Dell Precision M6700 review

26 Jul 2012

An impressive 17in workstation with few weaknesses, which justifies its high price thanks to excellence throughout

Price when reviewed: 
1,739(£1,349 inc VAT)
5

It’s been a couple of years since it refreshed its high-end Precision workstations, but Dell clearly knows the formula works. On the outside, little has changed between the 2010 vintage and 2012’s M6700.

There’s nothing wrong with the chassis Dell designed back in 2010. Our sample is a pre-production model, but build quality is excellent: there’s barely any give in the wristrest, the base feels rock-solid, and the slight give in the lid doesn’t translate to any distortion in the display. The M6700’s 17in screen, 3.7kg weight and 1kg charger mean it isn’t likely to be lugged around very much.

Dell Precision M6700

The chassis also has plenty of touches that will prove their worth in the office. The touchpad is bolstered by a ThinkPad-style trackpoint nib set into the centre of the keyboard, and there’s a fingerprint reader on the right-hand side of the wristrest. The trackpad, trackpoint and buttons are responsive, and the keyboard combines a solid base with a comfortable key action that’s a dream to type on – it’s soft, but very positive and with plenty of travel.

Port selection is generous, with two USB 3 sockets, FireWire, an SD card reader, ExpressCard slot and battery status lights on the left-hand side, two more USB 3 ports and a DisplayPort output on the right, and HDMI, D-SUB, Gigabit Ethernet and eSATA on the rear.

The M6700 is also one of the most upgradeable laptops we’ve seen. The base comes off with two screws, and once inside, repairs, replacements and additions are easily made. The cooling fans can be popped out in seconds, both SO-DIMMs are easily accessible (one was free on our review model), there’s a free 2.5in hard disk cage, and there are spare mini-PCI Express and mSATA slots as well. The machine’s primary hard disk is easily accessible, too: a button underneath the battery pops it out of its own bay on the side of the machine.

Dell Precision M6700

The matte finish on the 17in, 1,920 x 1,080 screen helps under office lights, and it performed well in our tests, with brightness and contrast ratio results of 252cd/m2 and 523:1 alongside an average Delta E of 5.5. It isn’t the best screen we’ve seen on a business machine, though: the Sony VAIO Z Series registered a top brightness of 353cd/m2, a contrast ratio of 860:1 and a Delta E of 4.3 (a lower score in this test indicates more accurate colours).

Dell has sent us one of its cheapest M6700 models, and that shows in performance testing. Its Core i5-3320M is a mid-range Ivy Bridge processor that runs at 2.6GHz and Turbo Boosts to a maximum of 3.3GHz, and it delivered a score of 0.68 in our tests. That’s significantly slower than the Sony VAIO Z Series, which scored 0.74 with a Sandy Bridge Core i5, but with our pre-production unit sporting an early release BIOS and drivers we expect retail models will squeeze more performance from the Ivy Bridge CPUs.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,449
Price inc VAT £1,739
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 4
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 3 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 418 x 277 x 34mm (WDH)
Weight 3.700kg
Travelling weight 4.7kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-3320M
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 1
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 17.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset AMd FirePro M6000
Graphics card RAM 2.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 320GB
Hard disk usable capacity 298GB
Internal disk interface SATA
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 1
ExpressCard54 slots 1
PC Card slots 0
FireWire ports 1
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad, trackpoint
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 27min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 2min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 114fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.68
Responsiveness score 0.75
Media score 0.73
Multitasking score 0.57

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition