Dell Precision M4600 User Review Prevision M4600 is Dells latest 15.6 Mobile Workstation, Debut in Mid May 2011. Another bigger brother is 17 M6600 M4600 is equipped with Intel latest Sandy Bridge QM67 platform. CPU support up to Extreme Edition i7-2920XM Choices of Professional Graphic Cards are Nvidia Quadro 1000M, 2000M and AMD Firepro M5950 Maximum RAM up to 32Gb Other details can be obtained at Dells website. I think Dell is the 2nd company who release Sandy Bridge Workstation, after Lenovo, followed by HP. I started configure this notebook since the first day it was available on Dell website, ordered on 18th May and received on 31st. Could be among the first few who received it. [UPDATE 01/07/2011] I was informed that someone placed order on 10/05 and received on 24/05, 7 days earlier than me, wow... Mx600 not even officially launched yet on 10/05. The M4600 was configured as below: CPU:i7-2920XM RAM:8Gb (2x4Gb)1333Mhz GPU:AMD Firepro M5950, same as HD 6770m. Display:1920 x 1080 Full HD Matte Screen 16:9. Non IPS. HDD:256Gb Samsung PM810 SSD (SATA2), equivalent to Samsung 470. Other Equipment: DVD Writer (Slot in) Dell 5550 HSPA WWAN Card 7.2Mbs Intel 6300 AGN WLAN Intel 82579LM Gigabit LAN Dell 375 Bluetooth 3.0 Renesas / NEC USB 3.0 Input / Output Connectors: Expresscard 54mm x1 SD Card Reader Firewire 400 port x1 USB 3.0 ports x2 USB 2.0 ports x2 USB/eSATA Combined port x1 Displayport Out x1 HDMI Out x1 VGA Out x1 Not chosen in the configuration: Front Camera Finger Print Reader Mini SATA / PCIe SSD as 2nd HDD (Unable to co-exist with WWAN card) Touch Screen (Only in 1366x768. M6600 has 1920x1080) At the moment, I have a retired Dell Precision M4400 for comparison in certain design & functionality. M4600 has a classic outlook, without cool and fancy appearance as Alienware. Absolutely presentable in official or business meeting. The case is non-reflective but felt smooth. M4400 outer case is Silver colour by default, I custom painted it to ugly black zzz Both M4600 and M4400 are using 15.6 LCD screen, but the difference is the screen ratio. M4600 has changed into current 16:9 ratio screen, which I think is a poor move. I dont understand why the designer decided to implement 16:9 screen, this is not suitable for workstation that requires more working space. 16:9 is for multimedia. There are many furious posts about this, but I dont think Dell will listen. If I have the choice I will not select 16:9 screen; my desktop monitors are all 16:10 and I will make sure I found it no matter how hard to find. Compared to M4400, M4600 width is about 21mm more. This is close to 1 inch my friends, go to Starbuck and the round table is not enough for both M4600 + mouse pad I tell you. Length wise M4600 is almost the same with M4400, could be 1mm less but this is completely ignorable. M4600 has thicker front than back section. I would say both notebooks have the same physical thickness. However M4600 looks higher putting on the table because of the higher rubber pads it uses, better cooling anyway. One of the biggest design differences between M4600 and M4400/M4500 is the cooling design. M4400/M4500 shares the same cooling fan and fins for CPU and GPU. M4600 separates them and both have their own heat sinks, fans and fins. This greatly improves the heat dissipation. In my opinion, Notebook Base Cooler is no longer necessary at the bottom for normal duty. The bigger fan on the right side is for CPU cooling, left side for GPU. Below is the cooling design of M4400. Bad idea to combine CPU & GPU cooling. Both cooling fans wires in M4600 are not properly shielded. The tiny wires are disposed and they look so delicate that I worry one of them will simply snapped off during fan cleaning. Bottom case design. I still praise M4400 design that only requires removal of 1 screw for easy maintenance. The screw is attached together with the case and will not go missing. Opening M4600 bottom case is more troublesome. Firstly the battery need to be removed to expose the 2 screws holding the case. The screws are tiny and not attached to the case, which may hide themselves easily nowhere. Bottom case removal convenience alone, M4400 wins here. However, M4600 did manage to hide all the screws at the bottom. Even all over the notebook I can only find 2 screws securing the LCD panel. Furthermore, M4600 has bigger area of perforated bottom case which helps the cooling a lot. One may ask why I need to complain so much about bottom case removal, there is no need to open it frequently to check which part is missing. Well this is for my own special need. M4600 poor design has make me difficult to access to the SIM card. In M4400, removing the SIM card is easier by pulling out the strap. Even this I am complaining because my finger is too big to grab