Dell Precision M6400 Covet review

Price when reviewed

It’s an immensely well-constructed chassis too, rigid as a drillmaster’s cane and extremely tough: there’s absolutely no give, no rattle, no flex anywhere; even the screen, with its metal latches, resisted our ham-fisted attentions.

It isn’t the world’s lightest laptop at 4.34kg, but if you need to transport this machine from office to office, or the oil rig for that matter, we’re confident it will cope.

Pop open the lid, and you’ll find more to adore. The edge-to-edge 17in 1,920 x 1,200 screen, though glossy and prone to reflections under office lights, is in every other way superb. It’s an RGB LED panel, and is capable of rendering 100% of the Adobe sRGB colour space – a feature more commonly found on high-end professional monitors. It’s bright and clear, with punchy colours and no hint of graininess, and its slight red push was easily adjusted out using Nvidia’s control panel. To reduce the bright display’s effect on battery life, there’s also an ambient light sensor to automatically control brightness.

The keyboard is equally accomplished. Each key has a soft, positive break and at the end of the keystroke, your finger meets a solid, yet slightly cushioned base. It’s supremely comfortable to type on. There’s room for a number pad on its right hand side, the keys are backlit (this can also be controlled by the ambient light sensor) and set into keyboard’s centre is a trackpoint for mousing – an option to the more standard touchpad below.

it_photo_40061Don’t look away yet, though, as there’s more to drool over. The touchpad – as well as being sensitive, accurate, and boasting a set of buttons as comfortable as we’ve ever come across on any laptop – is backlit. Tap a small logo in its bottom left corner and it glows to life, with four customisable “buttons” along the top, and a timeline scrollbar along the bottom – ideal for video editing.

Elsewhere, there’s a fingerprint reader, dual-band draft-n wireless in the shape of Intel’s Wi-Fi Link 5300 chipset, Bluetooth, and a very good selection of connections arrayed around its edges. On the left there’s a full-size six-pin FireWire port, two USB sockets, a slot-loading DVD writer, 8-in-1 memory card slot, smartcard reader and PC Card reader. On the right you’ll find D-SUB and DisplayPort outputs, Gigabit Ethernet, ExpressCard/54, one USB port that will supply charge while the laptop is off, and a powered USB/eSATA combo port. To the right of the touchpad on the wristrest is also a touchless smartcard sensor.

This is an absolute beast of a laptop, make no mistake, whose only real weak spot is its battery life; despite its whopping nine-cell battery it lasted just 2hrs 15mins in our light use test. But this is no ultraportable, designed instead to be moved from base to base, rather than used intensively while out on-the-road, so it’s not a deal breaker.

It’s not particularly cheap, and neither can it boast the whizz-bang toys of the Lenovo W700ds. But if your company is in the market for a serious mobile workstation and money’s no object this machine is the one to beat. It’s incredibly fast, beautifully built and makes a statement like no other laptop in its category.


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


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


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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