I bought this as a upgrade to my M6300, so my comparisons will be between these two laptops.
Finish wise, the laptop looks great, but compared to the M6300, the case is not as rugged, and seems to scratch easier.
Size wise, the M6400 was a little thinner than the M6300.
The improvements over the M6300.
Two hard drives and Raid Performance
LED Display option
Lighted Keyboard - Awesome
PC card slot and a Express Card Slot
Upon arrving I upgraded the stock WXGA display with the RGB Edge to Edge LED display, and what a difference. The swap was easy with the only thing to note is that the inverter is not required for the LED display, but you do require the LED cable assembly with has an extra connector that terminates on the back of the display panel.
I Removed the T9400 CPU and installed the QX9100 Quad Core CPU ($ 250.00)
I also added the second HD to make a 2 x 320 GB Raid 0 array. ($ 90.00)
To make things easier I slip streamed the raid drivers onto the XP 64 Bit OS install CD.
See chart on right
What's in the Box:
laptop. Quick Start Guide, Restore CDs, and Windows CDs
The laptop looks sleek, and I think the grey finish is much more impressive than the Covet orange version.
The 17 inch RGB Edge to Edge LED display is worth the extra cost, it is extremely sharp looking, True HD grahpic display, No light leakage, and bright in any condition.
One function included in the M6400 is the Auto Display brightness option which adjusts the screen brightness in varyious lighting conditions. It seems to work fine most of the time, although in some lighting conditions I had to manually adjust the screen brightness for my taste.
The lighted keyboard is great, it looks slick, and feels fine to me, I have heard others complain about the flexing in the keyboard, but this has not been an issue IMO.
Also unlike keyboards of the past, the M6400 does not require a cable be disconnected to remove it, 4 screws, Slide the keyboard towards the display, and it pops out. The connector is intergrated into the keyboard, - See pics for a shot of this new design. This is a great feature.
The keyboard includes a number pad and includes controls for Volume, and a Calculator Function Key.
The built in touch pad works as expected. The pad also includes a scroll function.
Standard Function Keys, also include Volume Controls, and a Calculator operation.
Wifi, Blue Tooth, AC Power, HD, Battery Charge Leds are included.
The laptop came with the DW1510 Wireless card, I upgraded this ($35.00) to the DW5300 which includes the third Antenna port for better wireless performance.
There is also a second set of antenna connectors which I presume are for a broadband card. (optional)
2 intenal speakers, no Sub, but Audio seems to be decent enough for a laptop
Input and Output Ports
Other than Power on the read, the remainder of the ports are located on the sides of the laptop. It was a bit of a change from the M6300 not having th Lan port in the rear, but it has not posed any problems so far.
I have not really tested the web cam other than to coonfirm, it works, picture quality is about what i would expecte from a Web cam.
Ports are USB x 1, e-Sata/USB Port(Combined), VGA and Display Port, Lan Port, Express Card Slot, and Wifi On/Off switch and Wifi Catcher Function button
2 x USB Ports, Slot Load CD Bay, PC Card Slot, 8 in 1 Card Reader Slot, 1394 port, Laptop Security cable Lock, Mic and Speaker ports.
The rear of the laptop has only the Power connector, and the fan exhuast ports.
Advanced E-Port connector, Easy access panel for expansion devices such as Wiress cards, Memory, Hard Drives. Etc.
3d Mark06 8203 with stock settings.
Best score I could get OC was 9824 Submitted to the Forums benchmarks
Temps at max over clock were steady at 65 C,
Seems the Thermal Solution for this GPU works very well.
Size and Weight
As with most 17 inch laptops it is heavy, and lugging it around the Airports as I do, can be a chore, but having a power packed laptop in my Hotel is worth the weight as in many cases my laptop is my entertainment on the road.
Heat and Noise
Dell designed two fans one for the CPU/Chipset and the other for the GPU into this unit. One thing of note is the GPU fan is part of the GPU assembly, though it can still be removed for service, it seems to provide a better more direct cooling solution for the video card.
I have averaged around 2.5 hours of battery life, I think the LED displays do offer an advantage in this regard.
Dell Supports XP OS, XP x64 Bit OS, Vista, and x64 Bit Vista OS
Sofware includes the Drivers CD for XP and Vista including 64 bit versions of both platforms. I have XP x64 bit OS installed, and seems to run perfectly so far. I will probably give Windows 7 a try onced it is released.
Also included Windows re-install CD for Dell computers, and software CDs for Dells Wedcam.
Tons of Optional Accessories.
Fast Desktop replacement
16 Gb of Memory
LED Display Option now available on non covet version.
Easy Expansion access.
4 USB ports - less than the M6300.
Case seems easy to mark/scratch
Size of the 210 watt Brick
e-sata port only seems to work in AHCI mode.
Does not support OC for the Extreme CPU's If Dell sells the Extreme CPUs they should fully Support it including the OCing.
The stock price was @ $ 3100.00 and I picked it up for $ 1700 from the outlet. At this price it was a bargin. The display upgrade cost me $ 500.00 from Ebay, and I managed to get about $ 150.00 of that back from selling my old display.
As soon as I have the Warranty transfer in place I am going to look into upgrading the GPU to the FX3700.
Although specs wise the FX2700 seems to be on par with the FX3600 found in the M6300.
Upgrding the CPU / GPU is about the same level of skill as was the M6300.
You do need to remove the Bezel. Keyboard, and about 20 screws to remove the base plastics to expose the CPU / GPU assemblies.
In terms of build Quality, OS options, Support, Expandibility, I think this is dells best laptop hands down, The only real negative is the price, but deals can be had if your patient and check the Outlet often. Buisness Level Support is North American based, and results are much faster and better response from Technical Support.