Laptops

Review: Dell Precision M6400 Laptop

Dell targets its line of Precision workstations at engineers, scientific staff, field workers, video editors, animators and other professionals requiring scalability, demanding performance and mobility. Erik Eckel reviews the Dell Precision M6400 Laptop.

Dell's Precision computers target business professionals requiring high scalability and performance in a mobile computer. Precision laptops -- due to their capable components, magnesium-alloy exterior, steel hinges and StrikeZone Shock Absorbers -- are potent machines that lend themselves well to field service, whether they're deployed for engineering, design, analysis, video work or scientific tasks.

Specifications

  • Processor: Up to Intel Core 2 Duo Quad Core Extreme Processor
  • RAM: Dual Channel DDR3 (Up to 16GB)
  • Video: NVIDIA Quadro FX 2700M graphics with 512MB dedicated memory, NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700M graphics with 1GB dedicated memory
  • Screen: 17" WXGA+ UltraSharp Display (1440x900) Resolution, 17" WUXGA UltraSharp Display (1920x1200) Resolution, 17" WUXGA RGB LED Back-Lit Display (1920x1200) Resolution, 17" WUXGA RGB LED Edge To Edge Back-Lit Display (1920x1200) Resolution
  • Storage: Up to two hard drives in optional RAID 0 or RAID 1 configuration, 7200RPM Free Fall Sensor-equipped hard drives up to 500GB, 7200RPM Encrypted FFS hard drives up to 160GB or solid state hard drive up to 256GB
  • Optical Drives: DVD-ROM, CD-RW/DVD, DVD +/-RW
  • Dimensions: 15.4" x 11" x 1.35", 8.5lbs
  • OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 32-Bit, Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit, Windows Vista Business 32-Bit, Windows Vista Business 64-Bit, Windows Vista Ultimate with Downgrade Rights Service to Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista Ultimate with Downgrade Rights Service to Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, Windows Vista Business with Downgrade Rights Service to Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista Business with Downgrade Rights Service to XP Professional x64 Edition
  • Price: Start at $1,977 direct
  • More Info: Dell Precision M6400 Mobile Workstation
  • For a closer look, check out the TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who's it for?

Dell targets its line of Precision workstations at engineers, scientific staff, field workers, video editors, animators and other professionals requiring scalability, demanding performance and mobility. Precision laptops boast high resolution and significant capacity (up to an Intel Core 2 Duo Quad Core Extreme CPU, two hard disks running RAID 0 or RAID 1, 16GB of RAM and even one gigabyte dedicated memory video cards). That's more than is found in most corporate desktop PCs, certainly.

What problem does it solve?

The Precision line, with shock protection features, tough alloy shells and reliable steel hinges, is designed for real-world field use. At the same time, Precision models are built to deliver scalable, demanding performance. That's a rare combination in most corporate laptops.

The capacity to provide significant performance (using an Intel Core 2 Duo Quad Core Extreme CPU, for example, with 16GB of RAM, a terabyte of storage and a 1GB dedicated memory video card) in an attractive case matched with a large 17" display make it a natural fit for professional users that require demanding desktop performance but mobility, too. For such field workers, the Precision can eliminate the need for a second, portable system while serving as a desktop replacement.

Standout features

  • Scalable - Precision laptops are designed to power demanding applications. With capacity for two hard disks and a terabyte of data storage, Precision models boast more storage than is typically common in business laptops. Because they're also designed to enable video, scientific and engineering tasks, the models support up to 16GB of RAM and can be built with a video card sporting one gigabyte of dedicated memory.
  • Performance - Precision workstations are fast. With 7200RPM hard disks, dual-channel DDR3 RAM, quad-core extreme processors and optional RAID configurations, the laptops easily outperform most corporate desktop PCs, not to mention most mobile PCs.
  • Warranty - Corporations will appreciate Dell's limited hardware warranty, which covers Precision models for three years as a standard feature. The warranty provides for next business day replacement of faulty covered components.
  • Connectivity - Numerous connectivity options are available on Precision laptops. They include: Wireless LAN, Bluetooth 2.1, Ultra-Wideband, Next Generation Mobile Broadband, WWAN and GPS. Default ports include Firewire, four USB 2.0, VGA, DisplayPort, RJ-45, audio and eSata.
  • Security - Numerous security features help protect Precisions from unauthorized access. All the following are supported as standard or optional features: Smart Card Reader, Fingerprint Reader, FIPS Fingerprint Reader, TPM 1.2, and the Wave Embassy Trust Suite. Further, the unit's integrated wireless network card supports WPA, WPA2 and 802.1x with EAP and CCX 4.0 compatibility.
  • Expandability - Dell Precision laptops are members of the E-Family collection of modular components, which means any other E-Family docking station and other peripherals will prove compatible. Further, an 8-in-1 car reader, ExpressCard54 and PC Card slot are all standard on the Precision.

What's wrong?

  • Weight - The Precision M6400 is heavy. At 8.5 pounds, albeit with a 9-cell battery and 17" display, no one will mistake the Precision for a lightweight portable.
  • Adapter Size - Granted, the Precision packs quite a bit of horsepower under the hood, but the corresponding power brick is big. While Dell's designers created an adapter that's still computer bag-friendly (its large width enables a thinner brick), the power block itself possesses a larger footprint than most.

Competitive Products

Bottom line for business

Dell Precisions won't make sense for all business' seeking high performance laptops. But those organizations requiring mobile workstations that can perform heavy duty scientific calculations, run demanding engineering applications, edit video, perform data analysis on large data sets and more, especially in the field, will find the Precision up to the task.

Similar systems are available from only a handful of manufacturers. While HP and Lenovo, in particular, also field similar units, only HP's matches Dell's three-year warranty (Lenovo's lasts just one year).

User rating

Have you encountered a Dell Precision M6400? If so, what do you think? Rate the unit and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of the Dell Precision M6400 laptop in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review above.

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About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

1 comments
Mark Fairchilds
Mark Fairchilds

Got the M6400 from my work. Hasn't suffered the usual McAfee slowdown despite a full pwning of ePO, VS, and HIPS. Remains relatively quick. I've even played Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on the weekends (on Medium settings). Only have the 1440x900 screen, but the 1920x1200 RGB LED screen should be amazing. Just got a 24 inch U2410 as a secondary screen at work on the docking station Display Port, have been happy with the result. Going to try for the Triforce next weekend. Wish me luck.