As mobile workstations go, the Dell Precision M4600 delivers everything we expect. There are several configurations available with plenty of options for fine-tuning it to your performance needs. It's stacked with ports, inputs, and outputs so it can easily connect up to a number of external devices and just as easily stand on its own. And Dell offers the warranty, support, and security options professionals need to make sure their data is safe and they stay up and running.
Our review system was loaded with high-end components and it performed accordingly. No disappointments there, really. What we were less than thrilled with were either matters of personal preference or things that might have more to do with the quality of our particular laptop than the M4600 on the whole.
Also, while we expect mobile workstations to be expensive, the M4600 seems a bit pricier than similarly configured competing systems. Then again, the regular price is never what you end up paying; the starting price for the M4600 was $1,798 at the time of our review, but Dell was offering a configuration for just $1,119.
|Price as reviewed||$4,384|
|Processor||2.5GHz Intel Core i7 2920XM|
|Memory||8GB, 1,600MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Chipset||Intel QM67 Express Chipset|
|Graphics||Nvidia Quadro 2000M with 2GB GDDR3|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.8x10.1 inches|
|Height||1.3 - 1.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.4 pounds / 9.2 pounds|
The M4600 is a thick, heavy laptop. Chances are if you're shopping for a mobile workstation, you already know this is pretty much a given for the category. The starting weight is 6.2 pounds plus about a pound for the large power brick; add-ins and extras can drive that up to more than a 9-pound travel weight. Made from an aluminum and magnesium alloy, its inconspicuous design should be suitable for just about any environment. It's basically just a big rectangle with rounded corners. The chassis is MIL-STD-810G-tested for extreme temperatures, humidity, vibration, dust, altitude, and shock, and it certainly feels sturdy. Well, except for the left side of the screen bezel on our review sample, which was pulling away slightly from the cover.
The antimicrobial keyboard and number pad are comfortable with good key travel, though after we typed for a bit our spacebar started occasionally squeaking like a rusty hinge. It is backlit, so that's a bonus (a $49 extra bonus, but nice nonetheless). Above the keyboard on the left are volume and mute buttons and on the far right is the power button. The M4600 has both a multitouch touch pad with three buttons and a track stick with three buttons; we'd trade in the latter for a larger touch pad if we could.
Dell offers four 15.6-inch display options for the M4600. Two of them are 1,366x768-pixel resolution, one with four-point capacitive touch and stylus support. The other two are 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, one of which is Dell's PremierColor IPS RGB Anti-Glare LED-backlit display. Our review sample had the PremierColor screen, which comes at a $449 premium over the base display. Dell promises 100 percent Adobe RGB color gamut, and indeed, color performance was impressive. Viewing angles were also excellent, 85 degrees horizontal and vertical. With Dell's device manager software you can select from NTSC, sRGB, or Adobe RGB color spaces. That's not much if you need precise control over color space out of the box, but is enough to get you working. One thing we did notice is a pulsing or flickering when the backlight is reduced to about 75 percent brightness, and which gets more noticeable the dimmer you set the screen. We're chalking it up to quality control; the LCD is covered under the system warranty and Dell's Premium Panel Guarantee for zero bright pixels.
|Dell Precision M4600||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers; headphone, microphone jacks||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader, eSATA/USB 2.0 combo, mini FireWire, ExpressCard54 slot, SmartCard slot||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||Slot-loading DVD burner||DVD burner, optional Blu-ray player|
The port and I/O connections on the M4600 are ample, including five USB ports, two of which are USB 3.0. The power input, eSATA port, Ethernet jack, HDMI output, and VGA connector are all on the back where we like them on desktop replacements. Those considering the M4600 for audio/video work will likely be happy with the full sound of the built-in stereo speakers. They sounded equally good with music and speech. Audio pros will likely want to take advantage of the stereo headphone/line-out jack, but we're glad the speakers sound decent enough to use in a pinch.
As for its internal components, Dell offers multiple setups as well as the option to configure one from scratch. You can choose from two Core i5 or four Core i7 processors; up to 32GB of memory; hard-drive capacities up to 750GB and solid-state drives up to 512GB; optical drives including a Blu-ray burner; three graphics cards; and, as mentioned earlier, four display options. Of course there are plenty of accessories, too, including extended-life batteries. Basically, you can make it what you want and still get all the durability and security extras.
The performance of our review laptop was above average for its class, but it was not the mind-blowing experience you might expect for its price tag. That's not to say the CPU/GPU combo we had was slow; it can certainly handle demanding tasks. During anecdotal testing we experienced no slowdowns with photo and video editing, and multitasking definitely posed no problems. It did well in our lab tests, too, but next to the consumer-oriented high-performance laptops we've tested, it appears fairly ordinary. The graphics cards available for the M4600 are designed for 3D modeling, CAD, and graphic arts, so our gaming tests don't really do them justice. Still, you should have no difficulty playing games on this system at high resolutions. Keep in mind that a lot of this system's cost goes to the rugged build, the PremierColor display, and its various other capabilities.