it. Now lets look at M4600, after removing the battery, the SIM card has only little portion left outside and my big fingers will not be able to grab on it. Therefore I have to remove the bottom case by unscrewing the 2 screws, and after that yet need to screw them back which is really annoying. Everybody knows all our beloved 3G providers have their own territories, whereby I need to prepare a few so that I have better coverage at different areas. After removing the bottom case, the SIM card is easier to reach now. Dell should have used ejector mechanism for SIM card. Again question may rise why do I not use the USB 3G modem? I have my own concern, the company network is firewalled and 99% websites are blocked. Using USB modem is too obvious and my bosses will easily know what I am doing. Built in 3G modem is more suitable here. M4600 battery design has improvement over the earlier version. 9 cells battery will not extrude out like M4400/M4500. Top one in the picture is M4600 87Wh 9 cells battery. Bottom is M4400 56Wh 6 cells battery. M4600 battery does not have battery level indicator. I am fine with this, but not sure about the rest. M4600 battery is installed from bottom, while M4400/M4500 from the back. Older design is friendlier to those who protect the battery from continuous charging. They can have the battery hooked halfway while using AC power and just slide the battery in when AC power is removed. M4600 uses 180W AC adapter, M4400 130W. Putting them side by side, M4600 adapter is slightly thicker and heavier. In term of design, M4600 Adapter is worse without rubber tie for cable management. Again M4600 straight type power cable connector is not suitable for situation where the power socket is high above. I am not confident to hang it on the air, a miss step could cause accident easily. M4400 U-shape connector plus the rubber tie make this possible. M4600 Power Jack no longer has the lovely blue LED power indicator. I like the old design where checking power supply is much easier than needing to go to look at the tiny LED on the power brick. All these show that the designer of M4600 AC Power Adapter has no sense of ergonomic . Both M4600/M4400 Power Jacks are still of the same type. Right side view of the notebook. There are 2 USB 3.0 ports that do not use the common USB3 blue colour. Dell just put SS (Super Speed) mark on top. To the right is DisplayPort. Left side view of the notebook. 2x USB 2.0 ports, 1x FireWire 400 port, Mic in & Line Out, SD Card Reader, Expresscard 54mm Slot, DVD writer Slot-in type. At the rear there is VGA Out, Gigabit LAN Port, eSATA/USB 2.0 Combo port, HDMI Out. For the LCD screen, the 16:9 ratio left plenty of space on the top and bottom. If someone can measure it a 17 16:10 might be able to fit in. Sorry for the poor photo, there is nothing wrong with the camera but the skill. US Dell could select high grade IPS screen, but IPS screen is not available here. However there is one known problem with IPS screen. Sandy Bridge on-die GPU is not able to output 10 bits signal that IPS screen requires. There is no solution for this, and yet unknown for the upcoming Ivy Bridge. This means the display signal has to come from either Nvidia or AMD GPU. Nvidia Optimus will not work with IPS screen in this case. There is a new touchscreen option for M4600, however it is limited to 1366x768 resolution only. This is too low for 15.6 screen and I doubt people will choose it. 1920x1080 resolution touchscreen is only available to M6600. Viewing angle is good even with non-IPS screen. One from your side table can easily read what you are doing on the screen. [UPDATE 17/06] Some photo is taken from Top, Left and Right angle of the LCD screen. I would say the viewing angle is too good to share the screen with many people behind you. Unlike M4400, M4600 screen is not able to be opened wide 180 degrees. At the bottom left corner of the screen is written Dell Precision, but this time without the model number. At the top left corner of the keyboard are shortkeys for volume control. The palm rest is clean, I hate some notebooks with plenty of useless stickers all over the palm rest. Removing them not only troublesome but fighting with the sticker residue is truly annoying. Despite of the bad about 16:9 screen, it does give something good about the keyboard. Thanks to the extra width, a full Numpad is first time implemented on Dell 15.6 Workstation notebook. Alphabets and touchpad is offset to the left, and this annoys some people that do not need Numpad and dislike offset keyboard. Personally I like this layout, and this is one of the main reasons I have chosen M4600. Otherwise my next notebook would have been HP 8560W after M4400. Backlit keyboard is another plus point of M4600. The difference between