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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  • bramv101 - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Architects and graphic designers?
    Google for CFD, FEA, Siemens NX, Catia --> these are the type of software that dell keeps in mind when designing this mobile workstation, and I would say that this type of industry is considerably bigger then the photoshop/maya users out there.

    I think most scientist/engineers like myself would not consider apple for any serious work.

    Macbook pro is targeted at another market that does not need this type of quadro GPU or high level CPU
  • ingwe - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    ndornquast: People who are buying this to use for work probably don't care that much about the aesthetics.

    bramv101: I am an astrophysicist who is currently working as an engineer and most all of my colleagues and previous colleagues use an apple for just about everything (the main exception is if they are putting simulation work on a cluster). Apples definitely have their place in the scientist/engineering world, but it definitely depends on what the workload is going to be. The CPUs in the current line definitely aren't slouches. I can understand how a lot of people can't use them because of the lack of workstation graphics though.
  • A5 - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    I'm an embedded systems engineer, and none of the software I need to do my job (besides Office I guess) is available natively on OS X. I'd actually have an easier time switching to Linux than OS X at work :-p
  • A5 - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    That said, we have a couple Macbooks for people that travel a lot, but the first thing we do to them is Boot Camp Win7 and set it as the default OS. We don't do our heavy stuff on the road, so a 13-inch MBP running some of our on-site tools is a great option.
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    I am certainly all for form following function...or at least form being somewhat aesthetically informed by function (ThinkPads for the win)...

    ...but good god. That thing looks exactly like what you'd get if you bought a laptop-shaped Christmas ornament. It's like a parody of laptop design, but they're being serious.
  • CobaltFire - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    As an owner of an Optimus equipped Quadro 4000M packing M6600, I will say it (Optimus) works fine. What stops it from functioning is the IPS display. The bit width (8 or 10, I cannot remeber) means that the IGP cannot actually run the display.

    This is a known fact for those of us who put our money down for these, and affects the PremiereColor machines as well.
  • CobaltFire - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    I meant that the issue affects both PremiereColor (Dell) and DreamColor (HP) alike. This is an issue unique to the IPS panels, and why many buyers purchase the quite good standard 1080p models.
  • ijozic - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Yeah, exactly. I'm surprised that the reviewer doesn't know this. The IPS panels are 10-bit, while the Intel IGP is again 8-bit.

    Dell actually went the extra mile here compared to the HP - the HP just circumvented the IGP together and the Optimus is not supported even if you get the non-IPS configuration. Dell M6700 (as the M6600 before it) on the other hand has two display connectors on their mainboards, one which circumvents the IGP, one which takes the IGP output. So, if you configure your Dell with a regular screeen (supposedly, the 3D screen isn't supported by the IGP, neither), you can get the Optimus functioning and double your battery life.

    I don't get the rage about the keyboard. For instance, I use arrow keys rather than numpad to get around (I presume the reviewer uses the numpad arrows) so the document keys above the numeric keypad are almost unusable as they are hard to reach. Getting the PgUp/PgDn keys finally next to the arrow keys is a godsend and I only wish they had the secondary Home/End functionality added in combination with the Fn key.

    The whole review seems rather subjectively negative like it stems from the fact that the reviewer prefers the HP design and keyboard (which has awful arrow keys, personally). Yes, I prefer the HP boxy aluminum looks, too (apart from that ugly silver panel under the display) and think that M6700 is somewhat a step back from the M6400/M6500 (the two-tone inside colors and the keys remind me of the HP 8740W design), but I would still go for the M6700 as it has better cooling, QC (from what I'm reading in the owners threads) and Optimus support.
  • kabelmk - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    So, is the MacBook Pro Retina 15" 8-bit or 10-bit?
  • kabelmk - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Or is it 6-bit panel?

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