Dell Precision M6600 Workstation Laptop Review - gHacks Tech News

Dell Precision M6600 Workstation Laptop Review

Laptops come in all shapes and sizes these days from tiny netbooks to sexy ultraportables and everyday value machines.  Then however there are the workstations.  These laptops are designed with the needs of CAD designers, video production and engineering and geology projects in mind.  They pack the very finest and the best of everything and come with a price tag to match.

This is certainly true of the Dell Precision M6600 Workstation laptop which is one of the most powerful laptops that exists today.  You can pick one up with a SandyBridge Core i5 processor and 8Gb of 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM (They don't come with any less than this) for £1,280 ($1,600) and specify the internal components up to a staggering £5,000.  The machine I've been testing sits at around £3,500.

There's no scrimping here though.  The processor is a Core-i7 running at 2.5GHz; the fastest Dell provide.  The memory is standard at 8Gb but this can be expanded up to either 16Gb of 1,600MHz DDR3 or a staggering 32Gb of 1,333MHz DDR3.  The twin hard disks inside this machine (you can have up to three including a solid state mini-card) are 250Gb and 750Gb 7,200RPM.  The Dell website will allow you to speficy hard disks up to 256Gb SSDs.

Dell Precision M6600

The full HD screen runs at 1920 x 1080 and will display the full Adobe RGB gamut.  It's multi-touch too, supporting four point control and huge at 17.3 inches.  Elsewhere nternally this machine has it all.  There's 802.11 b/g/n wireless with WiMax as an option.  There's 3G, GPS, a TPM chip accompanied by a fingerprint scanner and nVidia Optima 4000M graphics with their own 2Gb of GDDR5 RAM to accompany the integrated Intel graphics.

Externally the machine is very well specified too with a backlit keyboard (optional but very useful), track pad with three buttons and a seperate nipple with its own three mouse buttons, 2x USB2 ports, 1x eSATA/USB2 combo port, 2x USB3 ports, full HDMI, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, DVD burner with optional Blu-Ray burner, ExpressCard slot, SD Card reader, seperate microphone and headphone jacks, Firewire, Displayport and an excellent webcam built into the bezel.

Dell Precision M6600

The touchpad doubles as a graphics tablet and comes with its own powered stylus with its own controls.  This is the kind of attention to detail you can see throughout the Precision M6600.

The keyboard isn't a scrabble-tile affair commonly seen elsewhere.  It's a more traditional style and really excellent.  The keys are large and well spaced with a large Enter key and full size keys on the numeric pad.  The cursor keys are in a sensible place though the left shift key is a little narrow.  The keyboard also has controls for the calculator and media playback controls.  Above the keyboard are volume and mute buttons.

The Precision M6600 is very upgradeable too.  Undo two screws inside the battery compartment and the bottom slides off the case to reveal the hard disks, memory and expansion slots all easily accessible and well laid out.  It's extremely neat, tidy and commendable for such an expensive machine.  The exterior of the case is positively lovely with an aluminium bronze finish that you just want to stroke and a bright, silver Dell logo on the lid.

Dell Precision M6600

In use it's equally as powerful as a good Core i7 desktop machine and you'd have no problems editing HD video on it or using it to create complex three-dimensional imagery for mapping.  There is simply nothing you could currently throw at the M6600 that it would have any trouble with at all.

There are very few problems with the machine either.  The screen is a bit reflective, though it's very bright and can be used outdoors.  Battery life is reasonable at 5 hours on very light duties but you'll struggle to get two hours when pushed, maybe even just 45 minutes if doing demanding encoding work.  The charger is a brick and the laptop itself weighs in at a hefty 4.5kg.  This is not a machine you'll be wanting to lug back and forth, nor giving up space in your luggage allowance when going through an airport.

What can I say about the Precision M6600?  Well what this machine has in terms of hardware is simply the finest currently available.  For the few people who need power of this type there is simply no better machine.  Sony and Lenovo make machines of a similar specification though neither is quite as attractive with it.

Dell Precision M6600 Digitizer Stylus

The only other thing I can possibly add here is that this particular Precision M6600 is mine.  I personally demand the very best in performance as I do some very demanding work with video production.  I'm personally delighted with the power on offer.  This machine is hugely expensive but also tremendous value for money for the people who would be looking to buy one.

