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
DisplayPort
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
Ethernet
VGA
HDMI
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
Trackpoint
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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  • 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

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

    Audio:

    Dell: IDT 92HD93BXX

    HP: ?IDT 92HD81B1X

    What's the difference?

    -
    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.

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

    As of 2012-12-13:

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

    Dell: $2400

    HP: $3200

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

    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.

    --
    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.

    -
    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.

    -
    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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