I recently received an email from a reader asking for advice on the "best" laptop Dell has to offer. The reader's work is footing the bill, but with the requirement that it had to be a Dell laptop. He wanted to get the best Dell had to offer, which immediately brought the Precision line into play. Without knowing the exact intended use, however, it's difficult to say whether the money and performance would be justified. For those of you running CAD/CAM, 3D rendering, or doing heavy video editing on the other hand, such a purchase could certainly pay dividends, as Dustin recently showed in our HP EliteBook 8670w review.

Once you've got the fastest mobile CPU and GPU in your laptop, the next performance upgrade should be clear: you add an SSD or two. Dell has now updated their M4600 and M6600 that launched in May with the option to add up to two 512GB SATA 6Gbps SSDs, plus a 128GB mini-PCIe SSD if you need even more storage. Dell informs us they are using the Micron C400 family of SSDs, which we looked at in March, and recently we looked at the M4/C400 again with the latest firmware.

Dell specifically cites working with video content in their Enterprise IT blog as a major advantage of a fast storage subsystem, and we can attest to the benefit of fast SSDs for such tasks. Another benefit Dell touts is the durability aspect of SSDs—no moving parts makes them far more shock resistant than even the best HDDs.

Of course, 512GB SSDs don't come cheap, and Dell is charging $1120 to upgrade the M4600/6600 from the base 250GB HDD to the 512GB SSD; adding a second/third 512GB SSD will tack on a cool $1350 (making the first SSD a substantially better value, unless you think a 250GB HDD is worth anywhere near $230). By comparison, you can grab Crucial's M4 512GB for $770 if you'd rather do the upgrade yourself. RAID 0/1 support is also available on the M4600, and the M6600 includes an option for a third drive and RAID 5 (but only with the 128GB mini-PCIe SSD).

As a final note, Dell has also updated the graphics offerings on the M6600 to include the NVIDIA Quadro 5010M with 4GB GDDR5. That brings the Precision M6600 up to parity with the HP EliteBook 8670w, though there are still differences. If it wasn't immediately clear, the Precision line is for serious work and professional use, and the $1640 upgrade from the AMD FirePro M8900 to the Quadro 5010M is yet another indication of the target market. Max out the hardware configuration on the M6600 with three SSDs, the i7-2920XM, 16GB DDR3-1600, and a Quadro 5010M and you're staring at a fat $10G. That might seem crazy, until you consider the software packages these things are designed and certified to run can cost easily twice as much as the hardware.

Update: We incorrectly assumed Dell was using the Samsung P830. Dell has informed us they are using Micron C400 SSDs, and we have edited the above text as appropriate.

Source: Dell PR

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  • BLaber - Thursday, September 8, 2011 - link

    All this looks & features on the out side with a next business day warranty is not worth even a penny because of nightmares that you will have with quality of refurbished parts that are put into your system when you call dell for repair job , there will be multiple engineer visits to replace parts in your system but no guarantee of your system even lasting few days after parts have been replaced + "time spent half a day between 9:00Am to 5:30Pm waiting for the engineer x no.of engineer visits"

    Anyone with M6500 laptop having issues with LCD release button not working , its a known issue , spring in the bottom base of the laptop breaks all the time so call Dell support & get it replaced , you don't need complete care warranty to get it replaced. There are thousand more such issues i can list but I will save it for later.
  • icrf - Thursday, September 8, 2011 - link

    I have an M6400 and it's been rock solid. I recently added an OCZ Vertex 2 60GB to the second bay and installed Windows 7 to it, and wiped the original drive. No complaints about the two year old version. I suspect I'll have the machine for a long time to come.
  • Zak - Saturday, September 10, 2011 - link

    Most vendors use refurbished parts for warranty repairs (except for hard drives). In particular if your computer is already a couple of years old. Nothing surprising here.
  • darckhart - Thursday, September 8, 2011 - link

    remember that you're trying to stuff all the power and heat of a workstation beast (albeit they're mobile variants) into a laptop form factor.
  • foreign noise - Thursday, September 8, 2011 - link

    Sitting here reading on my m6600 - these things are absolute wonders. Through I must say that the spinning platter HD I have makes my heart ache when I read this!

    But, to respond to Piece of sh*t and darckhart, I have a machine that whoops the a** of most desktops (i7-2820QM and Quadro 3000M), and this thing is silent as a mouse, never gets particularly warm, and is relatively light. In all 3 catagories it performs MUCH better than my old Sony 17 inch media laptop. Battery life is about three hours when working, much better than I would have thought. And it is beautiful - sleek, well made, discrete, stylish.
  • RaistlinZ - Thursday, September 8, 2011 - link

    How much did it cost you?
  • foreign noise - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    Not entirely shure, university account paid for it. But around £2000.
  • Solidstate89 - Thursday, September 8, 2011 - link

    I absolutely my Precision M4600. It is bar none the best laptop I have ever owned. And combined with Optimus and the 9-cell 97whr battery that I got it with, I can easily last over 5 hours with this high-end hardware. Even the TN panel that I chose is absolutely beautiful. Vertical viewing angles aren't impressive at all, but the horizontal angles are, especially for a TN. Blacks are deep and rich, almost as good as my U2211H monitor on my desktop. The keyboard is very nice. About the only complaint I can muster about this laptop is the touchpad drivers. Instead of using Synaptic like every other notebook I've used, Dell uses their own custom driver and good lord it is just...awful. Just awful.
  • douglaswilliams - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    The M4600 can only be configured with two hard drives: one 128GB Solid State Minicard Drive in the WWAN slot plus one of your choice in the normal hard drive bay (up to 256GB (SATA3) SSD or 750GB 7200rpm HD).

    Only the M6600 as well can only be configured with two hard drives in their own hard drive bays: up to 512GB (SATA3) SSD or 750GB 7200rpm HD as the first, and up to 256GB (SATA3) SSD or 750GB 7200rpm HD as the second.

    On the M6600, after you get it, you can put another SSD in the WWAN mini card slot.

    On both after you get it, you can install another HD in an HD caddy that goes in the optical drive slot.

    The 6600 has 2 full and 2 half Mini-Card slots and the 4600 has 1 full and 2 half Mini-Card slots ...I don't know how many hard drives you can stuff in those things.

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