M4600 and M4400 backlit keyboard is that M4600 is configured to either disable completely or enable whenever a key is pressed, with selectable brightness of 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%. M4400 backlit could be configured based on Auto Dim Sensor. Zoom in to the Numpad, it is a complete Numpad. Pg Up / Pg Down button is relocated near the arrow keys. On top of the Numpad there are additional shortkeys for Calculator and Multimedia functions. If really want to find fault, I would say Dell could have put a Comma key near the Numpad. AutoCad user hates to leave the hand from Numpad to press on the goat damned Comma key from time to time. Whatever it is, M4600 keyboard is considered one of the best in 15.6 notebook. Much better than the retarded Clevo P150HM keyboard where there is no independent Home, End, Pg Up, Pg Down keys; and the Numpad is simplified from 4 column to 3. Clevo Touchpad is also one of the worst implemented. No backlit some more. I have been thinking very hard whether to get Clevo P150HM or M4600 / HP 8560W for a few months. I want the GTX 485m very badly, but I just cant convince myself to accept Clevo keyboard. For that reason I finally dropped it. Seems ridiculous, but that happened. It could be unfair to say keyboard is the sole reason; ability to use Docking Station is also an important considering factor. I hate everytime need to plug & unplug power cord, network cable, DVI cable, USB cables, keyboard mouse etc. I move around often and Dock Station is very convenience to me. Touchpad of M4600 is much bigger than M4400. It is very responsive and I am satisfied using it. Better than M4400 IMO. M4600 speakers have improved compared to M4400. Although they are still far from satisfied, if you ever heard latitude or earlier precision speakers you will consider this is an improvement. For Line Out quality, I tried with my headphone and my impression is forget it, this is just a workstation Dell did not emphasize much on sound quality. There is no SPDIF Out like Clevo. With that, I have to search for external soundcard, an old X-Fi Xtreme Audio Expresscard 54mm. Why not the current 34mm version? Because that is a sorry card without SPDIF Out. Beside using external soundcard either Expresscard or USB, there is another way to output digital audio HDMI Out. To use that, an AVR or decoder is needed, and of course not portable. Using HDMI to SPDIF converter is also troublesome, so external soundcard is still the best solution. For Primary Hard Drive, Samsung PM810 256Gb SATA2 SSD is the same as 470 series, the difference is 470 series are for retailer. US Dell has the option to choose SATA3 SSD but not here . Performance wise, PM810 is still behind a little compared to x25m Gen2. Intel has no competition in Random Read/Write speed except from latest SandForce chipset. [UPDATE 30/09/2011] An OWC Extreme Pro 240Gb SSD was put as primary drive and the old Samsung PM810 as secondary HDD through the Optical Bay HDD caddy. I noticed the screw hole and thread of OWC SSD is non-standard, so please take note if you are going to purchase this SSD. For M4600, It can't be secured by default screws, i just left it open and secure only the latch. The OWC drive gave me frequent freezing problem, and the temperature reported under SMART at 128C. It is not hot physically, so i guess it is sort of wrong reporting. The freezing problem was solved after applying the latest firmware from OWC website, it is a big 230Mb firmware to download. Have been using for 2 days and I assume the drive is now steady. Temperature yet reported at 128C. It is driven by SandForce 2282 controller, SATA3, claimed to have 559Mbps/527Mbps Sequential Read/Write speed. Secondary Hard Drive could be chosen as Mini SATA or Mini PCIe SSD. By default I have chosen this, but later was informed that it cannot co-exist with WWAN card which shares the same resource. So the next alternative is waiting for DIY Pro to come out with Optical Bay Caddy for Hard Drive. Please note that M4600 Optical Bay is 9.5mm type, so the 2nd HDD bay caddy has to be 9.5mm as well. 12.7mm bay will not fit at all. Another alternative would be using Expresscard SSD, which is expensive and slower than SATA SSD. [UPDATE 30/09/2011] Optical Bay HDD caddy for M4600 i have is made in China, fit in M4600 but the finishing is not good leaving gaps. Colour does not match exactly. Whatever it is, it works. Not much to mention about DVD Writer. I did not choose Blu-Ray Writer because Dell charges extremely high premium on that. Only Slot In type Optical Drive is available at my place. Personally I prefer Tray In type because I can use mini Disc which is more convenient to bring. Anyway I think more people prefer Slot In type due to the cool design and no tray sprang