Build quality is first rate and the M6600 feels extremely solid with no give or flex anywhere in the chassis.  An accelerometer works with software on board to protect the hard drives in the event that you drop it.  It's quiet too with just a faint whirr of the fans during general usage, though it can get hot; but you're unlikely to work with a 4.5kg computer on your lap.

Overall I'd have given the M6600 a full 10 out of 10 for power, flexibility and quality even if this machine wasn't my own.  For workstation grunt in a portable form factor, I genuinely believe you won't find anything finer.





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    Comments

    1. ilev said on September 3, 2011 at 8:36 pm
      Reply

      Congratulations .

      The only caveat, it runs Windows :-)

    2. Paul(us) said on September 3, 2011 at 9:51 pm
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      Really ferry nice for not so nice amount. What do you think the lifetime of the battery’s is, How long the work fully loaded when the battery is new and one – and two years old? And how long do you think the battery is going to last and how much is a new battery?

      1. vivianalive said on September 4, 2011 at 4:01 pm
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        ya, I agree with SubgeniusD, the concept of a mobile workstation is essentially a walking factory.
        Forget the battery, find a nuclear power plant instead.

    3. SubgeniusD said on September 4, 2011 at 6:36 am
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      @Paul – It appears you are unclear on the concept of a “mobile workstation”.

    4. ZoomLNZ said on September 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm
      Reply

      I purchased an M6600 in July and love it. Problem is, it keeps crashing about every 3-4 hours. I’m currently working with Dell to find out what the problem is. I see there’s a guy on U-Tube who’s posted a video of his M6600 machine crashing several times over a 5 minute period. Several people suffering a similar problem with their M6600s have commented on his video.

      1. SubgeniusD said on September 18, 2011 at 8:10 pm
        Reply

        I’m not sure how anyone could “love” any electronic device that crashed every few hours.

        Perhaps you could describe these crashes in a bit more detail and whatever resolution Dell customer service provided you with.

        Given their reputation I imagine we won’t be hearing back for awhile…lol

        1. Anonymous said on September 18, 2011 at 11:30 pm
          Reply

          Well, the idea of loving the device obviously refers to when it’s operating normally. It has good power, performance, and graphics. That aside, it began to crash after several hours of use; first by freezing up the screen (and peripherals) for about 30 seconds, then lights out. It just shuts down.

          Right now, I’m in touch with Dell Support to incrementally work the problem. I use their online instant message Chat feature. It gives me a good record to review and allows the rep to go back and retrieve the history of my complaint each time I dial in. On the first go-round, the tech took over my machine and ran through all the diagnostics. It appears that its not a processor or system failure. The tech believed that it may be a software problem. He suggested that I go into “Limited Startup Mode” and gave me the instructions for doing so. I went into LSM this morning and have had my machine running constantly for over 6 hours now. So far, no crash. With fingers crossed, I’ll begin to launch each of my apps (about an hour between launches) and see what happens.

          This whole gig is probably going to take me most of the week to run through, but I’ll drop a line here to let you know how things turn out. Sooner or later, we’ll find the problem – I’m confident.

          As far as hearing back from Dell Support, I just go in and report my latest findings with them, then go to the next step – whatever that might be. I’m really hoping that I don’t have to send my workstation back in for a replacement because I simply do not want to go through the process of loading my apps and getting everything set up again.

    5. Allen said on September 23, 2011 at 2:12 am
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      We just got an M6600 at work three days ago and since then it has crashed twice. It’s just like you described, the whole system freezes up for a few seconds and then instantly reboots. Upon reboot I get Window’s “system did not shut down correctly” DOS-style message, and at Windows a popup comes up along the lines of “The system did not shut down correctly. Should Windows search online for a solution”, to which it finds no answer.

      The Dell technician had a theory that it was a bad memory chip (I have just one 2GB module) and had me boot into diagnostic mode (turn off computer, hold function while holding power). The diagnostic said everything was fine, even in the thorough scan.

      After that he verified that I was on revision A04 of the BIOS and has instructed me to reinstall the OS. I really don’t want to do that, since this problem happened the very evening I got it. That first time I had zero peripherals connected. The only apps I have installed are Adobe suite and MS office.

      I’ve left it rendering lots of projects overnight to see if I can replicate the problem. The weird thing though is that it crashes even when it’s not under a heavy load. It seems to be completely random.

      1. ZoomLNZ said on September 24, 2011 at 10:16 pm
        Reply

        Allen, I feel your pain. The description of your problem sounds almost identical to mine. My M6600 was built for multimedia development and runs with a quad core 2.3GHz processor, 16 GB of memory, 64-bit and a solid state HD. Like you, I have an Adobe Suite and MSOffice 2010. All my work files are kept on an external drive.

