Reason to buy such a notebook
If all goes well (Visa) I'll be studying 3D character animation at Vancouver Film School, January 2007.
Hence, a notebook would be a welcome addition to this adventure since won't really be able to bring my
desktop 3D workstation. It will be an intensive 6 to 9 months course which requires me to relocate
from the Netherlands to Vancouver, Canada for the duration of the program.
For such a study program i need a capable but still very portable machine ; a huge energy slurping
17 inch notebook, like the M90 or XPS M1710, is out of the question. I will be running Maya and my own Cinema4D R10 license.
After having read many forums and articles I decided I'd call Dell to order a Precision M65. I had already
formally formed a small business with my dad, so i can deduct taxes. I received the M65 and left the Win XP install as it is.
More pics :
Like other reviews state : this is a very sturdy notebook but not too bulky and still elegant. Of course,
a new Macbook Pro does admittedly look more stylish.
It's the matte 1680 x 1050 screen. Bootup on battery will set the screen brightness to a lower level than when attached to a wall power outlet. The former method is considerably more dim although it's kind of acceptable to work on.
The brightest setting is definately up to par with my desktop's LCD screen, the Samsung 970P.
Afaik there are no dead (sub)pixels but there is indeed some light leakage southwards. It's not noticable with normal use or even when gaming but it shows up on photographs.
Construction & Interface
The M65 chassis is very sturdy. The screenhinge doesn't make squeeky noises and it feels rigid. The screenpanel and chassis don't deform when you try to twist or put pressure on them. The keyboard
feels very much like the European Logitech Ultra X Media desktop keyboard, which is one of my favs.
The standard palm rest does an adequate job ; when i'm typing or gaming my left hand puts alot of
pressure on the palmrest.
Performance, noise & heat
This is the key part of my review. Of course, since i need the M65 for Maya & Cinema4D, my requirements are very specific. I will 3D model, animate and render in such programs. Of course, the goal was to get a notebook which comes as close to my desktop performance as possible without having to resort to a 17" machine. At heart I'm also a gamer, but this time around, portability & cost effectivity are the crucial demands.
My desktop workstation is an AMD X2 4800 with 2Gb of Corsair Cas2 PC3500LL Pro ram at 1T rating ( Picture is here : http://members.home.nl/hkonings/Knot3Dpc_3.jpg ) ; it has an Ati X1900XTX @ 683/1594 clocks and two 10.000 rpm WD Raptor HD's. As a freelancer i was primarily using Cinema4D R10 on it with the Maxon's new built in renderer.
Here's the Cinebench 2003 scores @ 1280 x 1024, 72hz @ 32bit setting ( Click on the picture to resize to realsize in your browserwindow ) : http://members.home.nl/hkonings/C4D_screen03.jpg
I installed Cinebench 9.5 on my M65, but it's very much the same test as Cinebench 2003 afaik. The test ran at the M65's native 1680 x 1050, 60hz @ 32bit setting. Here's 3 scores ( Click on the picture to resize to realsize in your browserwindow ): http://members.home.nl/hkonings/C4D_screen02.jpg
Surprisingly, the small Quadro FX Go350M bests my X1900XTX OGL speedup in this Cinebench test ;9.34 versus 8.91 My X1900XTX has catalyst 6.9 (6.10 gave my pc a BSOD) and the M65 has Dell installed Forceware 84.xx something...
On the cpu side of things, my X2 4800+ is about on par with the Core 2 duo T7400 in most ; the dualthreadedscore of my desktop is consistently 639 while the T7400 with it's slower 667 FSB ranges from 618 to 648.
In overall 4-viewport use, my desktop and M65 feel about on par with the few C4D R10 test scenes i used. All test scenes contain character models and setpieces with or without subdiv. The camera can pan at good framerates and it keeps those up when moving & rotating subdiv meshes. Unfortunately, i haven't yet done long intensive render tests.
Here's some screens. Click on them to view real size from resize :
From time to time, when modeling & viewport rendering in C4D, I did notice the M65's fan to start spinning. The machine also becomes warm at certain spots. Of course, this is my first own notebook and if i may believe reviews, other notebooks may even run more hot. When things cool down, the fan stops as well ; the noise is absolutely acceptable ; a lot less than my desktop Ati X1900XTX "Dustbuster".
Occassionally in between studying, i'd like to do some gaming while in Vancouver. With a mere 64bit bus, the M65's Quadro FX Go350M is a far cry from both my Ati X1900XTX and Xbox360. I do have to note i'm more of a console gamer with a preference for 3rd person stealth games like SplinterCell, Metal Gear, Hitman etc.
The latest SC Double Agent PC version is a sub par XB360 port which doesn't even run well on the X1900XTX ; so i got the XB360 version and i'm enjoying that alot more . Anyway, my PC SC Chaos Theory disc broke so i could only install Splinter Cell 1 & Kola/Vselka Cell add on missions on the M65.
Surprisingly, the M65 runs SC1 pretty well at 1024 x 768 resolutions with game settings at medium. I forced in BIOS to run games at non-native resolutions. The framerate hovers from 30's up to 50's (sometimes even more). I'd say it averages at about 45, which is adequate for a framerate junkie like me.
The contrast/ brightness of this shadow based game is pretty good on the M65 screen, at least, when attached to a wall outlet ; i haven't gamed on battery yet. For an early DX9 game like SC1, i'd expect about the same 1 to 2 hours of battery life which other (p)reviews state.
Imho, Hitman Blood Money is an absolute gorgeous game. The engine uses some great features like realtime subsurface scattering for skinmaps and various other tasty DX9.0c shaders. On my X1900XTX, Hitman runs like a dream.
Unfortunately, it doesn't shine on the M65. I have to go down to 800x600 size and even then there are alot of occassions in the game which has the framerate going as low as 12 frames p/sec ; which is basically, unplayable. Settings include hard edge shadows, no self shadowing, medium detail & filter fx. So i certainly wouldn't consider the M65 as a game notebook although it does games of 'yesteryear' like Splinter Cell 1 pretty OK.
Here's some screens of both Splinter Cell 1 & Hitman Blood Money on the M65. FRAPS is in the upperleft corner. ( Again, click on pictures to resize to real size in your browserwindow ) :
Offscreen foto :
Kola Cell for teh win !
Hitman Blood Money
Consensus & etc.
Without tax reduction the M65 would have been pretty pricey even via Dell phone order. The current config with addionals like the secondary 9Cell battery, the Kensington adaptor, the Dell nylon backpack, the 7200 rpm HD and the 8x DVD R +/- the total price was about 2950 Euros including 19% tax & shipping.
Ordering was pretty easy on the phone with Dell. The actual order list didn't state what each part within the configuration costs so i HAD to inquire what made the price what the price is. The Dell sales man stated parts like the 7200 rpm disk weren't part of the reduced price package ; hence the final total price. Well, at least i am aware now, what items made the purchase a bit more costy. The Dell salesman did ensure me though he gave me about 150 Euros discount, effectively. The configuration order was finalized on November 13th and UPS knocked on my door November 22nd.
For my 3D work & study, the M65 seems to be really sufficient. WMP 11 playback is also good. Gaming takes a backseat, but i might get an Avermedia PCMCIA TV tuner card so i can hook up my PS2 slimline via s-video.
I hope this review is helpfull to people who need a similair notebook. My (former) freelance work can be found at http://www.adelsmannen.nl Click on the 3D visualization icon after the frontpage screen.