My Dell Precision M6600 Review, Commentary and Conclusions.

April 13th, 2012 by Andrea Matesi 5689 Views

In the end, I settled with the Dell M6600 because this is the best 2011/2012 laptop that satisfied all of my needs without compromises AND stood inside my budget.

Alienware series.

The Alienware series is a kick ass computer series, they have really powerful desktop-like performance and dual GPUs. They are highly suggested for gaming addicts, which I (thankfully) am no more. The Alienware were a little bit over my budget, also (but this is a personal preference), I didn’t quite like too much their fancy eye-catching design, and I reckon they may not look as professional and business-friendly as I preferred. They also don’t have IPS LCD and professional features.

Apple Macbook Pro 15 & 17.

The Apple computers made a name for themselves for their beautiful design and their excellent build quality. I highly respect OS X for its “UNIX” roots. But I think the Linux argument doesn't apply too much to a desktop system (Answer this:"Would you install a "LAMP" environment on your personal desktop?!" That's correct: Parallels or VMWARE!).
Now for the Apple disadvantages!
OS X is usually the first to fall when it is put under security scrutiny during hacking contests.
I found I am not particularly fond about the fixed menu bar over the top (Ubuntu Unity smartly improved this concept - check it out!).
Macs are seriously overpriced.
The hardware is not so performing for the games I "suppose" to play (someday...sob!).
Apple Macs do not support intel AMT and Anti Theft technologies (although they offer some form of remote device locking with Apple Mac OS X Server).
All the Mac laptops do not have a numeric Keypad, for a person that deals with numbers a lot, this is a "feature"!
My AVerTV Hybrid NanoExpress Express Card 54 would not work, not by hardware (missing 54mm EC slot), nor by software.
In short (and with all my personal respect and appreciation for Apple Mac OS X friends and professionals): fantastic UNIX performers but also "too exclusive" and sometimes (depending on their use) nice ornaments.

Asus G73.

I tracked the evolution of this nice and sturdy computer, but it didn’t satisfy me from the CPU and chipset POV (no virtualization features and no professional features like intel AMT). Other than that, I must say I’m impressed by its design and by the new Asus G74 with i7 fully virtualized CPUs, too bad they didn’t deploy intel Q67m chipsets!

Dell XPS 17.

I was really close at buying an XPS 17 with sandy bridge, but, at the time, I figured the price difference between the M6600 and the XPS 17 was almost negligible (considering the XPS 17 default standard warranty of 1 year vs the M6600’s 3 years). This laptop is a very good overall performer and it would have practically suited me for everything but the Professional features. Its Geforce 555M has Optimus (but it’s not as powerful as Quadro 3000m). It has an amazing sound (my wife's XPS 15 which really kicks!). It doesn’t have the EC 54 slot, so no tv for me (true, I had the option to buy the pre-installed tv module by Dell, but why pay if I already had a spare 54 EC TV Card?), and last but not least, the XPS 17 doesn't give you this "tank" feeling.

HP Elitebook 8760w.

The HP 8760w is the closest M6600 contender and candidate alternative, but at a price. This machine has everything needed to satisfy your computing needs, too bad that when you try and crank it up, you may end up spending, like $ 3.500+ (not counting your expensive aftermarket accessories). But it's not just that: the HP has serious limitations compared to the M6600: for one, they don't have Optimus, they have 1 fan less than the M6600 (which, with the Optimus feature enabled is unhearable even under medium-high load - the only Optimus downside is that it works only under Win), there is no mSATA slot (which I am actually using it!), and, compared to the M6600, I think it's less scalable hardware-wise. BUT their design is good, so if you're into "design" is better than performance, efficiency and scalability, have a look at it!

Dell Latitude E6520.

This was another close-buy, but since it lacked decent Casual gaming capabilities, I excluded it. Also, it seems, I don’t quite like 15.6 formats, and, esthetically, I highly prefer the cleaner M6600 curves.

The really expensive Vaio.

Well, when the Vaio Z series popped up, I looked at it with contempt and admiration, but, frankly, I think this is just another ornament for the rich (Why doesn't Apple buys the whole Sony I still don't know yet).

Lenovo w520 and the X220.

The w520 is a hell of a machine! But since it seems I’m not fully convinced by the 15.6 LCD format, I was expecting a possible w720 series. Too bad plans for the w720 were scrapped :|
Sometimes in the future, I suppose an x220 will be a great lightweight backup pc with its beautiful IPS screen!

Barebones

I’ve also looked through the barebones like sager and the others, and since I’m more a do-it-yourself kind of person, this choice may have made a lot of sense.
I found their offers honest and tempting, but, still, a little more expensive and less integrated than my Dell M6600. And they weren't having intel Q67m chipsets.

