Dell Precision M6700 review
An impressive 17in workstation with few weaknesses, which justifies its high price thanks to excellence throughout
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.
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.
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.
|Warranty||3 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||418 x 277 x 34mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i5-3320M|
|SODIMM sockets free||1|
|SODIMM sockets total||2|
Screen and video
|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|
|Hard disk usable capacity||298GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA|
|Optical disc technology||DVD writer|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||yes|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial 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|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad, trackpoint|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3mp|
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|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 7 Professional 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 7|
|Recovery method||Recovery partition|