In and Around the Dell Precision M6700

The internal hardware goes a long way, certainly, but the Dell Precision M6700 is unfortunately on the back foot when it comes to shell design. Take a look at our review of the HP EliteBook 8760w then come back here, and you'll see that Dell's aesthetic comes up short in more ways than one. You'll see it's not just about looks, either; HP's design is more functional.

Part of what kills is that the Precison M6700's shell may incorporate magnesium alloy and aluminum alloy, but it feels largely plastic. Dell's site lists the M6700 as having been subjected to Mil-spec 810G testing, but not if it meets that standard, while HP confirms that their current-generation 8770w does. They apparently use aluminum for trim and the back of the lid, but as a whole the notebook just doesn't feel as all around sturdy as its competitor is.

That said, when you do open it, the interior surfaces are flex-free, just uninspiring. The M6700 is two-toned, but the two tones aren't really complimentary. They use a gunmetal gray that's very dark, so that in soft light it's essentially indistinguishable from the black plastic used for the keyboard trim and bottom panel. As a whole, the two tones aren't unattractive, but there's a kind of cheap feeling to the materials, regardless of whether or not they actually are. HP's EliteBook looks and feels sturdy, with the aluminum trim and interior shell.

People who lament HP's shift to a chiclet keyboard may be happy at first with the M6700's traditional key style, but Dell's keyboard layout is confused both for them and for the end user. The "Page Up" and "Page Down" keys sandwich the up arrow, while the row normally reserved for document navigation above the number pad is instead a shortcut for the calculator and then media controls, which just plain don't belong on a notebook like this. Those could very easily and should very easily have been Fn+Function Key combinations. Overall the keyboard is plenty usable, but the layout is off-putting. On a less expensive notebook it's something that can be tolerated and adapted to; on a notebook that starts north of $1,600, it's unacceptable. As for the touchpad, it's mostly fine and easy to use, but it's actually on the small side and could stand to be wider. Again, though, Dell's design lacks the pleasant surface treatment of HP's.

Finally, the M6700 could make up some ground by at least being easy to service, but that turns out not to really be the case. HP's design is as easy as pushing a latch and popping off the bottom panel, but the M6700 was actually a little confusing. There are two screws hidden inside the battery slot that must be removed, and then the panel slides up and off. The interior layout supports three 2.5" drives and an mSATA drive, but what's the point of having one drive caddy slide out of the side of the case if you have to remove an internal screw to unlock it? It's not a horrible interior design and definitely looks reinforced, but the M6700 just feels a little more cobbled together than I'd like.

Introducing the Dell Precision M6700 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • critical_ - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I'm not sure if Haswell will fix this but I'm hoping it does.

    Yes, the SIM is a full-sized slot. Google and download the owner's manual for the M6700 and you can see it for yourself. You can also see the slot on Page 2 of this review. It is to the left in the battery bay.

    Yes, the antennas are already installed because they form a loop around the screen. Therefore they need to be installed during assembly of the laptop. You can see them in the same picture on Page 2. It is the horizontal slot towards to back of the laptop. You can see the white colored antenna lead just sitting there. In the bigger version of the picture you can see the second black colored antenna lead.

    Dell has several WWAN cards. It is just the full length mini PCI-E module as the antennas are built in.
    Reply
  • hrrmph - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Thanks again for the answers.

    Doh! I have the owner's manual for the latest HP, but I forgot to get the Dell. Thanks for your patience and help :)
    Reply
  • p05esto - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Trouble? More like AWESOME. I'm typing on the M6700 right now and this screen is as good as my new Dell IPS, beautiful. Best screen I have even seen on a laptop, better than glossy crap Apple screens. Reply
  • hrrmph - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    For non-CAD users, if you are looking at the low-end graphics options which are AMD FirePro:

    Dell: M6000 / Radeon HD7870M: 960 G-FLOPs

    HP: M4000 / Radeon HD7770M: 615 G-FLOPs

    Source: Wikipedia

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    Reply
  • hrrmph - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Audio:

    Dell: IDT 92HD93BXX

    HP: ?IDT 92HD81B1X

    What's the difference?

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    Reply
  • hrrmph - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    OS:

    Dell gives you Win7-64 Ultimate for $34 extra.

    HP tops out at Win7-64 Pro.

    Ignoring Win8, of course.

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    Reply
  • hrrmph - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    As of 2012-12-13:

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    Dell: $2400

    HP: $3200

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    Assuming:

    - Non-CAD user needing only low-end graphics;

    - Core i7-3840QM is "good enough" ;

    - User will install their own desired RAM; and

    - User will install their own desired SSDs and HDDs.

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    Reply
  • hrrmph - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Even with a bunch of open question marks, I give:

    - Dell a narrow win on equipage and performance;

    - Dell a big win on value due to the current heavily discounted price; and

    - HP... yeah it looks and feels better... but not $800 better.

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    Reply
  • hrrmph - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    But really?

    A display with fewer pixels?

    A storage system that can't decide how many SATA 6.0Gbs ports it has?

    A wireless system that lacks the current top standard?

    A chassis with yesterdecade's peripheral ports?

    ----------------------------------------

    I think my tired ole HP ZD8000 will make it another year or two while these yo-yos get it sorted out to offer something that doesn't have so many compromises.

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    Reply
  • stephenv2 - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    I'm finally posting a comment after consistently tired of the strong personal bias and hyperbole over minor details Dustin has in all his reviews.

    You have to dig and skim around all the personal angst over looks and minor OCPD examination of irrelevant details to glean what actually matters - in this review, it's the Dell is lighter, faster and cheaper than competition with a better display.

    As power user, if you are choosing a notebook based on how it looks - you really can't describe yourself as power user. And describing the Dell's keyboard layout as "bizarre" is schoolgirl hyperbole.

    I find myself going elsewhere these days for reviews these days. I like what Anandtech reviews, but the actual reviews are reading more and more like coffee shop poetry slams and less like substantive, objective breakdowns of performance and value.
    Reply

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