Dell Precision M6300 Hands On review. ~ Ask The Admin

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dell Precision M6300 Hands On review.

After a week with the Dell Precision 6300 it is right at home with my other laptops and has been my machine of choice while doing my daily routines. It's magnesium alloy chassis is something new and an improvement over the M90 (it's predecessor).

Dell™ Home Notebooks

We saw a Core 2 Duo X7900 processor which clocks in at 2.8GHz (800MHz FSB). This bad boy supports up to 4GB of DDR2 memory while we were sporting 2gb. You can only hit the 4gb limit if you run with the 64bit os instead of the normal 32.

There was no competition in performance over my little Latitude X1 in Photoshopping, rendering video and just in normal operations. But that could have been expected because the M6300 is more than double the weight of the X1.

At first I couldn't find its 8.5 lbs place in my lap but after a day of working with it, it wasn't a issue. When looking back on to my X1 screen I found myself missing the large bright screen. Mind you its not LED but that might be an option coming soon! The built in fingerprint reader and smart card reader are great options in business machines but stuff I didn't use (well, I played with the biometrics a little... ). There are DVI, VGA, S-Video Out, Firewire, usb and the rest of the usuals. The side vents keep this baby cool and there was no lap burn after 3 hours of use.

For video we were were packing NVIDIA's Quadro FX 1600M with 512MB of TurboCache (256MB dedicated). The Large 17" screen was great for graphic and video work and watching DVD's on it was DOPE! It is shiny and reflective, but not enough to annoy you like the Sony's. I really like it. Pardon me if I am a little smitten with it :). Dell offers the M6300 in WXGA+ (1440x900) and WUXGA (1920x1200) screen resolutions with TrueLife or anti-glare screen coatings. The sound coming out of this beast was also pretty impressive for a laptop. I did not use external speakers or headphones to watch my flicks. We got 2 and a half hours off the battery with DVD and WiFi a-blasting. Without media playback it was closer to 3 and a half hours; not bad for this beast of a screen.

Speaking of WiFi, this lappie has some magic new WiFi powers because it stays connected to my router without an issue - unlike my other machines. I was getting full wi-fi downstairs in front of my crib! I noticed stickers on the bottom of the laptop about WiFi changes and FCC warnings (see the flickr set) ... Hmm, that could only mean BIG improvements.

The large keyboard makes me feel like I am right in front of my flat panel (reminder: must get bigger monitor!) As I am writing this I am beginning to think my mobile workforce might really appreciate these machines, as they are always complaining about their fat fingers on the small keyboards. Dell offers imaging services with the precision line to help out you admins eying this machine. The dust resistant keyboard is also a nice add-on, even though we didn't see it mentioned anywhere.

The solid state drives were not available to me at the time of review but you can only imagine it would boost performance (and cost! ouch) Mobile broadband is available from ATT for you mobile road warriors not up on tethering.

Some people wrote in about Game testing - I was unable to do it, but if you have some other graphic card benchmarks you want me to run give a holler. Let me know in the comments. I will hold onto the machine for a few more days to answer your questions - HIT US UP!


Fro,m Reader Colin on 11/2/2007

Hi guys!

So I got my Dell on the 31st. Woulda posted here earlier but that was the day I was moving out of my apartment. Just in time!

I have to say... this machine is awesome. Absolutely fantastic. I love it.

It's actually not very heavy, I was pretty surprised. The screen is wonderful, the sound quality is good, the keyboard is nice, the trackpad is good (especially the middle button on there. brilliant!)

In terms of game performance, it's a beast. I can play the Crysis demo at 1024x768 with some settings on high, and a few on medium, which is actually pretty impressive. I quickly bought Orange Box on Steam, and fired up Portal and Team Fortress 2. No problems there. They aren't system killers like Crysis, but they sure look good on this screen with all the effects turned up. I'm impressed with the performance of the 1600m.

I was in the process of downloading 3dmark, but I'm on a slower connection while I wait for my broadband to be moved to my new place. I'll hopefully get it soon... but the server I was downloading from wouldn't let me resume for some reason. Anyway we already saw those scores.

As Karl mentioned... the wireless performance is excellent. I don't know what magic they use but the signal strength is really good. I get a good connection with this thing when my fujitsu-seimens is completely out of range.

I got the 7200rpm hard drive in mine, and it's pretty fast. Definitely see an improvement in so many areas--work, gaming, and general use.

I can't say enough good things about it. It's really just a great, solid machine. If there was ANYTHING I would want to change about it, I would prefer maybe a keyboard with a numpad, since there seems to be quite a bit of extra room on the sides. Don't their new Inspirons have that? (but I guess that would kind of force you to do most of your typing on the leftish side of the laptop, which might not be that great)

The keyboard itself is pretty far back, but it actually gives you a nice resting place for your wrists once you get used to the ergonomics. That's actually pretty nice to have if you're using the laptop on your lap, which is entirely possible given that it is fairly light, and doesn't get too hot. (I used to have an Acer Ferrari... that thing would burn.)

