, fast GPU, SSD) as as fast as my tricker out and new desktop. It's got every conenction I need when I go to meetings or at home, it's freaking fast an functional for my development/web/design needs.

    Yes I'm a pretty hard core content creator and this is what this laptop is designed for. I love the color, the simplicity and industrial design. I've seen the HP the author is gushing all over and I wanted the Dell hands down. I also have the original M6500 and love that one as well. Seriously, the laptop is exactly perfect in my opinin. I live the understated design and no frills silent but powerful look. This workstation isn't meant to be carried around to classes at school, not even close. This is when you want POWER on the go, at various locations or to dock at home/work and never miss a beat.

    Seriously, this review is pretty bad, the whole point to this system is lost on most of you. Workstation replacement!!!!
  • p05esto - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Holy crap I should have proofed that comment. Sorry about that!
  • lx686x - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Someone didn't do any research I see.
    The HP's have a 1080p DreamColor display, that is actually better than the one on the M6700 (I see you didn't even read the review).
  • scottwilkins - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    I think the asthetics, keyboard layout and hardware access of this laptop are top knotch! The keyboard changes are very welcome and work fantastic. The hiding of the screws for panel access are welcome too, as to not be too obtrusive. This reviewer has personal issues that he should not have shared with the community.

    Dell still blows away HP on ease of service and simplicity of configuration after purchase. Try getting the right drivers for an HP!!! Almost guaranteed to fail with an HP.

    Add to that, this notebook beats out HP on performance, and it's a no-brainer as to which notebook to get.
  • lx686x - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I never had any problems with HP's drivers...

    Where did you see it beating out the HP on performance, if you are referring to this review, it was compared to 8760w (SNB CPU and older gen GPU), compare it to 8770w and it's a tie.
  • yinkadesigncode - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    To me this review is fail, if we say this is a workstation. Den I xpect it to be reviewd like so for example u mentioed about the gpu without giving us specific gpu benchmark like iray vray rt, even mecury play back engine. All d benchmark just uses the cpu, ram hard drive nd general opengl performance plss go nd look out hw cgchannel reviews. Apart from benchmarks show us real world usage. Show us how fermi is to kepler in gpu performance like vray rt. Wow had high hopes for dis review well guess I wld continue using my hp elite book. Wirth d 5010m my cinabench cpu score is 6.3 nd gpu is 81 wow u blew dis review. Any body gettin dis machine wld be gettin it for the gpu. Also d display neva told us d advantages over say a retina macbook pro. Dis is why d pc ecosystem is dying ppl need to see how dis is in d realworld wen editing nd stuff.
  • shermanx - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    at this level it would be nice to see some direct comparisons with desktop chips; I am surprised manufacturers are not able to produce significantly more powerful performances for desktop platforms given how much more space and margins they can have. It would be interesting to see a laptop beating the s**t out of the AMD 8-core power-hungry rubbish.

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