out with a cheap click sound. I am having problem with the USB 3.0 ports. I have only 1 USB 3.0 device, a Patriot Supersonic 64Gb Flash Drive. When I plugged in the Flash Drive, it is detected as USB 2.0 device and run at miserable 30Mb/s speed. The same Flash Drive has been working perfectly on my Desktop without single problem. Installed latest driver didnt help the situation. Well, later I found a USB3 Powered Hub for testing. I connect the Hub to M4600 USB3 port, then connect the Patriot Flash Drive to the Hub. Guess what, it is now detected as USB3 device and perform as normal speed. Another test was carried out by using an USB 3.0 Expresscard, same Renesas (NEC) chipset as M4600. Once again the Patriot Flash Drive is working at USB3 speed. Someone said that could be due to power supply problem at USB3 port. For this I go get a Seagate 500Gb GoFlex USB 3.0 External Hard Drive to test. I connect it straight to M4600 USB3 port and it is working happily as USB3 device. I bought this external HDD just for testing, and now have no idea what to do with it zzz I tried to dissemble it to replace with faster HDD, but only to find out that the whole unit is well protected against modification. I post this problem at Patriot forum, the moderator asked me to claim for RMA. I am thinking that this shouldnt be the Flash Drive problem because it is working fine in all systems except for M4600. At the other hand M4600 can use other USB3 devices. Ouch, how to solve this equation, anyone please? I am very poor at Geography. (Hey, equation is not Geography! Oh Really? Ehem ) [UPDATE 30/09/2011] The USB stick was sent for warranty claim and the new replacement unit is now working flawlessly with M4600. Actual reason of earlier unit not working properly yet remained unknown, since it did work in other environment. Next about the GPU. Firepro M5950 1Gb DDR5 is the same as HD 6770m. Quadro 2000m 2Gb DDR3 is a castrated GTX 460m. Quadro 1000m is rubbish and I am not interested to know about it. In professional application, Quadro 2000m will perform faster than M5950 in most cases, but M5950 is much cheaper than Quadro 2000m. Gaming wise, M5950 DDR5 might have advantage in high resolution game or future game. Dell has made a revolution in Precision Series to implement MXM III standard in Mx600. However before release I could only find out Dell is using MXM III standard; but unable to confirm which type A or B. After buying M4600 I am very disappointed to find out it is using MXM-A. Earlier when I dropped the plan to buy Clevo I was actually trying to gamble that I could swap the M4600 GPU with 485m or 6970m, but now it is nothing but a dream. Should have waited longer >_<. At the moment world fastest MXM-A card is M5950 (HD 6770m), Quadro 2000m or GT 555m. All of them are about the same speed. Even the worst entry level card GTX 460m is using MXM-B. Now M4600 could only play game in crippled way, and GPU upgrade in the future is also limited to 2nd class GPU only Below is the example of MXM-A and B card taken from MXM-Upgrade website. M4600s bigger brother M6600 is using MXM-B, but it is simply too bulky. M4600 supports Nvidia Optimus to enhance battery performance. Under low GPU load Sandy Bridge on-die GPU will take over the display function and this greatly reduce the power consumption. For M4600 equipped with Nvidia GPU, the battery can last more than 3 hours. AMD GPU does not have such power saving function, my M4600 can last only 2.5 hours under normal use without playing game. I have heard that Lenovo Thickpad w520 with similar configuration can last more than 6 hours with Optimus in place, dont know what is wrong with Dell Precision. Without load, M5950 GPU is running at 100Mhz Core, 150Mhz Ram with 0.9V power. Under load is 725/900/1.1V respectively. [UPDATE 17/06] Tests are carried out to monitor battery discharge rate with HWInfo64 and AIDA64. The 87Wh Battery has worn out with maximum holding capacity about 85Wh after 2 weeks of use. Under "Extended Battery Life (Maximum run-time)" power plan, All M4600's CPU are resting at 800Mhz most of the time. GPU M5950 is running at 400/900 Mhz and occationally dropped to 100/150Mhz. Average Battery Discharge Rate recorded ni the range of 25-29W. Considered averate discharge rate at 27W, the battery is theoritically to last about 81/27 = 2.97 hours before reaching the 5% critical level. Under "Dell" Power Plan, the CPU activity is more active and the clock speed is moving up and down based on the need. Battery discharge rate is about 31W at idle. Theoritical battery run time = 81/30 = 2.6 hours. This is close to my earlier actual battery runtime test of 2.5 hours. Under "Ultra Performance (Max Fan Levels)" power plan, the CPU is very active and able to reach 3.5Ghz. Battery discharge