I haven't run any battery life tests on it, but it seems pretty good considering the large screen and high-end components. Probably 3 hours for web browsing if you turn the brightness down a bit.

Overall, I'm happy. Brilliant machine that lets me game and work.

Hows your order coming along Adrian? I have to admit I was pretty peeved to be in that situation considering it was a business order too... but in the end I only waited just over 4 weeks. Perhaps they are also experiencing problems getting those high-end CPUs on top of everything else... it's a pity. But after all the time you've invested already waiting is the smart thing. :P

From Reader AG 10/19/07: Config: 2.4Ghz with biometric scanner/4 GB RAM/160 GB @ 7200rpm/WUXGA 1920 * 1200 with true life.For people who don't like to work with tiny fonts may consider a lower resolution display. Though 1920*1200 gives you a LOT of real estate but at the cost display size. You can lower the resolution but the display quality suffers. So, it's better to get a native lower resolution in that case.

From Reader AG 10/21/07:

Feedback on M6300 (after two days with the machine). Please note my notes will have major references to Operating Systems (Xp and Vista) as a part of the hardware feedback.

Configuration : 2.4 GHz with biometric scanner/4 GB RAM/160 GB @ 7200rpm/XP 32-bit pre-installed/

It's a very powerful machine; some may call it heavy but with all the raw force, it's worth every ounce.

M6300 is supposed to be a "business" notebook and comes with ISV Certification, which means (as quoted on the Dell web site) "Application vendors run tests to insure the hardware platform and its individual components work without error". If you have business-critical applications, then it's better to have it come with Xp, and upgrade to Vista later when you are certain that nothing will break or you wouldn't have to waste time dealing with compatibility issues. More on this comes later in the feedback below.

I got a separate copy of Vista Business 32-bit with an intention of dual booting. It's important to have multiple partitions for dual booting. If your system comes with a single partition with all the disk space in that partition and you intend to dual boot, then you will have to format the system, create two partitions, install Xp in the first, and then install Vista in the second. You could use Partition Magic or something to avoid this, and partition the disk directly but success is not guaranteed.

[I configured my system with a 50% Primary / 50% Secondary partition while placing the order.]

4 GB of RAM is not usable by a 32-bit system and Xp "detected" around 3.5 GB. I wanted to test Vista and make sure all my application run on it before I invest time fully setting up Xp so I started the Vista installation. I inserted the Vista DVD while I was already booted in Xp. (You can also boot using the Vista DVD and take it from there). Vista installer gave me a "recommended" option of upgrading Xp to Vista but I chose a clean install. I selected the second (empty) partition, answered a couple of very basic questions and that's it. I actually had a meeting with someone, so I left the system running and the installation completed before I returned, so I have no idea how long Vista Installation took. The stock drivers in Vista were not good for some of the hardware components like Graphics Card, NIC etc. So, the Dell Resource DVD came in handy. It has all the drivers and utilities for Xp/Vista 32-bit systems. I upgraded most of the drivers with the ones on the Dell Resource DVD as it has an "update" stamp of August 2007 and most Vista stock drivers would be older.

Setting up the fingerprint in Vista was a little challenge as the suite to configure the prints etc. (Security by Wave Systems) kept crashing. Once we install this Wave Systems suite, it takes over the Windows authentication protocol, and gives an option on how the user wants to authenticate. To make a long story short, after several installs/uninstalls, fingerprint reader chip driver rollback, spy ware software un-installation etc., I got it to work. By the time it worked, I forgot the successful sequence of events.

The feedback may be becoming too OS specific but I think users could face similar problems and I just want to share my experience. There were no issues in Xp as it was factory installed.

One problem I found with the fingerprint reader was that the reading surface gets hot (beyond the comfort range sometimes) when playing with the scanning options or installing/uninstalling related software; proximity to the exhaust vent may be the culprit.

The WUXGA 1900*1220 screen is brilliant. I have a 19 inch Sony external monitor hooked up to the DVI port, and the difference speaks for itself. The clarity and the quality are FAR superior in the Dell display. As I pointed in one of my earlier posts, the higher resolution quality comes at the cost of size of things. While I get a lot of space to place things but the font size of web sites, icons etc. gets very small, at least for my comfort. I may get used to it eventually but it's definitely annoying. Folks may want to consider a native lower resolution display. If I fix the resolution from the adapter settings, then the quality suffers.

The DVD writer is a little noisy; not that I've used any quieter ones but just a note.

Some of my Xp-fine software/applications did NOT work on Vista. Symantec Antivirus 9.0 Corporate Edition was a major disappointment. I've had it for 4 years and I love it. I had to get the Vista-capable version of Zone Alarm security suite for my anti-virus/anti-spy ware needs. The newer Symantec products are Vista capable but use more resources. I lost Adobe Acrobat Professional 6.0, too, in an attempt to migrate to vista.

The speakers are great. After using Toshiba Satellite for a while, it was a pleasant surprise. It's not an audiophile-level quality but very good coming from a notebook.