        My Dell tech suspected a problem with McAfee so he wanted me to uninstall it and see if that makes a difference. I was reluctant to do that for obvious reasons, but he said that Windows has build-in firewall protection and if I don’t download any files or open email attachments, I should be okay to operate for 2 or 3 days to test the system. That’s presently where I’m at in this saga.

        Do you use McAfee?

        Please keep us informed on how you’re doing and I’ll do the same. I agree with you, I don’t want to reinstall the OS if I can help it.

        Best of luck.

        1. Allen said on September 25, 2011 at 3:27 am
          Reply

          I don’t use McAfee. It came with a trial of Trend Micro which I uninstalled and replaced with Microsoft Security Essentials. Thankfully Windows 7 is far less susceptible to random hacks than XP SP1 was. As long as you aren’t intentionally downloading viruses you’re likely fine to disable anti-virus temporarily ;). That said, MSE is great and free.

          Other specs (look similar to yours):

          Intel Core i7-2820M Quad Core 2.30GHz
          2.0GB, DDR3-1333 SDRAM, 1 DIMM [which I ultimately plan to upgrade to 4x 4GB chips I bought from Crucial – after I isolate this problem]
          NVidia Quadro 3000M with 2GB GDDR5
          500GB Hard Drive, 7200RM [I have another Western Digital 750GB I will add after it’s stable, too]
          17.3″ 1920×1080 Anti-Glare LED
          Winodws 7 Professional with XP Mode

          I’ll probably end up ultimately reinstalling the OS because if the problem persists I’d like for Dell not to have any excuses to look for other solutions for me. But before I do that I want to see if I can replicate the problem somehow, so I’d have a way to demonstrate whether the problem is ever resolved. To that end I ran a stress test, rendering a big After Effects project several times. No problem, I stopped it after 24 hours, so it doesn’t look like processor-intensive tasks are the trigger. (In fact, both crashes were when the computer was basically idle)

          So far it’s just been those two times, and an analysis at the minidump files looks like they’re totally un-related, the first being blamed on an Nvidia file, and the second being blamed on the HDV camera I had connected. I can’t believe either would trigger a reboot. That camera was capturing fine for hours, it only crashed when I was finishing the last tape.

          So for now I’m waiting patiently for another crash or two to see if I can identify a pattern. I’ll let you know how it goes.

          Allen Ellis
          allenellis @ gmail . com

    6. ZoomLNZ said on September 25, 2011 at 10:31 pm
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      In the past, I’ve had new computers do weird things for a short while before settling down and functioning correctly. Hopefully, that will be your case and you won’t experience any further crashes. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. Best of luck.

      As for me, I went ahead and uninstalled McAfee yesterday and haven’t crashed since. I downloaded a protection software called NOD32 on a 30 day trail basis. This program has been highly recommended by Leo LaPorte, a radio talk show host who’s known as the Gadget Guru. So far, I haven’t experienced anymore crashes, but I’m still in a wait-and-see time frame. I’m increasingly optimistic. Knock on wood.

      Would you believe I now have a new problem? One of my two new monitors bit the dust this morning. Sheez!

      1. SubgeniusD said on September 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm
        Reply

        FYI – I’ve also been using Microsoft Security Essentials, going on a year now. Not a flicker of malware. I like the way it is integrated into Windows 7 and updated daily. Very low resource consumption although that is not a big issue with the high powered systems available these days. For regular home/SOHO use with an updated browser (Opera fan here) it’s all you need.

        1. ZoomLNZ said on September 28, 2011 at 3:42 am
          Reply

          Interesting. I just purchased the book, Windows 7 Inside Out. I’ll have to read up on MS Security Essentials. Thanks for sharing.

    7. Jay said on January 1, 2012 at 3:20 am
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      We have a M6600 which i have used over xmas from work.
      Crashed several times again tech support no use.
      I noticed the temps rather hot any thoughts.
      We will send this back and change for a different model.
      PLEASE POST YOUR TEMPS.
      Regards Jay

    8. Jay said on January 1, 2012 at 3:27 am
      Reply

      How easy are the fans to clean?
      As for antivirus software Avast is good and also on line scanner hitmanpro 6 with anti malware bytes. Look at av comparatives and av test
      I have been told norton 2012 is fast and good BUT in the past going bavk to 2006 norton was a resource hog and needed a removal tool to un install !!!

