In and Around the Dell Precision M6700

The internal hardware goes a long way, certainly, but the Dell Precision M6700 is unfortunately on the back foot when it comes to shell design. Take a look at our review of the HP EliteBook 8760w then come back here, and you'll see that Dell's aesthetic comes up short in more ways than one. You'll see it's not just about looks, either; HP's design is more functional.

Part of what kills is that the Precison M6700's shell may incorporate magnesium alloy and aluminum alloy, but it feels largely plastic. Dell's site lists the M6700 as having been subjected to Mil-spec 810G testing, but not if it meets that standard, while HP confirms that their current-generation 8770w does. They apparently use aluminum for trim and the back of the lid, but as a whole the notebook just doesn't feel as all around sturdy as its competitor is.

That said, when you do open it, the interior surfaces are flex-free, just uninspiring. The M6700 is two-toned, but the two tones aren't really complimentary. They use a gunmetal gray that's very dark, so that in soft light it's essentially indistinguishable from the black plastic used for the keyboard trim and bottom panel. As a whole, the two tones aren't unattractive, but there's a kind of cheap feeling to the materials, regardless of whether or not they actually are. HP's EliteBook looks and feels sturdy, with the aluminum trim and interior shell.

People who lament HP's shift to a chiclet keyboard may be happy at first with the M6700's traditional key style, but Dell's keyboard layout is confused both for them and for the end user. The "Page Up" and "Page Down" keys sandwich the up arrow, while the row normally reserved for document navigation above the number pad is instead a shortcut for the calculator and then media controls, which just plain don't belong on a notebook like this. Those could very easily and should very easily have been Fn+Function Key combinations. Overall the keyboard is plenty usable, but the layout is off-putting. On a less expensive notebook it's something that can be tolerated and adapted to; on a notebook that starts north of $1,600, it's unacceptable. As for the touchpad, it's mostly fine and easy to use, but it's actually on the small side and could stand to be wider. Again, though, Dell's design lacks the pleasant surface treatment of HP's.

Finally, the M6700 could make up some ground by at least being easy to service, but that turns out not to really be the case. HP's design is as easy as pushing a latch and popping off the bottom panel, but the M6700 was actually a little confusing. There are two screws hidden inside the battery slot that must be removed, and then the panel slides up and off. The interior layout supports three 2.5" drives and an mSATA drive, but what's the point of having one drive caddy slide out of the side of the case if you have to remove an internal screw to unlock it? It's not a horrible interior design and definitely looks reinforced, but the M6700 just feels a little more cobbled together than I'd like.

Introducing the Dell Precision M6700 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • ShieTar - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Manufacturers are able to produce significantly moer powerful performances for desktop platforms. The article above already shows a single Quadro K5000 in a Lenovo D30 outperforming the notebook. Dell will be happy to give you dual K5000s in a precision T7600. nVidia will happily tell you that even 4 K5000s are an option with Quadro Sync.

    If anybody will send this kind of 12k$ to 20k$ Workstation to Anandtech for testing is a whole different question.

    Also, AMDs 8-cores are not the desktop counterpart to this notebook. Think quad-socket 16-cores instead.
  • silenceisgold - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Anandtech, can you all figure out why Dell can't get any 15.6" IPS displays for the M4700? I just got one right after they took the IPS option off of their website, but the option is still everywhere on their support documentation. It really ticks me off that we just payed a ton of money for one of these, and I can't return it for one with a proper display. It would be awesome if you could blow the lid off of whatever sourcing issues they are having, since their customer service won't say anything at all.
  • Alvern - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Somebody on Notebook Review said that Dell couldn't get quality screens from their supplier
  • silenceisgold - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    ok, that's great. but why? LG (which I believe is the supplier) has been making IPS screens now for ages, what's going on now that would change that?

    And why did they yank the option without some sort of notification on their site. The support manual says there should be a 3D option too; not there as well.
  • critical_ - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    The M4700 had corner tint issues on the IPS display which, we assume, is what led to Dell dropping that option.
  • twtech - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Instead of trying to squeeze the keypad in, I'd prefer they just skipped it, and used the space to provide desktop-size keys. I actually don't even use a keypad on my desktop at work. As a programmer, I frequently type in numbers, but they're almost always mixed in with letters and symbols.

    I realize that some people do use the keypad, and I'm not saying that all laptops should be built that way, but I would like to have the option to buy a Windows laptop with that configuration from someone.
  • spiceshaper - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Alternating my gaze between a Microsoft Natural Keyboard and my M4700. Can't really see the difference in the key sizes.
  • Tech-Curious - Sunday, December 16, 2012 - link

    Are the notebook's keys slightly closer together? That's the only thing that leaps to mind when I read twtech's complaint. My 17" laptop has a full keyboard similar to the Dell's, and it does feel significantly more cramped, even disregarding the placement of the arrow/numpad keys.

    The keys are the same size, though. You're right about that.
  • superjaw - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    As a user of the M6700 and MBP, I have to say most of the criticisms not to be founded.
    The case and build quality both are top notch, the palm rest has been switched to a pleasant soft touch rubberized. It is also extremely user serviceable all the way down to using MXM standard GPUs and socketed processors.

    I don't think the hardware options can be knocked in any way, full Ivy Bridge processor options and a wide range of GPU, storage, display, and connectivity options.
    Personally I don't have the IPS screen (I prefer the battery life of Optimus 7+hours), but from what I've read on the forums the Dell IPS screen when properly calibrated has a larger gamut than the HP screen.

    I appreciate an honest review that points out the potential flaws, but this review seemed to immediately counter any glimmer of positively with some sort of comment about disappointment that gives a 8.5/10 laptop a 3/10 perception. Any machine has it's negatives but it really is not a fair portrayal of an excellent machine.

    Here are some prime nbr threads:
  • hrrmph - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I wish the reviewers would be harshly critical of both the Dell and the HP mobile workstations. Actually, all 17" machines for that matter. But, especially the Dell and the HP, since we all know what they purport to be:

    They are supposed to be the ultimate in mobile computing and desktop replacement.

    I get very hopeful each time they offer a new model... but, upon closer scrutiny each 'new' model looks like a bowl of yesterday's runny oatmeal mixed with a few chunks of fresh fruit.

    It'll do, but its not an ideal representation of what could be currently had if someone would bother to do the cooking they get paid for...

    ...and we all know it.


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