M4600 vs M6600.

So, why I ended up getting a Second World War Battle Tank instead of the slightly slicker M4600? Good question! Well...maybe I thought “bigger is better” :D Jokes aside, I chose it because of its solid features, sturdy materials, unpaired upgrade-ability, screen real estate (even if it was reduced from 1920x1200 to 1920x1080) and Metal design. For people like me, the M6600 is the reliable solution: Dell did a really great job of documenting and publishing pictures on how to upgrade it as well. It is really a great system (in every aspect) and a solid performer that won't let you down. I have no regrets and I didn't have to compromise on anything.

I know inside my review there are some harsh/direct/raw judgements that may sound like bashing (especially "against" the Apple/Sony friends/fans/crowds), but I spoke only about facts and personal experience, so I hope nobody feels offended by that (they're just Companies and you maybe shareholders, so what? We're all free to say what we think, especially on a personal blog).

I will conclude my review with some pictures that are worth more than 1000 words.

With an M6600 you can have all of this:

Before M6600.

into this:

Dell Precision M6600

"Future Scenarios" ideas:

- Internal Quadro 1000m + e-GPU.

- Pair the M6600 with one or two 24+" Decent LCDs.

- Add the Docking Station to expand its connectivity.

- Make it an home server.

- Crank the RAM @ 32 GB 1600Mhz (it seems to work - search through the M6600 Owner's Thread).

- RAID 0 w/dual SSDs (plus an External ESATA Backup).

As you can see, limitless possibilities for your ideal and perfect system.

Senior Professional Network and Computer Systems Engineer during work hours and father when home.

Andrea strives to deliver outstanding customer service and heaps of love towards his family.

In this Ad-sponsored space, Andrea shares his quest for "ultimate" IT knowledge, meticulously brought to you in an easy to read format.

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My Dell Precision M6600 Review contestants.

March 25th, 2012 by Andrea Matesi 1325 Views

When I needed to "cashout", I closed the circle on the following subset of laptops:

  • The Alienware series.
  • The Apple MacBook Pro 15 & 17.
  • The Asus G73.
  • The Dell Latitude E6520.
  • The Dell XPS 17.
  • The Dell Precision M4600/M6600.
  • The HP 8760w.
  • The Lenovo w520 and the x220.
  • A really expensive Sony Vaio Z.
  • Some barebones like Eurocom/Sager, etc.

Some of those are, like...WOW!

BUT I simply kept in mind "what I needed" with "what those laptops offered".

Here's some personal considerations which brought me to my personal choice:

- Virtualization, Certification studies, experimenting with labs, some development, browsing, emailing, etc. (all at the same time...), asked for a "many-cores" CPU with virtualization extensions, plenty of RAM and medium/fast SSD.

- DSLR photography requested for an high-res and 100% rgb color space display, so I had to look for a high quality IPS LCD display (no more dithering please!), and since my eyes are thankful for my previous 24” Dell 2405FPW LCD, I wanted no compromises. This feature alone disqualified almost all of the contestants, but the HP 8760w, the Dell Precision M4600 and the tiny Lenovo x220. Too bad the IPS LCD was still in the making when I got my M6600, so I had to compromise on it (suffice it to say that now you can have a fantastic IPS LCD for your laptop AND I will highly envy you!).

- Since I had an Avermedia 54mm nano Hybrid Express TV Card lying around, my Home entertainment needs requested for an Express Card 54mm port (which is also nice to have for other things...). For music and movies, I am fine with a standard cable headset and I felt I didn’t need high-power JBL sound systems like what a Dell XPS 17 could have offered (even if I am quite into Rock, Metal, Alternative, industrial, some electronica, etc.).

m6600 bottom panel off - expandabilty details

m6600 bottom panel off - expandabilty details

- Casual gaming for me represents some FPS/RTS/RPG/4X games I played in the past and I still can't find time to play in the present. In the past I played FEAR, Oblivion, the C&C series and some very beautiful variations, I enjoyed the RPGs (the Baldur's Gate series, Planescape Torment, the Neverwinter Nights series, SWTOR-series, the first Mass Effect (WOW!) - but no time for 2nd and 3rd chapter...sigh!), and I really liked Space Sims and 4X games like MOO, Galciv, Sins of A Solar Empire and the Sci-Fi Fans apotheosis: the X-Universe series. Anyway, I thought I needed efficient graphics, which could (some-day-don't-know-when) satisfy my "leisure time requirements". In the end, I simply compromised on it and I choose an Optimus 3000m.

