Dell mobile workstation bears
REVIEW: Dell M6500 leverages high-powered Nehalem, NVIDIA processors
Dell M6500 can hold up to 16GB of
RAM—twice that of rivals.
Competing systems priced out in the
same ballpark as the Dell M6500. The
HP EliteBook 8730w with a less powerful Intel Quad Extreme QX9300 chip
and a 1GB NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700M
chip and 8GB of slower, 800MHz
DDR2 RAM costs $4,981 at the HP
Online store. The Lenovo ThinkPad
W700ds with the same Intel QX930
chip and NVIDIA 3700M graphics
card, but with 8GB of DDR3 RAM,
costs $5,144 at the Lenovo Website.
Both the EliteBook and W700ds have
only two memory slots, where the Dell
M6500 has four, and neither system
currently supports the faster Intel CPU
and NVIDIA GPU that are available in
the Dell mobile workstation.
Neither weight nor battery life fac-
tored much into my evaluation. These
systems are meant to compete with
non-mobile desktop workstations that
weigh 25 to 40 pounds and use wall
socket power. The M6500 is certainly
luggable when combined with its
external power supply and standard
9-cell battery, with a starting weight of
8. 4 pounds. My system, including the
power supply and second hard drive,
weighed just over 9 pounds.
The M6500 is 15 inches wide and 11
inches deep. When opened at a usable
viewing angle, the unit becomes 15. 5
inches deep and 10. 5 inches tall. This
means that you will pretty much need
to sit in business-class if you want to
use the M6500 on an airplane.
That said, it’s too heavy and its
underside is too hot to keep on your
lap for long. The large fans in the unit
were relatively quiet during my tests
and operated only when needed.
The number and variety of connectors built into the M6500 are unremarkable. It has a slot-load DVD-ROM optical drive; three USB ports;
one Fire Wire port; one VGA port; an
ExpressCard 8-in-1 media card reader;
a DisplayPort; a combo eSATA/USB
port; and a wired network port.
My system was configured with
an 802.11a/b/g/n wireless network.
Optional mobile broadband from
AT&T, Sprint or Verizon is available,
but was not tested for this review.
Physical and data security options
abound on the M6500. In addition to
TPM support in the CPU, my test
unit came with a full-sized (not a slot-type) fingerprint reader and support
for contactless smartcard access. ;
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Cameron Sturdevant
The Dell M6500 is a muscular, 17-inch mobile workstation outfitted with the most of just about everything—from CPU
to graphics, memory and disk. For
high-value business users who must
use compute-intensive applications
while out of the office, the M6500 is the
premier mobile hardware platform.
The Dell Precision M6500 I tested
costs $5,172 from the Dell Online store
and is loaded with “firsts” for a 17-inch
mobile workstation. My M6500 was
equipped with an Intel Core i7-920XM
Extreme Edition processor, providing
power for the kind of compute-intensive apps associated with oil and gas,
scientific, media and entertainment,
and gaming industries. This is the first
time this Nehalem-class quad-core chip
with high-performance features such
as turbo mode and hyper-threading has
appeared in a mobile workstation.
The M6500 is also the first mobile
workstation of its size to offer the 1GB
NVIDIA Quadro FX 3800M graphics
processor. My system came with an
optional 17-inch WUXGA RGB LED
edge-to-edge back-lit display with a
1,920-by-1,200 screen resolution.
The M6500 I tested was equipped
with 4GB of 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM.
It has four memory slots and is the
first mobile workstation that can support 1,600MHz memory. As currently
shipping, the 1,600MHz memory is
available only in 2GB units. Even so,
the possible 8GB of 1,600MHz memory far outstrips the memory options
currently available from competitors.
Using 4GB 1,333MHz DIMMs, the
Dell’s M6500 is luggable, but will require