Introducing the Dell Precision M6700

When you think about it, the enterprise workstation market really only has three key players. You have HP, who produce some excellent mobile workstations but have been stagnating horribly on the desktop side. You have Dell, who produce what are in my opinion the best desktop workstations but seem to be substantially less exciting on the notebook end. And you have Lenovo, who excels in neither discipline but offers a fairly balanced portfolio in exchange. This presents a problem, and it's a problem we're looking at today.

What we really want and need is a single vendor to order notebooks and desktops from and be able to call it a day. While HP's desktops aren't bad, they're overpriced compared to Dell's offerings. Today we have the updated Dell Precision M6700 on hand, a robust notebook featuring a full sRGB IPS panel with user-configurable gamma, a Kepler-based workstation GPU, and Intel's Ivy Bridge quad core processor. But with workstations it's not just about the internals, it's about the design and the experience. Did Dell come up with a worthy competitor to HP's EliteBooks, or did they just come up short?

Three years ago, this wasn't the way things were. HP had great desktops and Dell had great notebooks, but the situation seems to have almost completely flipped. The design language on HP's enterprise class notebooks suddenly unified, offering a combination of style, serviceability, usability, and performance that was able to compete with Dell's Precision line as well as Lenovo's sadly declining ThinkPads. As you'll see, though, just as HP's desktop workstation department seems to be coasting, Dell's mobile workstation department is having a hard time playing catch-up.

Dell Precision M6700 Notebook
Processor Intel Core i7-3920XM
(4x2.9GHz + HTT, 3.8GHz Turbo, 22nm, 8MB L3, 55W)
Chipset Intel QM77
Memory 4x4GB Kingston DDR3-1866 (expandable to 4x8GB)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro K5000M 4GB GDDR5
(1344 CUDA cores, 601MHz/3GHz core/memory, 256-bit memory bus)
Display 17.3" LED Matte 16:9 IPS 1920x1080
LG Philips LP173WF3
Hard Drive(s) Samsung PM830 128GB mSATA 6Gbps SSD

Seagate Momentus 7200.5 750GB 7200-RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive HL-DT-ST Slot-Loading DVD+/-RW GS30N
Networking Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6300 802.11a/b/g/n 3x3
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio IDT 92HD93BXX HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Mic and headphone jacks
Battery 9-Cell, 97Wh
Front Side Latch
Right Side Wireless toggle
HDD caddy
2x USB 3.0
Left Side Kensington lock
2x USB 2.0
6-pin FireWire
Mic and headphone jacks
SD/MMC card reader
ExpressCard/54 slot
Slot-loading optical drive
Back Side Vent
eSATA/USB combo port
AC adapter
Operating System Windows 7 Professional SP1 64-bit
Dimensions 16.41" x 10.65" x 1.3-1.42"
416.7mm x 270.6mm x 33.1-36.1mm
Weight 7.76lbs / 3.52kg
Extras PremierColor display
Flash reader (SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
USB 3.0
SIM card slot
Optional WWAN
Fingerprint reader
Backlit keyboard
Warranty 3-year parts and labor
Pricing Starts at $1,614
As configured: $4,533

On the hardware side, the Dell Precision M6700 certainly has a lot going for it. While Dell's BIOS doesn't allow for any overclocking, the Intel Core i7-3920XM is still an incredibly fast processor, with a nominal clock speed of 2.9GHz, able to turbo up to 3.6GHz on all four cores, 3.7GHz on two cores, or 3.8GHz on one core. These turbo speeds put it within striking distance of desktop Ivy Bridge CPUs.

