Dell Precision M6700 review

This 17in workstation features an robust design, plenty of ports and can be configured to suit your business needs.

Clever on the inside

The M6700 is one of the most modular laptops we've ever seen, in contrast other devices such as the MacBook Pro, which offers no upgradeable parts. After removing the battery and screws, the bottom slides out of the way, and there's plenty to like on the inside. There are two memory slots, one of which is occupied on our review sample, and both of the cooling fans can be removed quickly.

There's plenty of room to expand: spare mini-PCI Express and mSATA sockets can be used for improved Wi-Fi chips or additional storage, and the existing wireless card is slotted into a half-height mini-PCI Express socket, with a spare one alongside.

Dell Precision - Inside

The life of the device can be extended by upgrading parts as and when required

Dell has paid attention to the tiniest detail, with even four screws provided to fit extra parts. These sit alongside an empty hard disk cage. Holes for screws are identified with letters based on which parts they connect to, and it's possible to easily remove the shroud covering most of the motherboard as it stretches across the machine. The hard disk, meanwhile, pops out of its own socket on the right-hand side of the base and is unlocked by flicking a switch underneath the battery.

Performance

Our review sample was fitted with modest specifications. Processing power was provided by the Core i5-3320M, a mid-range Intel Ivy Bridge chip running at 2.6GHz with a maximum Turbo Boost of 3.3GHz. It scored 0.68 in our benchmark, so it has enough grunt to handle commonly used work applications - but it'll balk when tasked with resource hungry software. Those looking for more power might consider the MacBook Pro, which scored 0.92 thanks to its Core i7 processor.

Graphical power is middling, too. The AMD FirePro M6000 is a reasonable workstation chip - after all, it's based on the Radeon HD 7870M - and it scored 33fps in our 1,920 x 1,080 high quality Crysis test. This'll translate to fine performance in graphical applications, and it's also a frame quicker than the Apple's consumer graphics chip managed.

Elsewhere, there's 4GB of RAM, a DVD writer and a 320GB hard disk. The inclusion of single-band wireless is a disappointment alongside Gigabit Ethernet, but the battery improved the situation: the nine-cell powerpack on offered lasted 5hrs 27mins, which is two hours longer than the 2010 version of the Precision. This compares well to the MacBook Pro's 4hrs 32mins in Windows, but trails when compared to OS X. When running its native OS, the MacBook Pro lasted 10hrs 34mins away from the mains.

Several useful software applications are included, but Dell's packages can't match the extensive suite of apps included on Lenovo's ThinkPads. Backup, data encryption and wireless configuration tools are included, and we're pleased to see ISV certification, which guarantees plenty of business software will work without any issue.

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