Having had the chance to check out Toshiba's and HP's impending enterprise-class notebooks, more and more I'm convinced spending up is the way to go when it comes to buying a notebook that both looks and feels like quality. While Dell's Precision notebooks are still a little boxy and aren't quite the ladykillers the new HP EliteBooks are, there's still something very austere and functional about them that puts consumer-grade laptops from any manufacturer to shame. If you're one of the people that didn't much care for Dell's new XPS line, these may be for you.

Dell has announced two new mobile workstations, the Precision M4600 and M6600, 15.6" and 17.3" respectively. Both are based on Intel's Sandy Bridge platform, supporting up to 32GB of DDR3-1333 (16GB of DDR3-1600) in four DIMM slots along with ramping all the way up to the 55-watt Core i7-2920XM, and each offers a range of choices from AMD's FirePro Mobility GPUs and NVIDIA's Quadro GPUs. Best of all, Dell is offering bare-minimum 72% gamut displays on each of these notebooks along with an optional upgrade to an IPS RGB-LED display on the M4600. Let's break them down.

The 15.6" Precision M4600's screen options start from a basic 1366x768 screen, move up to a multi-touch enabled 1366x768 screen, then on to a 1080p screen, and then finally Dell's PremierColor IPS RGB-LED backlit 1080p screen. GPU options include the AMD FirePro M5950 Mobility Pro with 1GB of GDDR5 (GPU equivalent to the 480-shader Radeon HD 6670), the NVIDIA Quadro 1000M with 2GB of GDDR3 (GPU equivalent to the 96-core GeForce GT 540M, depending on the clocks), and the NVIDIA Quadro 200M with 2GB of GDDR3 (GPU equivalent to the 192-core GeForce GTX 460M, but without GDDR5 and only a 128-bit memory interface). Additionally, the M4600 can be configured with a 128GB SSD mini-card to supplement the hard drive; two 128GB SSDs can be configured to run in RAID 0 or RAID 1. It offers virtually every type of connectivity under the sun: gigabit ethernet, 802.11n, Bluetooth 3.0, WWAN, 2x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, FireWire, eSATA, HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, ExpressCard/54, and a SmartCard reader. The M4600 starts at $1,678 and will be available on May 10th.

Moving up to the Papa Bear, the 17.3" Precision M6600 brings to bear all of the same processor options and connectivity as the M4600, but graphics, display, and storage options are improved. This time, the display starts at a basic 1600x900 panel, but can be upgraded to a 1080p display with or without multi-touch capability. It won't be launching with an IPS display option, but Dell expects availability soon after. Graphics get a boost as well, allowing the following: the AMD FirePro M8900 Mobility Pro with 2GB of GDDR5 (GPU equivalent to the 960-shader Radeon HD 6970M), the NVIDIA Quadro 3000M with 2GB of GDDR5 (240 cores, likely using a GF106/GF116 die, which means roughly GTX 470M with more bandwidth but fewer cores), the NVIDIA Quadro 4000M with 2GB of GDDR5 (336 cores, again with a GF106/GF116 core, but now surpassing GTX 470M), and topping out at the NVIDIA Quadro 5010M with a whopping 4GB of GDDR5 (a full 384 cores, a full-fledged GF104/GF114, matching up with the GTX 485M). Besides the graphics and processor choices, the M6600 adds a second 2.5" drive bay to go alongside the first bay and the offered 128GB mini-card SSD, and these three can be configured together into RAID 0, RAID 1, or even RAID 5. The M6600 starts at $2,158 and will be available on May 10th.

Besides these two notebooks, Dell is offering the Precision R5500 rackmount workstation. This monster is capable of supporting up to five full-length, full-height PCIe x16 cards, dual graphics cards, up to 192GB of memory, up to five SATA drives and six SAS drives, and runs one or two Xeon 5600 series processors. These chips are still based on Westmere technology as opposed to Sandy Bridge, but combined can allow for a total of twelve physical cores and twenty-four logical cores. The R5500 starts at $2,551 and will be available in the states and Europe on May 3rd, showing up in the Asia-Pacific region a week later on the 10th.

