Sandy Bridge Apple Macbook Pro 17 or Dell Precision M6600

Last Thursday morning I noticed for the first time that the new Dell Precision M6600 has been online and available to order at the Dell Netherlands website. It might have been longer available, but I didn’t notice it since early Thursday morning.
No Precision M4600 yet though.

(Prices are in Euros and exclude VAT @19%)

I have been configuring ever since and came up with a i7-2720QM w/ FirePro M8900 config which is around the same price as a base Sandy Bridge MBP 17 with 3 year warranty extension.
(Prices are in Euros and include VAT @19%)

I will be using Rhino w/ Penguin, Modo, and CS4/CS5 Design Premium mostly. Also T-Splines, C4D Core, and maybe Maya in the near future.
Unity 3D Free (currently on Windows 7 desktop and iMac late 2010), Netbeans, and Aptana Studio will also be main apps in use.

Regarding the upcoming v5 of Rhino from ATI Display Card Delay Issues Rhino V4 (obsolete) [McNeel Wiki] :

Saying that going with “NVidia is safer” is not necessarily accurate anymore. The best recommendation you can make in this area is to get a card with as much video memory onboard as possible - 1GB to 2GB. V5 will make use of it, and it can/will improve Rhino’s overall performance. -Jeff

So the 2GB GDDR5 of the FirePro M8900 could be more beneficial than the 1GB of the Radeon HD 6750M.
And the developer states on that same page that he uses a FirePro V8750 for developing v5 of Rhino :

My development box has the FirePro v8750 in it (for over a year now), and it’s what I’ve been using to development most of the newer V5 display features. I’ve also got Radeon 4870’s here that work really well, and in fact, using VBO meshes on the Radeons blows NVidia cards away in many cases.

FirePro V8750 is based on the desktop Radeon HD 4870.

Also, the MBP 17 has a non-glare 1920x1200 screen. The M6600 a non-glare 1920x1080.

I just cannot make up my mind.
What should I buy ?

It sounds like you’ll be doing a lot of 3D work with Windows dominant apps- I think the workstation card would be a benefit here.

If most of your work is going to be done in Windows I would say go with the Dell. You’ll probably wind up with more bang for the buck and the new Precision hardware is very well built, though the 17" machines are massively heavy.

Also for 3D Apps, having the built in numpad on the keyboard and dedicated 3 buttons is very useful. The Dell can also handle multiple displays much better and without dongles.

I’d agree and go with the Dell Precision M6600. The three buttons and number keypad are essential for some CAD programs, although I’m noticing more mainstream laptops are coming out with built-in extended keyboards and wireless mice are ubiquitous.

The issue comes down to the graphics processor, SolidWorks gave me hell in the past when I used PC’s that didn’t have a certified graphics card. And it’s not the graphics memory, I’ve upgraded to certified professional cards that didn’t have as much memory as gaming cards and I was flying through the CAD programs.

You may also want to look at HP’s EliteBook Mobile Workstation line. They are normally thinner and lighter than Dell’s mobile workstations and look better.

Of course you may not look as cool as the cool kids using MacBook Pro’s, but you’ll be getting more stuff done faster. :wink:

If you go the Elitebook route you’d need to hold off a little while longer. The Sandy bridge workstations are listed there (the 8560w & 8760w) but they’re not for sale yet.

I’m waiting to get my hands on those as well since HP is our only laptop supplier anymore and my Core Duo is not cutting it.

Mostly Windows at the moment (although one day my main app Rhino will also be OS X).
I’m not too worried about the weight. Carrying the notebook around will be better for my health. It will give me a six-pack, and replacing the 2 six-packs in weight I carry daily. (Just kidding.)
Mentioning the mouse buttons and handling of multi-displays. Really helpful. It’s a good one. Hadn’t considered those.
And it sucks that HP is the only option available to you. I’m not knocking HP, but it is a good thing to have more options to choose from, and being able to pick what bests suits.

@scrotum + Cyberdemon:
The new HP’s would be excellent actually.
But I had crossed the new HP’s of my list already because there will only be a FirePro M5950 graphics card option for the 17" 8760W. No FirePro M8900. I’m not a fanboy, but going for a FirePro instead of a Quadro saves a lot of money.
And to be honest I’m not too impressed with the specs of the Quadro 1000M and 2000M : low bandwidth DDR3, so not even GDDR3.

And yeah, I wouldn’t look as cool. Even if I wanted. :wink:

Looks like I’ll be going for the M6600 with FirePro M8900 then.
It sort of leapfrogged the MBP the moment I saw it online. But I wasn’t sure what to do. (There is still a little doubt.)

BTW, the configurator for the M6600 forces me to specify the number of drives on the RAID Controller option as :
“Raid Controller : All SATA Hard Drives, Non-RAID for 1 Hard
Drive [Inbegrepen in prijs]”
But with a 256GB SSD (€750 +VAT) as the only option for the second drive …
After the notebook proofs to have no hardware problems, I want to be able to move the first HDD to the second bay, and buy and install an SSD myself as the first disk later.

Does “Non-RAID for 1 Hard Drive” mean that only one HDD-bay will be wired ?

