Dell Precision M6300 Review (with Samsung SSD)

by Jerry Jackson Reads (101,440)

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by Jerry Jackson

The Dell Precision M6300 is a 17" desktop replacement targeted towards businesses that need a full-featured workstation with exceptional build quality. This notebook competes against such notebooks as the HP Compaq 8710p, HP Compaq 8710w and Fujitsu LifeBook N6470. The M6300 offers a wide range of hardware configurations, as well as a 64GB Samsung SSD for the businesses that require extreme ruggedness and extreme performance. Processors range from the T7250 all the way up to the X9000, RAM from 1GB to 4GB, display resolutions starting at WXGA+ up to WUXGA, and either NVIDIA Quadro FX 1600M or NVIDIA Quadro FX 3600M discrete graphics.

Our review model came with the following options, bringing the price up to $2,738 as configured from a base of $1,849.

  • Windows XP SP2
  • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T7250 (2.00GHz)
  • Mobile Intel P965 Express Chipset
  • Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN (802.11a/g/n)
  • 2GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM (maximum capacity 4GB)
  • 64GB Samsung SSD
  • 8x DVD (+/-R double layer) drive
  • 17.0" diagonal widescreen matte TFT LCD display at 1440x 900 (WXGA+, matte)
  • 256MB nVidia Quadro FX 1600M (512MB dedicated and shared memory)
  • Dimensions: 1.6"(H) x 15.5(W) x 11.3"(D)
  • Weight: 8.5 lbs
  • 130W 100-240V AC adapter
  • 9-cell (85Wh) Lithium Ion battery (1lb 1oz)
  • 3-Year Basic Limited Warranty and 3-Year NBD On-Site Service


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Build and Design

Like most of the Latitude and Precision notebooks, the Dell Precision M6300 is a simply refined "down to business" look. The chassis lacks any user configuration such as a custom top cover paint, but companies interested in outfitting their workforce with these workstations aren’t concerned about attractive paint jobs. In fact "system envy" (when one employee becomes jealous of another employee’s workstation) is something most companies want to avoid … and the simple exterior of the M6300 conceals an impressive level of performance.

The simple look and feel is matched with an even stronger and more durable chassis. During testing no plastic creaks or squeaks could be heard. In fact, even with significant (excessive) force applied to the LCD lid the lid refused to flex. The entire bottom shell is a metal alloy which gives the laptop a strong footprint on your desk, and is gives enough strength to resist bending if you hold the laptop by the edge of the palm rest walking around the room. The only downside to the chassis was the lack of a second hard drive bay … unusual for a 17-inch workstation. Overlooking that fact, the chassis is strong enough to hurt your knuckles if you try to punch it without giving up less than a millimeter of flex in the process.


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One additional benefit of not having a customized paint option is long term durability. The review models of several Dell Inspiron consumer notebooks had paint defects out of the box on the customized the LCD covers. The M6300 has no such problem and the chassis will likely withstand years of significant use and abuse before showing its age.


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Screen

The matte WXGA+ (1440×900) screen on the Dell Precision M6300 is absolutely beautiful. No dead pixels were found during testing, and backlight bleed while noticed on some dark screens was minimal. Colors were vibrant despite the matte screen and the additional benefit of matte screens is the lack of reflection in an office environment. Wide viewing angles made the screen look sharp even at oddly contorted angles. Backlight adjustment was very broad, allowing me to adjust low enough for darker room settings, and bright enough to still be readable in sunlight or a bright office.


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Protection for the screen through the rear cover prevented any rippling when you press in the cover. The release latch was smooth and unlike most latches on budget notebooks required little effort to release.

Speakers

The speakers on the M6300 were better than average for most laptops, comparable to speakers found on most midrange televisions. While lower bass was lacking, volume levels were quite loud, and distortion at peak levels was not present. Combined with the 17" display, it would not be hard at all to entertain a small group of businessmen with a multimedia presentation during a meeting.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard and palm rest structure matches the strength of the bottom panel of this laptop. Pressing down very firmly, the keyboard suffers from virtually zero flex. The palm rest is just as firm, supporting my wrists or elbows pressing down with barely a hint of flex.


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The keyboard is very comfortable to type on, and gave just the right amount of response for each key press. Key travel is similar to most business notebooks with just a bit less clicking sound than what we hear on ThinkPads in our office. The keyboard layout was not cramped at all, and the control key was in the correct (outmost) position on the left-hand side.

One odd omission is the lack of a dedicated number pad. Most 17-inch notebooks make sure of the additional footprint of the larger form-factor and include a dedicated number pad. While this isn’t a major problem, some corporate jobs that involve significant amounts of data entry will find the lack of a dedicated number pad quite depressing.

The touchpad is reasonably responsive, but could be improved. Lag time was minimal when starting each time, but accuracy was less than perfect. The size of the touchpad surface was large enough for comfortable control, and the surface texture had a smooth matte feel. The threes touchpad buttons spanned the full length of the touchpad, and each had a responsive click when pressed. One thing I appreciated was a third touchpad button to allow easier control of tabs during web browsing.


