By Neil Bennett | on September 08, 2003
Price: From £1,784 plus VAT
Unlike the much-lauded M50, the Precision M60 mobile workstation from Dell is not an upgrade of a previous model. With the M50 now available with the latest mobile Pentium 4 processor, the M60 is an attempt to use Intel’s Centrino technology to create a much smaller, lighter device than the bulky M50 (reviewed here). However, the transition from hulk to waif has been less than completely successful, and it’s managed to devalue the M50 in the process. The Precision M60 does include some genuine innovations, however. The laptop sees the first appearance of NVidia’s latest Quadro FX Go700 graphics chip, the first mobile chip with 128MB of RAM and loads of graphics power to boot. A chip of this magnitude is a necessity in this laptop, as it offers another first – an HD widescreen resolution of 1,920-x-1,200 pixels. Even working at this resolution, the graphics chip delivers impressive results. The chip managed to burn through Cinebench’s hardware-driven OpenGL scene at 19.8fps. This is 1.6fps slower than ACi’s Centurion, but the M60’s result is much more impressive as it has over 50 per cent more pixels to look after – 1,920-x-1,200 compared with the Centurion’s 1,400-x-1,050. However, back in the real world, we’d rather the M60 had stuck to the M50’s 1,600-x-1,200 for higher 3D graphical performance. The M60’s 15.4-inch wide screen has smaller pixels than the M50’s 15-inch screen – making small text harder to read without giving any extra precision, as it’s so small. The HD resolution would make sense on a screen the size of the Satellite P20 (reviewed here), but here it just slows the computer down. Our £2,574 plus VAT test unit included a 1.7GHz Pentium-M processor, 1GB of RAM, and a fast 7,200rpm 60GB hard drive – though we would have preferred the option of an 80GB drive. Intel’s latest breed of mobile chip isn’t as bad at power processing as initial reports suggested, rattling through rendering our LightWave scene in a healthy 35 minutes and 30 seconds. Combined with 1GB of RAM, it streaked through our Photoshop tests in an impressive 83 seconds – especially considering the screen size it was previewing at. The M60 is let down again by the pint-pot case that Dell has attempted by pour its quart of power into. Design-wise, it’s pretty ugly, with dull matte silver colouring and a huge tacky latch that looks like it was designed by Fisher-Price. More importantly, while the keyboard is fine (but not great), the trackpad is less-than-responsive – and the wrong size. A widescreen display requires a widescreen trackpad, something that whoever designed this should have realized as it’s going to home in for more use in a light, mobile unit like this than on the desktop-to-desktop M50. The case has all of the ports you’d expect from a standard Centrino-based laptop, which is what this feels like until you turn it on. It feels like Dell has built the M60 technology into some businessman’s toy without changing the form to fit the function. We’d recommend the M50 instead, which was our top rated mobile workstation in Digit ’s last round-up, but it’s not available with the Quadro FX Go700 chip – it has an older 64MB chip instead and maxes out at 1GB of RAM. We’d prefer to see the M60’s graphics chip and screen on the Satellite P20 instead.