- The Majority of the listed notebooks are easily upgradeable. Some require you to go under the keyboard (and the M6600 is no exception). Essentially all of them are more or less scalable/upgradeable, as they allow for plenty of intervention by their owners. Well, not every of those allows you to crank it up seriously as the M6600 allows you to, but nonetheless, your requirements might be different. Dell publishes detailed manuals with clear explanations and pictures on how to service and upgrade the M6600 on your own (check this out: http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/wsm6600/en/SM/index.html). The HP 8560w seems well documented too, the others I don’t know, but I suppose today all laptops offer you some way to "dive-in".

- The M6600 is made of a sturdy composite alloy made of zinc and plastic elegantly blended together, the HP design is fantastic and the Lenovo seems excellent too, the unibody designs are also winners. The Latitude design looks solid. Less so for the ASUS, the XPS and the barebones (but I think they are still superior than the average commercial plastic notebooks).

- Since I were putting 2 months of my life on this expensive baby, I wanted to dedicate a small part of my budget to "security" features, so I decided to pay the "lojack" tax w/the intel anti-theft technologies and a kensington cable to keep me partially covered (but I forgot to get the fingerprint reader...whoops!).

dell-m6600-left-side-connectivity

dell-m6600-left-side-connectivity

Before the M6600, I started to think that the laptop I needed was either non-existant or out-of-my league (ie. the HP 8760W), but as time passed by and new models popped up, I kept looking and looking until I found "the right one".

Senior Professional Network and Computer Systems Engineer during work hours and father when home.

Andrea strives to deliver outstanding customer service and heaps of love towards his family.

In this Ad-sponsored space, Andrea shares his quest for "ultimate" IT knowledge, meticulously brought to you in an easy to read format.

Posted in REVIEWS | Comments Off on My Dell Precision M6600 Review contestants.

My Dell Precision M6600 Review intro.

March 17th, 2012 by Andrea Matesi 6230 Views
or why a pwrusr buys a Dell Precision M6600.

(a 3 Pts. article which explains why I got the Dell Precision M6600 Laptop).

I finally settled on a fancy new laptop which is, in fact, my first true personal laptop: the Dell Precision M6600 in all of its glory!

As some of the readers of this blog may have guessed, I deal with people and computers and I enjoy offering my services as a trusted employee.

Once I moved from Sicily to Northern Italy, all of my belongings followed me: my car, my (proudly self-built) desktop pc and the "best buy" of my life, a wonderful 24” PVA LCD from Dell (the 2405FPW).

But getting down under is a whole different story: I needed a Panzerkampfwagen VIII nice and sturdy laptop to start from scratch.

Before entering the flashy world of notebooks, I needed to feel the market pulse, so I started looking at the existing models, I investigated laptop hardware news channels, I made a notebookreview.com account (the best Notebook Community out there, seriously) and in the beginning I started reading various threads, then, once I thought I got something, I declared the M6600 Owners thread my notebookreview.com home (I also posted some doubts and shared my experiences with the other users, very good experience overall).

Anyway, before getting the M6600, I first wrote down some notes on what my “user” needs were and some (wife looking at you...), budget figures in accordance with my dear other half - in the end, we settled to “no more than 2 months of my (tiny) salary".

That's more or less what I needed:

  • A test environment to study and experiment with IT Certs.
  • Virtualization Support.
  • Browsing and E-mailing.
  • Casual web development.
  • Casual DSLR photography.
  • Casual home, music and movies entertainment.
  • Quality and sturdy materials for the casing.
  • Casual gaming.
  • Desktop-like scalability and upgradeability.
  • Some basic security features.

That's (more or less) what I got:

1xLaptop Dell Precision M6600 w/i7-2720 & 12GB 1333Mhz DDR3, Quadro 3000m, WLAN 6300.

1xCorsair Force 3 SSD (it works perfectly fine by booting MS-Win2k8R2SP1 w/the Hyper-V Role).

1xOCZ nocti mSATA SSD (it works perfectly fine, by booting a virtual instance of an AD w/pass-through mode).

1xTB 9.5mm Samsung M1 hdd.

Logitech G500 Mouse.

Dell WWAN 5550 (paired w/the the "bush survival kit" - more on that on another article :D ).

Senior Professional Network and Computer Systems Engineer during work hours and father when home.

Andrea strives to deliver outstanding customer service and heaps of love towards his family.

In this Ad-sponsored space, Andrea shares his quest for "ultimate" IT knowledge, meticulously brought to you in an easy to read format.

Posted in REVIEWS | 1 Comment »