      1. ZoomLNZ said on January 1, 2012 at 6:59 pm
        Reply

        You may have the same crash problem that I experienced. In the end, we had to swap motherboards. Until then, Dell Tech Support was of little help – however, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. In times past, you could send a new machine back to Dell and they would immediately replace it via FedEx. Those days are over. Now, they’ll troubleshoot the problem to death over the phone or through instant messaging. That’s what happened to me. Finally, a contract techie came to my home with a new motherboard and fixed the problem once and for all. (If the motherboard had not resolved the issue, the next step would have been the graphics card.)

        Unfortunately, Dell is using a lot of Chinese parts these days, and I’m sure most manufacturers are as well. I can’t help but believe that this is having an impact on system reliability. Nevertheless, I’m very pleased with my M6600 now. It’s fast and powerful.

        As for your cooling problem, I agree that the M6600 runs very warm. I believe that my 16GB RAM and i7 processor is generating quite a bit of heat in that tight space. I don’t put my computer directly on my lap if I’m undocked. I purchased one of those padded computer work trays and place the machine on it. Otherwise, the heat from the cooling fans will actually begin to blister my legs after about 40 minutes or so.

        1. ZoomLNZ said on January 1, 2012 at 7:06 pm
          Reply

          … also, I wouldn’t recommend trying to clean the cooling fans yourself without getting some good advice from someone who knows the M6600 hardware. The guy who replaced my motherboard removed about 80 tiny screws to gain access. It can be a daunting task in putting things back together again.

          I’m really pleased with the NOD32 antivirus software from ESET.

    9. reda said on April 27, 2012 at 8:27 am
      Reply

      I have been using M6600 for almost 2 years Now .

      Simply OUTSTANDING, Stable and Reliable

      For those with issues with stability One has to redo the isntallation with Dell drivers etc….

      Lately I am startign to have soem green zones and shades with the video card

      Dont know if this is video codec related or card related .

      Othere than that All is Perfect.

      One of the best machine I ever used.

      1. jay said on April 27, 2012 at 10:59 pm
        Reply

        reda, did you mean 1yrs the m6500 has been around for sometime but the m6600 is about 10 months.
        At 2 years the laptop fans will need a clean and the gpu fan will be dusty and so will the heatsink overheating kills high end products and also the thermal grease dries out and this needs a full strip down and re grease.
        Regards
        Jay

    10. Jay said on January 5, 2013 at 12:57 am
      Reply

      Just had to do a fan clean cpu dead easy as for gpu what a pain.
      Total stripdown then new thermal grease went for gelid extreme and wow max temp is 76 deg c cpu and thats at full cpu with turbo and using furmark gpu hits only a cool 63 deg c.
      Well worth the time.
      I can see why dell went for the m6700 having the fans dead easy to clean.
      Still a good laptop and with 32 gb Ram it rocks.
      Please post your temps in deg c.

    11. satya said on April 18, 2013 at 3:52 am
      Reply

      Hi Guy’s

      anyone updated with latest BIOS..? currently version is A13 for M6600.available in dell site.
      currently im using A12. plz let me know if anyone update their system BIOS with A13 after that is there any problems raising..?

      Thanks and regards

    12. satya said on April 18, 2013 at 3:59 am
      Reply

      Hi Guys,

      one more question. currently my M6600 have 300 GB HDD. can i upgrade up to 2 TB..?

      satya

    13. BRT said on May 3, 2013 at 7:11 pm
      Reply

      Bought 5 of these at work (supporting a media team and their admin). Used for pretty lightweight graphical tasks. Over the past year all of them have died. Starts with random shutdowns under no particular load then develops into distorted display until nothing at all displays. Lcd panel is fine. All had faulty Gpu. Its just a nightmare going through all the troubleshooting before Dell will send a engineer to replace the Gpu when it’s clearly the same flaw. Nothing software related as they run on 3 different image builds. More trouble than they are worth. Never experienced hardware so shoddy before.

      1. ZoomLNZ said on May 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm
        Reply

        If you follow this blog upstream, you’ll see the details of my M6600 headache that lasted for a full year. My problem was very similar to yours. Dell swapped every significant component over the course of 3 in-home visits and the crazy thing kept shutting down for no apparent reason. They finally shipped me a new M6600. I’ve had it for about a year or so, and it has been a great machine. I love it. But it’s been a rough road getting to this point.

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