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Performance and Benchmarks

The Dell Precision M6300 as configured has more than enough speed and storage space to handle most users needs. The base-level Intel T7250 and nVidia Quadro FX 1600M combined with a blazingly fast SSD make this laptop an excellent performer, for both multimedia uses and number crunching. Below are benchmarks to give you an idea of how this laptop might compare up against other notebooks on the market.

WPrime 32M comparison results

WPrime is a benchmark similar to Super Pi in that it forces the processor to do intense mathematical calculations, but the difference is this application is multi-threaded and represents dual core processors better. Lower numbers indicate better performance.

Notebook Time
Dell Precision M6300 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250, Windows XP) 46.797s
Toshiba Satellite L355D (2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60, Windows Vista) 39.732s
Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900, Windows Vista) 30.359s
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, Windows Vista) 31.108s
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Windows Vista) 42.085s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T7400@ 2.16GHz, Windows XP) 41.40s
HP dv6000z (AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.00GHz, Windows Vista) 38.913s
Sager 9260 (Intel Core 2 Duo CPU E6700@ 2.66GHz, Windows XP ) 33.718s
Dell Precision M70 (Intel Pentium-M 780 @ 2.26GHz, Windows XP) 78.992s

 

PCMark05 overall system performance comparison results (higher scores indicate better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Dell Precision M6300 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250, NVIDIA Quadro FX 1600M) 7,070 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GT) 5,377 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,925 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,377 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony VAIO SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 graphics comparison results (higher scores indicate better performance):

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Dell Precision M6300 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250, NVIDIA Quadro FX 1600M) 5,335 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GT) 2,930 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,329 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks
Sony VAIO SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 794 3DMarks
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU) 476 3DMarks

 

SSD Performance

Unlike traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) with moving parts that are prone to failure and data loss when they receive an impact, Solid State Drives (SSDs) are flash-based storage drives with no moving parts. Notebooks tend to get "torture tested" in most corporate environments when the sales force tosses their laptops inside their cars or staff drop their notebooks off the edge of a table during a crowded meeting. The Samsung 64GB SSD in our test configuration (an $849 upgrade) helps eliminate the risk of data loss due to rugged treatment.

The other benefit of these SSDs is the extreme level of performance and reduced heat output compared to traditional HDDs.


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Below are the results from our standard storage drive benchmarks (HDTune and Atto) which indicate impressive read and write times and well and minimal data access times (the amount of time wasted while the drive searches for specific data on the drive).


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Input and Output ports

Port selection was not a problem, although I would have enjoyed seeing a HDMI port, but the inclusion of a DVI port is a reasonable compromise and probably more useful in a corporate environment. Going around the notebook, we find the following ports

Left: Kensington lock slot, two USB ports, optical drive.


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Front: Media buttons and volume controls.


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Right: Smartcard reader, ExpressCard slot, HDD/SSD bay, Firewire, Headphone/Mic, Firewire, memory card reader.


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Rear: S-video, LAN, Modem, four USB ports, DVI, VGA, Power connector.


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Heat and Noise

The M6300 handles heat as if the notebook is barely working … even with the processors are crunching numbers and the SSD is actively reading and writing data. Even after running PCMark05, 3DMark06 and wPrime multiple times during a one-hour period the exterior of the M6300 barely reached the triple-digit range in degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature of the heat exhaust was surprisingly cool and the most impressive thing we observed is that the WiFi card reached temperatures that exceeded either the RAM or the SSD.

Simply put, the M6300 with Samsung SSD stays remarkably cool even when the system is being heavily stressed. The images below show the external temperature readings in degrees Fahrenheit:


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The fan noise was rarely loud enough to be heard in a quiet room unless the notebook was under extreme stress such as benchmarking or serious gaming.

Battery

Under normal web browsing use the 9-cell battery performed quite well, pushing out 3 hours and 42 minutes of life before going into hibernation mode at two percent. Screen brightness was two notches below max, or about 80 percent, and other items were set to XP’s "Portable/Laptop" power management settings. This gives more than enough time for taking notes (surfing the web) during a couple of classes throughout the day away from an outlet.


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Conclusion

This Dell 17" laptop is a great performer and extremely well built laptop. It seems to be built well enough to be thrown around in day to day use, and hold up throughout a reasonable life cycle in a corporate environment. The SSD option, while expensive, significantly improves both durability and performance of this workstation.

The only problems I found which don’t relate directly to the function of the laptop are the lack of a second hard drive bay, which would be helpful given the relatively low capacity of the SSD. Additionally, the lack of a dedicated number pad will be a issue for some users and the weight and bulk of the M6300 make it a desktop replacement workstation and not the best solution for corporate road warriors.

Pros:

  • Very tough structure and rugged overall chassis design.
  • Strong video editing (and gaming performance) with nVidia Quadro FX 1600M
  • Excellent battery life for a 17" notebook
  • Bright and Vivid LCD with excellent viewing angles
  • Super fast Samsung SSD
  • Remains remarkably cool even when working hard (in part thanks to SSD)

Cons:

  • No dual hard drive option
  • No dedicated number pad
  • Thick and heavy, but that’s to be expected with 17-inch workstations


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