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Dell Precision Mobile Workstation M60

Dell's pocket rocket puts most desktop workstations to shame By Charlie White
Dell Precision Workstation M60 reviewDell has released a workstation-class notebook that's built like a truck, looks like a gleaming aircraft, is exceedingly fast and powerful, and comes packed with components that were once only available on desktop workstations. Is it suitable for digital video editing, high end presentations and 3D graphics work? There's only one way to answer that three-part query: Yes, yes and yes. Here's our review.

Let's just start off with a bang: The Dell Precision Mobile Workstation M60, with prices starting at $2599, is without a doubt the most powerful and highly capable notebook computer that's ever graced the halls of the Midwest Test Facility. Dell sent us a fully loaded system that costs $4,925 at this writing, but wait a minute before you write that off as too expensive -- in this stratospheric arena of high-end notebookdom, you get what you pay for. Included in this package is the sharpest 15.4" wide aspect UXGA LCD I've ever seen, a 128MB NVIDIA Quadro FX Go700 graphics accelerator, 2 GB of 333MHz DDR-SDRAM, a 60GB 7200RPM disk (an industry first for a notebook, according to Dell), and all the USB 2.0 and FireWire connectivity you'll ever need. Also included is a 1.7GHz Pentium M processor, which at first glance might make you think it's underpowered. But don't just look at the clock speed on this baby. We put it through a variety of benchmark tests that confirm Dell's and Intel's assertions that this processor is faster than a 2.53 Pentium 4 chip. See the results later in this article.

Let's first look at why this notebook is so good for digital video editing on the go. For one thing, the screen boasts extremely high resolution -- at 1920x1200 it has the same rez as the spectacular Apple 23" HD Cinema Display. The only drawback I noticed with this extraordinary screen is that some text can look pretty small at this rarified resolution; even so, it's so sharp that even the tiniest objects on-screen are clearly visible. It's perfectly suited for stretching a wide editing timeline across it.

Another plus for this screen is its wide viewing angle -- the most expansive I've seen on an LCD. If you're collaborating with colleagues in your road-trip edit sessions or back at the office, all those gathered around it can see as clearly as those sitting immediately front-and-center. But a downside to this is, if you're working on a confidential document in an airplane seat, for instance, your seatmates will have a crystal-clear view of whatever you're doing, unlike with conventional notebooks with their typically narrow viewing angles. On the other hand, the M60 is ideal for plane trips because of a factor you might not have thought of, but Dell's designers did. The screen is 15.4 inches wide, with a 16:10 aspect ratio, and you might be thinking, hey, there are bigger notebook screens than that. But have you ever tried using a 17" notebook in one of today's minuscule economy-class airplane seats? Good luck getting the lid even halfway open. The 15.4" screen is at just about the limit for comfortable airplane use.

Back here on solid ground, a favorable attribute of this product that pros who are counting on this bauble for their livelihood is that Dell has gone through the trouble to get it certified by most of the digital video editing software manufacturers, along with CAD and 3D developers, too. What this means that when you plug this system in, you can be sure it's going to work with your favorite editing software like Avid, Adobe Premiere, Maya, AutoCAD and many more.

The most remarkable characteristic of the M60 is its performance. For digital video editing, you're sure not to encounter any dropped frames with this system, with its 7200RPM hard disk that we tested at a blistering 30MB/second read speed and 35MB/second write speed. We've never seen that kind of throughput in a notebook. Then, we ran our group of six Adobe After Effects benchmarks on the machine. Take a look at the table below and you'll see that the M60 easily beat Dell's 2.53GHz Precision Workstation 350. Yes indeed, the claim that this pocket rocket can outrun a 2.53GHz desktop is certainly on the money as far as After Effects rendering is concerned, which is perhaps the most processor-intensive workout most of us are likely to give a computer. Further confirming that speed claim are our Cinebench 2003 benchmark results, where the M60's 128MB NVIDIA Quadro FX Go700 graphics card proves it can run with the big boys, scoring a remarkable 2001 on the Hardware Open GL Cinebench test, easily beating last year's NVIDIA Quadro DCC 64MB workstation-class card on a 3.06GHz P4 box. By the way, if you'd like to see how your computer matches up to these numbers, the cross-platform Cinebench 2003 benchmark can be downloaded free from

Results in minutes: seconds

Apple Power Mac G4 Dual 1.25GHz with 1GB DDR RAM

Dell Precision Workstation 350
Intel P4 3.06 GHz,

Dell Precision Workstation 340
Intel P4 2.53GHz,

Dell Precision Mobile Workstation M60
Intel Pentium M 1.7GHz
2GB 333MHz RAM
1. After Effects: Simple Animation :14 :07 :10 :08
2. After Effects: Video Composite 1:25 :54 1:12 1:07
3. After Effects: Data Project 3:47 2:05 3:01 2:43
4. After Effects: Gambler :43 :29 :32 :31
5. After Effects: Source Shapes 7:06 4:14 5:54 5:33
6. After Effects: Virtual Set 8:15 4:24 8:42 5:54
CineBench 2003 Rendering Time (lower is better)   73.3 sec. 118.9 116.1 sec.
CineBench 2003 Rendering (CB-CPU score -- higher is better) 171 360 221 227

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Related Keywords:Dell, workstation-class notebook, desktop workstations, digital video editing, high end presentations, 3D graphics work, review, Dell Precision Mobile Workstation M60

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