Dell Precision M6400 Covet review

£4715
Price when reviewed

No, the price at the top of this page isn’t a misprint. Dell’s high end mobile workstation – the Precision M6400 Covet – does, in fact, cost more than four grand; as much as a second hand hatchback, and considerably dearer than any laptop we’ve ever reviewed in the pages of PC Pro.

So why the high price? Just like the Lenovo W700ds, the M6400 is an ISV-certified workstation laptop. That means it’s been through rigorous testing to ensure that it will reliably run expensive CAD and design software such as Maya, Catia, SolidWorks and 3D Studio Max. When you’re spending hours rendering complex scenes or high definition videos with lots of effects, the last thing you want is for your computer to fall over halfway through.

Not that you’ll be waiting that long, because this is one seriously powerful machine. Under the hood you’ll find a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad Core QX9300 mobile processor, a whopping 8GB of DDR3 RAM, plus a rapid 7,200rpm 320GB Western Digital hard disk – a recipe that resulted in a mind-boggling score of 1.64 in our application-based benchmarks. It’s the fastest laptop we’ve ever tested, and significantly faster than the Lenovo W700ds, which scored 1.39 in the same tests.

it_photo_40058Of course this isn’t a laptop intended for office tasks alone; it’s aimed specifically at advanced applications such as professional video editing, 3D design and CAD, and boasts Nvidia’s workstation-grade Quadro FX 3700M graphics, with 1GB of its own dedicated RAM. So, to get a handle of that aspect of its performance we also downloaded and ran the SPECViewperf 10 benchmark suite. The results were stunning: in fact our rough and ready calculations put the M6400 ahead of the recent Workstation Specialists WS102LE desktop workstation by more than 50%.

That’s a hefty chunk of performance, but it can be faster if you want. The M6400 boasts twin hard disk bays, allowing you to increase performance using a RAID setup (incidentally, you don’t have to forsake the optical drive if you do). You can even specify two 256GB SSD drives if you’re feeling really flush.

More remarkable than this, though, is that the Covet is equipped with four DIMM slots where its rivals sport only two. That means adding large amounts of memory will be significantly cheaper, though you’ll still need to take out a small mortage to get right up to the 16GB maximum. Conversely, if the price above gives you palpitations, choosing the standard (non-“Covet”) M6400 allows you to downgrade several elements to save money.

But forget about the internals for a moment, cast your eye over the M6400 Covet’s fine figure, and you’ll fall in love with this machine. The chassis is wrapped in a tight-fitting aluminium jacket finished, in the case of the Covet, in eye-popping blood-orange.

Warranty

Warranty 3yr on-site

Physical specifications

Dimensions 393 x 287 x 42mm (WDH)
Weight 4.340kg
Travelling weight 5.4kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9300
RAM capacity 16.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 2
SODIMM sockets total 4

Screen and video

Screen size 17.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,200
Resolution 1920 x 1200
Graphics chipset Nvidia Quadro FX 3700M
Graphics card RAM 1.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 320GB
Hard disk usable capacity 296GB
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Western Digital Scorpio Black
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive HT-DT-ST GS20N
Battery capacity 7,260mAh
Replacement battery price ex VAT £154
Replacement battery price inc VAT £177

Networking

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

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 1
PC Card slots 1
USB ports (downstream) 4
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 yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader yes
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad, trackpoint
Audio chipset IDT HD Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard, base
Hardware volume control? yes
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 2.0mp
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader yes
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 15min
Overall application benchmark score 1.64
Office application benchmark score 1.45
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.91
Encoding application benchmark score 1.33
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.85
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Business 64-bit
OS family Windows Vista
Software supplied none

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