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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  • spiceshaper - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Kid, buy you that MBP and be happy, stop trolling the comments here. Yes, my M4700 (15") is almost as big as my old 17" MBP. But it costs half the price (and would cost at least 1.5k less than lesser equipped current Retina MBP), has 32GB, a 830 SSD and makes me happy every day I don't start iphoto and chose some serious software instead. It weights a ton, is bulky, but it gets shit done, none of the other options would be able to.

    I don't want pretty, I want something that helps me pay my bills.

    They do the cooking, you just try to order something entirely not on the menu. Go to apple, they have that Michelin star.
  • hrrmph - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Nice try...

    But, Apple's 17" is still sporting a crappy display.

    Why 'downgrade' to a 15" machine to get a better display?

    Is no one capable of building a better 17" or 18" display?

  • PubFiction - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Is simple, the ability to put non workstation graphics in them. They would move a ton more units as gamers would start using them as conservative good looking well built gaming platforms. But they can never understand that so the price always ends up over $1000 more than a gaming notebook.

    It would add almost nothing to their supply chain as really the GPU is the only thing you need to swap out to save money. They even have 120hz displays which are lacking in even gaming laptops.
  • lx686x - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    It wouldn't be a workstation anymore....
  • ijozic - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    It's just an extra customization option - some people don't need it for professional applications, but for occasional (or full-time) gaming as they dislike the design of the gaming notebooks. If that means sticking a big disclaimer sticker on the box saying "This is not a workstation anymore", I don't think anybody would mind.
  • Silma - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I am quite astonished by this test.

    First to my knowledge Dell has been number one in the Workstation market for many many years and has produced great laptop workstations for years. My M4400 was and still is outstanding.

    Second to say that the 6700 is not serviceable because you have to unscrew 2 screws for a change you rarely do is quite exxagerated.

    Last I don't know on which planet you are living but the companies I worked for purchased workstations for a reason: power, robustness and certified for the applications that will be used. And not because they won a beauty contest. So to hesitate to recommend a robust laptop with very good screen and solid performances based on looks seems strange.
  • Hrel - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    Lenovo Thinkpad's are the single best workstation laptops that exist. While I prefer working on Dell desktops over Lenovo, it's by a slim margin. Overall I'd always recommend Lenovo. Though Dell is honestly a close second, despite how much I hate their consumer offerings and general scheme of charging WAY too much for consumer products unless you're a student.
  • Hrel - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I'd like to add that I'm in love with that keyboard layout. Every laptop made needs to adopt that RIGHT NOW! I prefer chicklet myself, so offer both. But that layout, damn sexy.
  • critical_ - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I like ThinkPads too but I've owned the last two versionos of their W-series workstation laptop. The cooling solution is terrible. With a Core i7-2960XM and the Quadro 2000M, I found the system couldn't run full tilt for more than 60 seconds due to the single heatsink-fan used to cool the discrete GPU and CPU being overwhelmed. I even ordered a new heatsink-fan unit and used new thermal compound but that didn't solve this issue. The HP has the same issue.

    I believe Lenovo needs to redesign their cooling system on the W-series chassis. The engineers at Lenovo assume that we'll use Optimus so, at most, they're only going to be actively cooling either a CPU or discrete GPU running at full tilt but not both. Even then, the CPU will thermal throttle. When both are used them all bets are off.

    Dell has done a great job with the cooling on this system. I seldom see any issue even when the intake vents are blocked. I can leave the CPU and GPU running full tilt for days without any thermal problems. The other great thing in the M6700 is the Core i7-2920XM and i7-2960XM will run at the 4C Turbo speed forever under these situations even though there are no overclocking options in the BIOS. It is these things that a review like this cannot or does not test but should. Maybe AnandTech should add a 24 hour rendering test that utilizes the CPU and discrete CPU together and then let us know how quickly and how often the unit thermal throttled in addition to telling us how much work was accomplished in that time period.
  • Maraque - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I come to Anandtech because you used have one of the most objective reviews around. I usually prefer to be a silent reader and refrain from making comments. But this has got to be one of the most biased analysis I have ever read in any Anandtech review. After everything the benchmarks said, that the Dell outclasses the HP in all of the benchmarks (the one reviewed anyway, not the 8770w), he still rates the HP higher just because it looks better (subjective). the HP is also a great machine, no doubt, not dissing it. But if he has already made up his mind as to which business notebook is better right out of the gate based on just its looks (contrary to what actual businesses buying these types of laptops do, which base their decision on the performance, build, serviceability, certifications, etc.), I do not see what right he has to review machines like these. I would recommend a reviewer who actually has an idea of the target market for these types of systems.

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