The NVIDIA Quadro K5000M is an interesting story in and of itself. While last generation's mobile workstation GPUs continued to be served by die harvesting GF100, the K5000M inherits all the strengths and disadvantages of GK104. Single precision performance should be top flight, but GK104 is more of a gaming chip than a compute chip (similar to GF104/GF114), and so its double precision performance is liable to be below last generation's Quadro 5010M, and we'll see when we get to the workstation benchmarks. For this reason, the 5010M continues to be available. The K5000M is clocked slower than the current top of the line mobile gaming GPU, the GTX 680M, running at just 601MHz on the CUDA cores and 3GHz effective on the GDDR5, with no boost clock.

Internally, Dell also offers an mSATA port at SATA 6Gbps speed as well as two 2.5" drive bays and the ability to remove the optical drive and replace it with a third 2.5" bay, allowing for potentially four storage devices. Also included are a SIM card slot and space for a WWAN card. Externally you have a card reader, USB 2.0 and 3.0, ExpressCard/54, 6-pin FireWire, eSATA, and every modern display connector except DVI.

Rounding out the trimmings, our review unit has Dell's PremierColor IPS display which is touted to offer the full AdobeRGB gamut; this is essentially to compete with HP's own DreamColor display. Unfortunately we did run into some issues with PremierColor and our calibration/measurement software, ColorEyes Display Pro, which we'll discuss later on. But Dell has a healthy number of choices for displays, including a basic 900p display, 1080p, 120Hz 3D Vision Ready 1080p, and the PremierColor IPS panel.

In and Around the Dell Precision M6700
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  • bramv101 - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    I agree with most comment above. I use this workstation for small FEA and CFD runs.
    This is not to be compared to a Macbook pro, which is a machine for graphic design.

    I dont think any serious engineer would consider a macbook pro for these type of tasks
  • j_newbie - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    @Dustin Sklavos,

    Looks like Anandtech readership has a high percentage of mechanical engineers using fea and cfd programs. The benchmarks provided focus mainly on 3d modelling performance.

    One benchmark you could consider adding is specfp 2006.

    Since I am the IT dept in a small (15 engineers) services firm in Bangalore, I find it to be one of the most usable benchmarks for FEA and CFD.

    These programs rely on four things:
    FLOPS, memory bandwidth, memory size, disk speed.

    An alternative would be to ask ansys for a 64 bit copy to run benchmarks on

    something like these

    Hope these will help,

  • borceg - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Could you make a review for Lenovo ThinkPad W530 ?
  • critical_ - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    I've owned a W520, W530 and own a M6700 right now. It is a smaller machine with a slower graphics card. The only thing that bothers me on the W530 is the cooling system isn't great.
  • borceg - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    I'm looking for 15-inch machine, GPU either k1000m or k2000m should be fine. I'm not working with some ultra heavy CAD.

    How is build quality, screen, keyboard and touch-pad ?
  • borceg - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    And according to this review, temp seems fine to me (maybe I'm wrong)
  • bernstein - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    with these machines the choice chart it is really really simple.

    as long as you satisfy one of these your set. otherwise buy a macbookpro or similar.

    1) you must have a quadro/firepro gpu
    2) you must have > 16GB RAM
    3) you can't live with 6% less cpu ghz
    4) you must have a 10bit panel

    and seriously hope you don't care about weight, build quality & usability...
  • Jaguar36 - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    A bunch of folks I work with have these, and I'm shocked at the size of the power brick. Its about the same size as a regular desktop powersupply, and weighs more than some smaller laptops. That's completely unacceptable. Most people I know had to get two power supplies so they could leave one at the office.

    Also no-one should be comparing this to an Apple anything, nobody is going to cross shop the two.
  • DanNeely - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    It's a 240W power supply; so of course it's going to be bigger than the normal 50/100W units that come with IGP/low end discrete GPU laptops. That said, unless Dell's serving up the wrong picture it looks like it's roughly 3x5x1" in size; and while the former two numbers roughly match up with an ATX supply; the latter is typically at least 5" (for the 120mm fan) in the third.
  • Jaguar36 - Thursday, December 13, 2012 - link

    Just measured one, its 4"x7.5"x1.75" or so. It's completely ridiculous.

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