Hard disk is quiet and fast. I don't think M6300 has any 5400 rpm option but go for 7200 rpm.

WiFi is phenomenal. My machine came with Intel 3945 a/b/g and it connects like glue. I have not used a wired connection so far. It gives consistent 54 Mbps transfer rate.

My computer generated Vista Experience score is 4.8.

The keyboard is well laid out; gives sufficient palm support. I don't use touch pad much (unless I'm really mobile, I'm always with a USB mouse) but it's pretty responsive. Surprisingly, I didn't miss the numeric keypad. Insert/Delete/Home/End keys may take a little getting used to; their peculiar location at the top is new, for me at least. Function key to turn on/off the wireless is nice; you can adjust brightness and perform other mundane tasks using the function keys.

Vista uses a lot of RAM. Running a minimal system will take up 1 GB. Add Yahoo Widgets (I didn't like Microsoft Gadgets), Outlook, couple of browser windows, music player and you are approaching 2 GB. If you can get a Dell deal, go for 4 GB from day one. Obviously, you will not get M6300 to surf the web; so, invest in RAM. You may upgrade it from or some other store but it may be a necessity for most users running Vista.

The 4 USB ports at the back is nice thinking; this way, you can hook up devices without having to see the dangling cables and use the 2 side ports for pen drives or other unobtrusive devices.

Gamers: whatever little time I've spent on games so far has pretty good feedback. I played Age of Empires 3 with all the game settings on "maximum", enabled the shaders, full reflections etc. and the machine did not wince. I played at the maximum resolutions and the display was fantastic.

Dell™ Home Notebooks

Reader AG 5 Days In:

Overall experience has been very good so far. Vista adopters, be careful as your "paid" Xp-compliant software may not function. I've seen some forums where people have rubbished M6300 against HP 8710 because of staid looks. I don't know how "pretty" HP 8710 is but you will have to pay an arm and a leg extra for the same configuration if you select HP. Plus, I really DO NOT think M6300 is ugly or anything. It may be a personal opinion but for folks who will simply reject M6300 because of the looks should rethink.

I have pretty much covered my 2 day experience with the machine. I'd be happy to address any specific questions about the same save 3D Mark or other scores.

Apart from the problems I've already mentioned with Vista w.r.t. software compatibility issues, I couldn't get my NIC card to connect to my router for wired connections. Wireless was fine. Maybe, there was something I didn't do right with the drivers while loading Vista but it was a real PIA. I tried Linksys and D-Link routers but no luck. I disabled the IP6 protocol stack, too, and it still didn't work. All this coupled with other issues had me return to Xp. Things may be different for Vista pre-installed as the Dell guys will, hopefully, make sure that everything works but it simply didn't work out for me. If you are a developer or depend on your machine for bread-n-butter, I'd recommend Xp.

Regarding speed, Vista was not slow. In fact, save the boot time, which went a little up after I loaded security suite and other items that open at start up, Vista is pretty quick. Outlook, Excel, Word etc. open in an eye blink. Vista uses the graphics hardware (for gaming) better as well. There are some settings regarding shaders, polygons etc. that can be enabled in Vista only.

If you don't already know, Vista has serious memory leaks problem. When you get your machine, try moving 4-5 GB of data to or from an external device (pen drive, external hard disk) or even between partitions for that matter. Guess what - Vista gives "Out of memory" error. Apparently, Vista caches the files or something, and there's a flaw with this mechanism. It'll eat all the memory and give up after copying some 20 odd files. I researched this issue and Microsoft is offering a hotfix "on request" i.e. you send an email to Microsoft and they send you a personalized download link with a disclaimer that the hotfix has not been thoroughly tested and we are not responsible etc. crap. They are working on this and will introduce the proper fix in a service pack.

So, it didn't make much sense to fight with Vista woes. I spent way too much time on Vista (more than I could afford) - only to realize that Xp is the best bet for now.

From Tommy 10/26:

I got my m6300 today.
I would say the machine rocks. I hated the aero performance compared to my 7800gtx in Inspiron 9300.

Long waited 3dmark scores.

3dmark2005 9994
3dmark2006 4807

this is with default drivers and lot of things running in background. So you can do better.

I saw the reviews above but for me nothing much to mention apart from it's magnesium alloy body. I had WUXGA before and I had the same laptop (form factor) before so for me a seemless upgrade. I have been using Vista since it launched and I don't know why people complain about it. I have found it so much better than XP that I would never go back to XP.

People who bash Vista just doesn't want change in life.

Screen is 10-15% brighter than my 9300. Same resolution so it is no change for me.

Let me know if you have any questions.


From Dell's Website:

The Dell PrecisionTM M6300 is a mobile performance workstation, optimized to provide the brute force computing power of a desktop workstation and the mobility of a notebook. Featuring uncompromising graphic performance, the M6300 is an ideal tool for digital content creators and CAD users who have a need for mobility. Designed for reliability, the Dell Precision M6300 offers the freedom, flexibility and performance needed to run demanding applications at home, in the office, or while traveling wherever you need to go.