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_ - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    It is necessary. My M6700 has a Core I7-3940XM, Quadro K5000M, 3 7200RPM HDDs and a mSATA SSD. When everything is going full blast there is quite a bit of power draw.

    The Lenovo W530 (another workstation) comes with a 170 watt power supply. It only has the K2000M which has a 55W TDP versus the 100W TDP of the K5000M. Remember, these are workhorses not aesthetic queens.
  • Gunbuster - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    You sure do a lot of complaining about aesthetics in this review yet fail to mention Dell offers a Covet edition in red with edge to edge glass screen...

    As for your HP obsession the M6700 demolishes it in nearly every one of your tests and cost 30% less (before any discounts that dell is well known for) Did HP give you the 8760W to keep or was it a really nice steak dinner? I don't understand at all.
  • cknobman - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    My company bought me a Dell m4600 which is a very similar model to the one reviewed just slightly smaller at 15.6 inches, has a i7-2720qm, and only a Quadro 1000M.

    I have been working with the laptop for a year now and it is by far the best workstation laptop I have ever used (of course most of the companies I've worked for are cheapskates and bought crap).

    I love the design, 1080p screen, and portability is pretty decent. The unit is screaming fast (I am a .Net developer and it tears through anything I have thrown at it) and even plays games like BF3 (at 1600x900) and Diablo 3 (full 1080p) with no problem.

    My only knock against the unit is the bottom access panel. It is held on with two cheap plastic tabs secured by screws and they break easily. If I am not careful I can accidentally slide the access panel open when carrying the unit around.

    My favorite aspect of the system is even with a Quadro 1000M I can flawlessly run 4 1080p screens (counting the laptops own LCD) with no problems giving me tons of workspace.
  • hrrmph - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    The QM77 chipset only supports SATA 6.0Gbs on 2 ports.

    Both the Dell and HP mobile workstations have 4 drive bays. Which bays are SATA 6.0Gbs and which are SATA 3.0Gbs?

    Or did Dell and / or HP add a third-party controller chip to bump up the number of 6.0Gbs capable drive bays?

  • critical_ - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    That is a limitation due to Intel's chipset. The primary and secondary hard drive bays are SATA 6.0Gbps. The mSATA slot, optical bay, and eSATA port are SATA 3.0Gbps.
  • hrrmph - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the precision in your reply. Very helpful :)
  • hrrmph - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    1920 x 1080 is a step backwards.

    I already have a 17" 1920 x 1200 laptop (albeit an ancient HP ZD8000).

    Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo all need to pony up and try something new. How about an 18" 2550 x 1440 mobile display?

  • hrrmph - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Where's the USB 3.0?

    Really! More than a decade later, both Dell and HP have USB 2.0 ports on their most exclusive machines?

    And they b*tch about not being able to sell PCs.

    Innovate da**it!

  • critical_ - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    There are 2 USB 3.0 ports on the right side of the laptop itself and 2 USB 2.0 ports. I'm glad USB 2.0 is included because not every rescue disc and OSs have drivers built-in to handle USB 3.0. On multiple occassions having USB 2.0 ports has saved me. Lenovo's ThinkPad workstation does this as well.
  • hrrmph - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Okay, let me restate it another way: There aren't enough USB 3.0 ports.

    This is regardless of how many USB 2.0 legacy ports they want to tack on it for disaster recovery.

    Dell, HP, Lenovo, and most others cheap out here.

    The exceptions are a few models of Asus and Toshiba. I have an all-USB 3.0 Asus machine with USB 3.0 x 3 ports and Toshiba offers USB 3.0 x 4 ports on some machines. But, those 'lesser' machines aren't in this lofty class of machines populated, really, only by Dell and HP.

    Technically its possible to do the deed. If I understand it correctly, the Intel chipsets are able to handle USB 3.0 x 4, PLUS an additional USB 2.0 ports x 2, or more.

    So there is no need to give up anything. But, the manufacturer's are stuck on offering Firewire and eSATA, at the expense of more USB 3.0.

    The subject Dell and the HP machines are supposed to be the 'best of the best' desktop replacements / mobile workstations. So 6 x USB should be considered standard in keeping with the "we charge you more, but you get more" philosophy for these computers.

    So manufacturers: Wire up those 4 ports of USB 3.0! Already!

    2007 is calling and people want to know where their long awaited USB 3.0 ports are.


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