The Quadro 1000 and 2000 are only on the 15" Laptop. The 2000 should be pretty capable even with the slower memory, the Fermi chips are very quick.

The 3000 is the mid range option for the 17" and should haul, but it might be a few hundred bucks worth of an upgrade.

Wish they’d release the pricing details already.

Regarding the hard drive: Non Raid just means that there is an option to do RAID configurations with 2 hard drives. If you only get 1 drive, that just means there is no RAID configuration available.

The connections should all be there to add the second disk. You most likely wouldn’t need to physically move the first hard drive either, you can just add the SSD and when you reinstall Windows just pick the SSD as the boot drive. It may change the letters (IE Windows might be on the D: instead of the C:) but that in no way effects anything other than your mental state.

I’m not willing to spend more than necessary on the graphics card. For the software I use the FirePro M8900 is plenty fast.
I would rather spend the up-price on a better IPS screen, which Dell promised but not yet listed. I will email/call them to ask when a 1920x1080 IPS screen will be offered.
But to be honest, I do not think that there will be a 17" IPS option soon/yet. When comparing the translated Chinese web pages for the Precision M6600 and M4600, I see an IPS screen option for the M4600 only.
If that’s the case, I might even wait and go for the M4600 with the weaker FirePro M5950 and the IPS 1920x1080 screen.

M6600: 戴尔笔记本电脑_台式电脑_服务器_电脑配件_戴尔官方网站 | Dell
M4600: 戴尔笔记本电脑_台式电脑_服务器_电脑配件_戴尔官方网站 | Dell

I accidentally hit Submit instead of Preview.
My previous post needs to be moderated before it will show. So I’m adding this now (hadn’t added it yet) :
Thanks for the explanation on the RAID controller and 2nd HDD option.
Does the controller option I mentioned, also mean that RAID is never possible anymore ?

Apologies for the 2 subsequent posts.

EDIT : Just off the phone with a Dell sales rep. Result :
No 17.3" IPS screen option in the short term.
Initially only the 15.6" M4600 will have an 1920x1080 IPS screen.
The M4600 will not be introduced in May.
When asked whether this would all be worldwide, he stated that his replies where only applicable to the Dell Netherlands website.
Also with an M6600 in my cart, no estimated delivery time was shown. And when I asked him about this, he confirmed that estimating a delivery date was still an issue. He went away to ask his supervisor (5+ minutes) and said that if I would order today through him, he could guarantee approximately 15 business days as a delivery date. And that when I ordered online that he could not prioritise my order. He gave me his email address for when I was ready to order.
This all sounds a bit shady to me.
To me an estimated 15 business days for delivery by word of mouth could also take longer, just like when ordering online.
Why put something up for sale if you cannot even estimate a delivery date ?
And prioritization ? Give me a break.

Think I’m going to buy the MBP 17 anyway.
(I will look at the M4600/M6600 again in a couple of months.)

RE Raid: Raid can still be enabled. The controller is more than likely built onto the motherboard. Would just need to be set in the BIOS. Personally I would avoid RAID like the plague on a laptop. If you want 2 drives put in an SSD for your main drive and keep the hard disk for storage. That will give you virtually all the performance you need without the risk of destroying your RAID array when one drive starts to go out.

IPS Panel shortages are a worldwide supplier issue right now. Keep in mind that the MBP does not use an IPS panel.

All of these machines are brand new, and since several Sandy Bridge machines I’ve been watching have all been pushed into release dates past mid-May, I believe there are just a lot of supplier issues right now. Whether or not this has anything to do with Japan I can’t say, but I see the same messages coming out of almost every laptop supplier building new Sandy Bridge laptops.

Also - they haven’t even listed the M4600 or 6600 in the US for sale yet. Regional websites are all handled locally, so typically those websites may get updated before the product is available. It is annoying, but anyone in the corporate world can relate that the left hand usually doesn’t speak to the right.

That’s good to hear about the RAID controller. :slight_smile:

And Bloody Hell I should be ashamed of myself for not thinking that delays (might) have been caused by the disaster in Japan. I always tend to forget about these matters.

So what would be a reasonable delivery time at the moment considering that the M6600 is brand new and there are possible delays at suppliers ?
(I realise that you do not have a glass orb.)

I still think you should be able to see most of those machines before the end of May. Given that the usual Dell lead time on a new machine is about 2 weeks that’s probably not too bad.

I know Dell was saying their new Alienware machines were supposed to be shipping mid May, but I see that people are already getting deliveries so hopefully some of those dates are getting pushed up. Since the workstations aren’t order able yet though it will probably still be 3-4 weeks.

That’s about the 15 business days that I was “guaranteed” with so called “prioritization”. :sigh:

I’ve been waiting (holding off) for months already. So I’m not going to rush into ordering just because the M6600 is listed. Dell Netherlands is obviously not capable of delivering at all. Let’s wait some more until their cart is able to give an estimate date of delivery, and how long I would have to wait. It’s a shame that things have to go this way.

Thanks for your time.