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  • awaken688 - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    I have a 15.6" with a 1920x1200 right now that is from 1 or 2 generations ago and I couldn't agree more with the 16:9 thing being insane on a workstation. However, I will say that it is freaking tiny font, so you better have fantastic vision. Personally, I like 1920x1200 on the 17" and 1680x1050 on a 15". Guess Apple got this one right (well if you pay $150 to get the upgrade with the matte finish).
  • Hargak - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    You realize you CAN adjust font size? and still take advantage of the sharp display? I always preferred the 1920x1200 as well, no matter what it was a great resolution...

    Why u no give 16x10?!
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    I agree about the tiny fonts - I actually change my panel to 1680 x 1050 for most work, and I sometimes even scale down to 1440 x 900 if my eyes are tired. However there are projects where I really NEED the full 1920 x 1200 resolution, and I'm glad I have that option.

    Most of the time, I'm docked to a 24" 1920 x 1200 LCD, but I do travel a lot. I can fully open up my 17" laptop when traveling on United Airlines (free economy plus for premier executive status).
  • mike8675309 - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    I'm shocked that a workstation class machine is so hamstrung that you can't even get a proper vertical resolution if you are willing to pay for it. (it should be standard). Why people paying so much money for these things are willing to just settle, and haven't pressured Dell more, I don't understand.
  • LoneWolf15 - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    The LCD panel vendors are the more appropriate spot to place blame. Dell isn't exclusive to the 16:9 switch; Lenovo, HP, and pretty much every other vendor has.

    While some will argue that Apple has not, Apple currently has a laptop design that is probably bound to a contract. There's a good chance that their next design refresh will bring about 16:9 screens as well.

    LCD panel vendors don't want to make 16:10 because of their primary market, televisions, which are 16:9. The true fault lies with them.
  • FlyBri - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    Why? Because Dell could care less about its customers. Laptops themselves may be ok, but you have any issues with them (especially major ones), and good luck trying to get it resolved.

    Just from my own personal experience, Dell violated CA consumer protection laws, and even when the BBB got involved, and Dell was notified that they were not complying with consumer protection laws, they still refused to follow them. I'm sure people had problems with the other large computer manufacturers, but I'm sure not as much as Dell.
  • lous - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    did you buy complete care?

    i haven't had any problems getting things resolved. even travelling when i've had a problem, the next business day service has come out to the hotel to fix my laptop.

    this is based on my own personal experience after having dell laptops for over 10 years.
  • Stuka87 - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    Ditto here. Complete care has really been on top of things. They are always quick to fix any issues we come across.
  • Johnmcl7 - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    As expected I could usually get an engineer organised for the next day in a matter of minutes as long as I was prepared, if you had any sort of vague issue they'd want to troubleshoot but if you had a firm failure or diagnostic code they'd put it straight through for an engineer to sort out.

    Since changed to another company and the service is nowhere near as good.
  • seapeople - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    I bet this is how your phone calls went:

    "Hi this is Krishna Baoduhari from Dell Support. I am very pleased to help you. What is your problem?"

    "YOU F*S*&DFK BASTA(DS GAVE ME GRAPPY GOMPUTOR. It does not work no matter what I do!"

    "I'm very sorry to hear that, could you tell me your problems?"

    "F*@|< YOU. Give me a new computer now or I call the BETTER BUSINESS BOROUGH!!! Give me MICHAEL DELL on the phone RIGHT NOW."

    "Sir, please tell me what issues you are experiencing with your computer. I am very pleased to assist you in any way I can."

    "WHAT IS YOUR HOME NUMBER! I will attack your family! You have failed me for the last time! You will hear from my lawyers!"

    "Sir, if only you would *click" Sir? Sir?"

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