Screen and Speakers
As far as the display is concerned, our review unit of the M4600 features a "Dell UltraSharp" panel with 1920 x 1080 resolution. Specifically, you get an UltraSharp with PremierColor technology, IPS, wide view, anti-glare, LED-backlit, 100% Adobe RGB Color Gamut, and Dell's Premium Panel Guarantee. In short, Dell has gone out of its way to make everything about this display appeal to graphic artists and engineering professionals who work with a large color spectrum. The high color gamut is essential if you're doing color-critical work (such as color matching every frame of an animated film) but that added color range combined with the default display settings means you'll have to color calibrate the M4600 as soon as it arrives. The reds in our review unit were far too saturated (we actually turned down the saturation by 10 percent and the reds were still too hot). Still, that's pretty standard for a screen like this and most graphic artists are familiar with color calibrating their displays.
As with all IPS panels, the viewing angles on the M4600 are nothing short of spectacular. The screen looks great when viewed at any angle from straight on, horizontal or even when looking from above. The colors are always consistent and the LED backlighting is nice and even across the entire panel. Of course, if you purchase a configuration of the M4600 with a standard TN panel then the colors will shift when viewed from various angles.
The audio performance from mobile workstations is usually pretty average since these notebooks aren't designed to be used as home entertainment PCs. Regardless, the built-in stereo speakers on the M4600 are nothing short of impressive. Both speakers are located above the keyboard so sound is directed up and toward the user, but the range is also very good with a surprising amount of bass and excellent clarity with virtually no distortion even at the highest volume settings. Serious music lovers will probably want to use a set of quality headphones via the headphone jack but the built-in speakers are great for listening to streaming content online.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size keyboard in our review unit features a simple layout and LED backlighting. The individual keys and keyboard trim are matte black so the keys don't highlight fingerprint smudges the way that glossy keys do on consumer laptops. The keyboard support structure okay for general use, but the keyboard suffers from a modest degree of flex or "bounce" over the entire surface if you type with significant pressure.
The LED-backlit keyboard is designed to help you see what you're typing in a dark room or on a dimly-lit airplane. However, this keyboard uses a combination of fairly weak LEDs and thick keys. The end result of that combination is that the text on each key isn't very bright even when using the maximum backlight brightness setting. Someone on the Dell Precision design team probably needs to have a meeting with the team that designs the LED-backlit keyboards on Dell's Alienware gaming notebooks. Mobile workstations don't need color-changing LEDs but there's no point in having a backlit keyboard that isn't very bright at the maximum setting.
The touchpad on the Precision M4600 is actually an Alps touchpad that suffers from some minor lag and lacks the kind of precise movement you would expect on a high-priced mobile workstation. On a happier note, the touchpad shares the same matte surface and texture as the palm rests and, like any good mobile workstation, the touchpad includes a middle mouse button as well as a separate set of buttons for the pointing stick (or "track stick" as Dell calls it).
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