I have Dell predecessor 15" M4500. Dell’s online configuring is broken, just too many options and supplier tied deals = impossible to configure exactly what you want. Solution is to configure best possible, save it with your markups, contact Dell, and then send saved marked-up configuration to sales agent and start negotiating. Personal one to one Dell configuration negotiations show that these stupid supplier-tied deals can be broken, OS and other software hard copies included for free.

I installed SSD as main OS disk myself. Dell SSD’s are the small form factor and expensive. I used the Newmodeus optical drive caddy and waited until Newegg had a suitable SSD on sale. Kept the Dell big HDD for data. Also bought mini SATA to eSATA+USB jumpered cable to externally plug in the now removed optical drive when required (rarely). My experiece with SSD based OS and programs is unbelivably fast install times, otherwise no real gains as again, I’m using big Dell HDD for data.

The Dell 15" M4500 is the non-glare 1920x1280 screen, it is nice. Numerous reviews recommended the backlit keyboard, I thought it was gamer-type gimmick, but succumbed to the unanimous likes. I agree it is helpful, required for working in low light. I stayed with the standard small battery; it runs very hot, too hot for lap top use. This machine is heavy, good bag with shoulder padding is mandatory.

My main uses for this Dell M4500 are Solidworks, Photoshop, Office stuff. It works fine, quite fast.

There is no contest. And I love apple. I wish they’d get their laptops in order and give them some much needed TLC. But big picture or long haul wise, the dell “can” support up to 32gigs of RAM. Not that you’ll ever need it now or ever, but it’s a nice lil token to have in the back pocket. Processor wise, again for what is available right now, the dell series takes it. be it the 6500 or 6600 series. From a weight stand point, the Apple will be lighter. The dell will fell like you have a 1000lbs weights in your bag…

I had already contacted Dell. But it’s actually a good thing I waited.
Because yesterday the total price of my chosen config went down in price another €80.-- +VAT. That’s already a total of €150.-- +VAT in the one week that the M6600 is listed. :slight_smile:

Upto 16GB, the M6600 supports 1600MHz DDR3 SO-DIMM.
Over 16GB, memory speed is “limited” to 1333MHz.
So 16GB of these would be ideal :
Kingston Hyperx khx1600c9s3k2/8gx
I’m not too worried about weight.
I’m part of a 2 man family, my son and I. Each weekday I’m the one who’s carrying the 2 six-packs soda for my son and his friends (and other groceries) on the way home in public transport. The M6600 or MBP17 are probably the same weight as the 2 six-packs. A nice swap. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m more worried about the size though.
If only a 17" notebook could be fitted into a much smaller package. I wish we already had those nice OLED panels : thin, light, wide viewing angles, no backlight necessary, and rollable. And also rollable keyboards.

But for now just a carrying handle attached to the notebook will do, like in the luggable (sewing machine) era. :slight_smile:

Since my previous post, I decided against purchase of the MBP 17 because of what I read in the Leistung (performnce) section of this detailed German review :
TEST Apple MacBook Pro 17 (Early 2011) / Leistung
They determined that Apple still throttles the CPU when performance is actually required :

Unter Auslastung aller Kerne pendelt sich die Taktrate bei 2,3 GHz ein. Wird zusätzlich noch die AMD Grafikkarte ausgelastet, sinkt die Taktrate auf bis zu 1,4 GHz. Das Throttling-Problem besteht also auch beim aktuellen Modell und zieht sich durch die gesamte MacBook Pro Ära.

With all cores under load, core speed levels off at 2.3GHz. Bringing the AMD graphics card under load, in addition to this, throttles CPU core speed down to 1.4 GHz. So the Throttling-Problem still exists with the current models and runs through the entire MacBook Pro era.

Add to this that OS X currently has problems with switching between the integrated Intel GPU (iGPU) and the dedicated AMD GPU (dGPU). (Then you have the throttling condition above.)
When an app uses the dGPU, and eventually is closed, and no other app requires the dGPU, OS X still keeps the dGPU active. Instead of switching back to the iGPU.
Eating battery life, but in the above quoted case, when switching from modeling to rendering we would have the dGPU active and all 4 cores under load. But only at 1.4 GHz.
I hope Apple fixes this. Apparantly there is an app gfxCardStatus which allows you to see whether the iGPU or dGPU is active. And even allows you to switch manually between them. But if OS X has certain modules of apps still open in the background (for efficiency), and holds on to them, this app also doesn’t manage to let you manually switch between the 2 graphics cards. Sigh!
There is no perfect notebook and no perfect OS.

The Precision M4600 also came online about an hour ago.
So far for the reliability of the sales rep I spoke to earlier this week (see above).
It has a 1920x1080 RGB LED panel option, which the M6600 hasn’t.

I’ve also heard that the AMD GPU on the MBP has some serious issues in certain CAD apps. If CAD Is going to be your main usage I wouldn’t chance it.

Yes, CAD wil be the main usage.
It looks like my only choice is Dell at the moment, or wait for HP.
I’ll pull the trigger on the M6600 (or maybe the M4600) next week. I need to find reliable information about the CAD performance of the FirePro M5950. Based on specs alone, it looks extremely weak compared to the FirePro M8900.