Dell Precision M6400

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It would seem someone at Dell has been taking industrial design night classes as the new Precision M6400 mobile workstation is like nothing you’ve seen before – well nothing you’ve seen before from Dell anyway. The sleek aluminum chassis gives the machine a clean look and you’ll be pleased to hear there’s no ‘in your face’ Dell logo to detract from its sleek lines.

The sleek aluminum chassis gives the machine a clean look

Despite its good looks there’s no hiding the fact that the M6400 is a beast of a mobile workstation. Weighing in at around 4kg and with a power supply that feels as heavy as a Mac Book Air, Dell’s top end mobile workstation is not one for the road. It’s a desktop replacement with the emphasis on desktop but is kitted out with some extremely powerful technology, including Intel’s Core 2 Extreme Quad Core QX9300 (2.53GHz) processor, a 1GB NVIDIA Quadro FX3700M graphics chip and 8GB RAM.

With a concentration on multiple cores, rather than GHz, our review machine’s strength lies in its ability to cut through multi-threaded calculations with ease. This was attested by the incredibly fast time put in under our 3ds Max Design rendering benchmark, though the CPU should be equally adept at handling CFD and FEA simulations. The M6400 is unique in that it features four DIMM slots so is able to get up to 8GB RAM without breaking the bank. If, for some reason, that’s not enough, then the M6400 can even support 16GB with 4GB DIMMs, but expect to pay a premium.

The M6400 also makes light work of manipulating large 3D models and this is down to the powerful 1GB graphics chip, which is one of the reasons for the giant power supply as it literally eats electricity. As a result, battery life is limited when running 3D applications.

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The Precision M6400 has all the features you’d expect to find in a desktop workstation and delivers exceptional performance in both CPU- and graphics-intensive tasks

The desktop class features continue with the storage options as the M6400 offers full RAID support, and can accommodate two hard drives without having to sacrifice the slot load DVD burner.

The 17 inch 1,920 x 1,200 screen is one of a new generation of RGB LED backlit displays and is crisp and clear with vibrant colours and a wide viewing angle. An external monitor can be connected through DisplayPort, and with the optional docking station you can even run an additional monitor.

In terms of layout the M6400 looks surprisingly familiar, and with a full sized keyboard and glowing control buttons, it’s hard not to draw comparisons with HP Elitebook 8730w. However, the keyboard does not have the same solid feel as the HP and flexes in use, which was disappointing.

The Precision M6400 has all the features you’d expect to find in a desktop workstation and delivers exceptional performance in both CPU- and graphics-intensive tasks. However, due to the size and weight, portability is not exactly its strong point.
Greg Corke

www.dell.co.uk

Quad Core Intel Core 2 Quad QX9300 (2.53GHz)
8GB (4 x 2GB)
250GB 7,200RPM hard drive
Nvidia Quadro FX 3700M (1GB)
Windows Vista Business 64-bit with XP 64 Professional downgrade
17-inch LED display (1,920 x 1,200)
From 3.88kg
35 x 393 x 286mm
Three year basic warranty (NBD)

Benchmarks (XP)

Graphics (bigger is better) SolidWorks 2009 – 12 3ds Max Design 2009 – 156 Inventor 2009 – 2.7
CPU (smaller is better) 3ds Max Design – 1,155 secs
Quad Core Intel Core 2 Quad QX9300 (2.53GHz)
8GB (4 x 2GB)
Nvidia Quadro FX 3700M (1GB)
n/a
250GB 7,200RPM hard drive
Three year basic warranty (NBD)
http://www.dell.co.uk/


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