rate is about 32W at idle. 3 stress tests were done to monitor the battery discharge rate. Test1, Furmark. GPU running at 400/900Mhz, 100% Utilization. CPU running at 3.5Ghz, 15% Utilization. Battery discharge rate is close to 60W or 1.35hours. Test2, Furmark + Prime95. GPU running at 400/900Mhz, 100% Utilization. CPU clock speed dropped to 2.0Ghz, 100% Utilization. Battery discharge rate is close to 83W or 0.98 hours. Test3, Prime95. GPU has no load but still runs at 400/900Mhz. CPU clock speed does not go over 2.5Ghz, 100% Utilization, 84C. Battery discharge rate is close to 86W or 0.94 hours. I noticed the following behaviours of GPU and CPU in battery mode. i) CPU will not go over 2.5Ghz at high utilization. Looks like it is bound by the battery power supply. Not sure at what level it will run on 56Wh battery ii) GPU will never operate at 725/900Mhz regardless of the power plan. It operates at the most 400/900Mhz or 55% performance level only. Playing game in battery mode is equivalent to playing at half frame rate. iii) the GPU seldom runs at low profile of 100/150Mhz even when it is idle. I manage to capture the battery discharge rate at about 13W when the GPU is running 100/150Mhz. If that mode is able to run persistantly the battery could last 5.7 hours. I dock the M4600 back at 55% battery level and the charging is going on at 46W. This value is not constant but gradually reduces when the battery level is increasing. At about 75% capacity the charging rate dropped to about 30W. There is about 2-3W difference charging with Dock Station 210W AC input compared to 180W adapter. Mx600 is still using the ancient PR02X/PR03X Dock Station since the Ice Age. There is no USB3 port on it. Toshibas Dock Station has been implementing USB3 port more than 1 year ago. Earlier 130W AC power adapter for M4400 is no longer able to drive M4600 on Docking Station. Dell said 210W AC power adapter is required and I have put order more than 2 week ago. Dell charged me on the same day but after that seems missing in action and no news about it . However I found the 180W AC Adapter is also able to drive M4600. [UPDATE 15/06] I received the 210W AC Power Adapter a few hours after I post this thread. I couldn't stop laughing when I opened the box, OMG this is BIG, it is only 30W difference from M4600 180W AC Adapater but the volume is double. I really sympathize M6600 users, their 240W AC Adapter could be even bigger! Well it is not, I was later learnt that M6600 adapter is only half the thickness of the 210W adapter I received. How strange, Dell could have shrinked the 210W adapter size down. So far M4600 is working cool compared to M4400. Thanks to separate CPU and GPU cooling design, I can hardly hear the noise from the fans. Stress test on GPU using Furmark 1.90 showed maximum temperature below 65C. The fan rpm is constant at 30% regardless of loaded or under load and no noise is heard from GPU fan. Compared to M4400, the temperature shoot up to more than 80C and the fan noise is really annoying. M4600 CPU temperature stayed at about 67C during Furmark test. Stress test on CPU showed different result, it reached an alarming 91C after 50min test. This is done in air-con room. Fan rpm raised from 2600rpm to maximum 4200rpm and it is pretty noisy. Overclocking is not possible on M4600 because Dell has locked it in the bios. No software can overwrite that and the only way to enable overclocking is bios hack or Dell itself unlocks it. The picture below showed the essential options that had been locked (greyed out) in the bios. Only Clevo and Special Edition Alienware has those features unlocked. Finally I put up some Benchmark test results. Not much here because I do not want to install too many software that run only once. Windows Performance Index, bottleneck at GPU 6.9 points. 3DMark 2006, default setting, 11403 marks. 3DMark 2011 refused to proceed at Physics test portion. Even if I skipped that at the end there is no score given. It said the GPU and CPU is not recognized bla bla 3DMark Vantage, default setting, 6647 marks. HyperPi, default setting, 18.751 seconds. SuperPi is not tested because that is single threaded. Final Fantasy XIV Benchmark, low resolution, about 2600 points. SPECviewperf 11 Results. This result is comparable to the old Desktop Quadro FX 4800. Not sure how Quadro 2000m performs, expected better result. [UPDATE 01/07/2011] Just received 4x4Gb Kingston HyperX 1600Mhz RAM to replace the default 2x4Gb 1333Mhz RAM. Why not order 1600Mhz from the start? The common answer is still because it is not available at my place... Before replacing the RAM, I carried out a Synthetic Memory Benchmark test with AIDA64. I won't be able to test further the difference between 1333Mhz and 1600Mhz RAM because that is troublesome.