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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  • spiceshaper - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Kid, buy you that MBP and be happy, stop trolling the comments here. Yes, my M4700 (15") is almost as big as my old 17" MBP. But it costs half the price (and would cost at least 1.5k less than lesser equipped current Retina MBP), has 32GB, a 830 SSD and makes me happy every day I don't start iphoto and chose some serious software instead. It weights a ton, is bulky, but it gets shit done, none of the other options would be able to.

    I don't want pretty, I want something that helps me pay my bills.

    They do the cooking, you just try to order something entirely not on the menu. Go to apple, they have that Michelin star.
  • hrrmph - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Nice try...

    But, Apple's 17" is still sporting a crappy display.

    Why 'downgrade' to a 15" machine to get a better display?

    Is no one capable of building a better 17" or 18" display?

  • PubFiction - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Is simple, the ability to put non workstation graphics in them. They would move a ton more units as gamers would start using them as conservative good looking well built gaming platforms. But they can never understand that so the price always ends up over $1000 more than a gaming notebook.

    It would add almost nothing to their supply chain as really the GPU is the only thing you need to swap out to save money. They even have 120hz displays which are lacking in even gaming laptops.
  • lx686x - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    It wouldn't be a workstation anymore....
  • ijozic - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    It's just an extra customization option - some people don't need it for professional applications, but for occasional (or full-time) gaming as they dislike the design of the gaming notebooks. If that means sticking a big disclaimer sticker on the box saying "This is not a workstation anymore", I don't think anybody would mind.
  • Silma - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I am quite astonished by this test.

    First to my knowledge Dell has been number one in the Workstation market for many many years and has produced great laptop workstations for years. My M4400 was and still is outstanding.

    Second to say that the 6700 is not serviceable because you have to unscrew 2 screws for a change you rarely do is quite exxagerated.

    Last I don't know on which planet you are living but the companies I worked for purchased workstations for a reason: power, robustness and certified for the applications that will be used. And not because they won a beauty contest. So to hesitate to recommend a robust laptop with very good screen and solid performances based on looks seems strange.
  • Hrel - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Lenovo Thinkpad's are the single best workstation laptops that exist. While I prefer working on Dell desktops over Lenovo, it's by a slim margin. Overall I'd always recommend Lenovo. Though Dell is honestly a close second, despite how much I hate their consumer offerings and general scheme of charging WAY too much for consumer products unless you're a student.
  • Hrel - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I'd like to add that I'm in love with that keyboard layout. Every laptop made needs to adopt that RIGHT NOW! I prefer chicklet myself, so offer both. But that layout, damn sexy.
  • critical_ - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I like ThinkPads too but I've owned the last two versionos of their W-series workstation laptop. The cooling solution is terrible. With a Core i7-2960XM and the Quadro 2000M, I found the system couldn't run full tilt for more than 60 seconds due to the single heatsink-fan used to cool the discrete GPU and CPU being overwhelmed. I even ordered a new heatsink-fan unit and used new thermal compound but that didn't solve this issue. The HP has the same issue.

    I believe Lenovo needs to redesign their cooling system on the W-series chassis. The engineers at Lenovo assume that we'll use Optimus so, at most, they're only going to be actively cooling either a CPU or discrete GPU running at full tilt but not both. Even then, the CPU will thermal throttle. When both are used them all bets are off.

    Dell has done a great job with the cooling on this system. I seldom see any issue even when the intake vents are blocked. I can leave the CPU and GPU running full tilt for days without any thermal problems. The other great thing in the M6700 is the Core i7-2920XM and i7-2960XM will run at the 4C Turbo speed forever under these situations even though there are no overclocking options in the BIOS. It is these things that a review like this cannot or does not test but should. Maybe AnandTech should add a 24 hour rendering test that utilizes the CPU and discrete CPU together and then let us know how quickly and how often the unit thermal throttled in addition to telling us how much work was accomplished in that time period.
  • Maraque - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I come to Anandtech because you used have one of the most objective reviews around. I usually prefer to be a silent reader and refrain from making comments. But this has got to be one of the most biased analysis I have ever read in any Anandtech review. After everything the benchmarks said, that the Dell outclasses the HP in all of the benchmarks (the one reviewed anyway, not the 8770w), he still rates the HP higher just because it looks better (subjective). the HP is also a great machine, no doubt, not dissing it. But if he has already made up his mind as to which business notebook is better right out of the gate based on just its looks (contrary to what actual businesses buying these types of laptops do, which base their decision on the performance, build, serviceability, certifications, etc.), I do not see what right he has to review machines like these. I would recommend a reviewer who actually has an idea of the target market for these types of systems.

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