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Thread: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

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    Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    So, I'm about to pull the trigger on a new laptop for image processing and I'd like some outside opinions.

    Firstly, I am a PC user. I actually like the workflow vs. Mac (yes, I have used both and actually switched from Mac after about 10 years of use... no, I am not insane) All of my machines at work are PC. Our lab printing equipment uses PCs. My database, email, web, and FTP servers are PCs. My retail POS system is PC. I routinely use GoToMyPC for remote connections to work and GoToMeeting for customer trainings (both PC only). But, I am willing to explore all the options given that I can run Windows on a MBP. I know there is a general MBP bias around here, which is fine, but I want input anyway.

    I was able to spec out a Dell Precision M6400 with QX9300 Quad Core 2.53Ghz, 8GB RAM, Nvidia Quadro FX 3700M with 1GB, dual 320GB 7200RPM drives in RAID 0 or 1 (hardware), 17" RGB LED 1920x1200 screen with 100% AdobeRGB color gamut, firewire, USB, DisplayPort, eSATA, SD card, and ExpressCard with 3 year next business day on-site warranty for $2800.

    The top-of the line MBP 17" comes with dual core 3Ghz, 4GB, single HD, 9400M + 9600M with 512MB for $3000. Obviously, everyone here knows the spec of this machine as many have it.

    The advantages of the Dell are 100% color gamut anti-glare screen, dual hard drives with real hardware RAID, the fastest GPU on the market today with 1GB VRAM, quad core processor, and additional ports. The 3-year NBD onsite warranty is a nice plus. And, the Dell with take up to 16GB RAM (4 slots, which make getting 8GB way, way cheaper).

    The disadvantages are that the dell is thicker and heavier (8.5 lbs vs. the 6.6 lbs of the Mac), and the battery life isn't as good. The M6400 gets about 3-4 hours vs. the 7-8 hours of the new Mac. Also, the Mac would be able to run both OS X and Windows.

    With so much emphasis on multi-core processing and GPU acceleration in apps (like CS4, Lightroom) the faster processor and graphics card seem to be a real plus. The 100% gamut screen could be like working on a portable Eizo.

    I'm obviously leaning towards the Dell, but I'd like real-world opinions from those that have the latest 17" MBP on how it handles large MFDB files with regards to workflow, processing and multi-image stitching in CS4.

    Thanks,

    David
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    David,

    I can't compare the systems you speak of but I do have a new 2.53GHz, 13" with 4gb ram and an SSD.

    Last week in AZ I had no issues doing a 6 shot A900 stitch with 138mb tiffs making a final 230mb file. It wasn't instant but I wouldn't call it painful either.

    terry

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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Hmmm...

    100% of your editing gamut and everything else you already use is PC... As long as you are living comfortably with Vista and MS, then it sounds like you are done.

    I switched to Mac about 18 months ago after having been a die-hard PC user since day one. Speaking for me personally, MS lost me to PC's forever when their "fix" for XP was Vista.

    One final question: 100% gamut of what? I know you prefer your client files to be in sRGB space -- and I am reasonably certain the new Macs cover that and beyond
    Jack
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    I think I'm at least a charter member of the original die-hard MAC fan group, but I would say that since you're so comfortable and so completely surrounded with PCs, you will save a lot of time avoiding a platform switch. At the end of the day they're just tools. Any minute advantage one vs. the other might show can't make up for the comfort of familiarity. A switch must include an investment of time (and from what I'm told, time is something we each have in finite supply.) I say stick with the PC and maintain your efficiency. OR, opt for being cooler and go with a MAC.

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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    Hmmm...

    100% of your editing gamut and everything else you already use is PC... As long as you are living comfortably with Vista and MS, then it sounds like you are done.

    I switched to Mac about 18 months ago after having been a die-hard PC user since day one. Speaking for me personally, MS lost me to PC's forever when their "fix" for XP was Vista.

    One final question: 100% gamut of what? I know you prefer your client files to be in sRGB space -- and I am reasonably certain the new Macs cover that and beyond

    Jack,

    Dell states that the LCD panel is 100% AdobeRGB gamut. Not sure how this will stack up against an Eizo, but in theory it should be good.

    I actually plan on running Windows 7 on it. From everything I read, it is a vast improvement over Vista (which I avoided) and over XP. Faster, more "Mac-like" with instant searching, 64-bit support, etc. Also has the ability to run a virtual copy of XP in any window, like Fusion for Mac.

    Honestly, my biggest concern is the 8.5 lbs. The Mac is 2 lbs lighter! And, at least with the Mac, I can go to the local Apple store and spend some time with one to see how I like it. The Dell.... well, no store. But, they do have a very good return policy.

    How do you find your MBP when dealing with your P45+ files?

    Thanks,

    David
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Quote Originally Posted by TEBnewyork View Post
    David,

    I can't compare the systems you speak of but I do have a new 2.53GHz, 13" with 4gb ram and an SSD.

    Last week in AZ I had no issues doing a 6 shot A900 stitch with 138mb tiffs making a final 230mb file. It wasn't instant but I wouldn't call it painful either.

    terry
    Terry,

    I have a 2.53 Core 2 Duo with 2GB RAM and 256MB discrete graphics right now. Running C1 and CS3 at the same time is excruciating. I don't know if it is mainly from a lack of RAM or CPU or GPU horsepower or maybe the SSD makes a big difference. And, I hate my LCD display for photo editing. It is somewhat accurate after profiling, but the whites are more red than they should be and the reds are desaturated (especially after I took down the red gamma to fix the white point issue).

    Of course, for everything besides serious photo editing, my machine is great. The LED-backlight LCD looks great for everyday else, it is relatively zippy, weighs 4.3 lbs and the battery lasts for 5 hours. But.... I need a machine that can handle serious image processing. If my laptop is struggling to work through a few hundred 10MP M8 files, what will it do with, say, a few thousand 40MP images?

    And, what RAW processor are you using for your A900? C1? Aperture? Lightroom?

    Thanks,

    David
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Oh, I am curious if anyone knows if C1 uses any of the CUDA optimizations. CUDA is an Nvidia technology that allows software developers to offload the floating point computation to the video card, letting the CPU handle the integer calculations. Adobe made heavy use of this in CS4. Nvidia even makes a card called the Quadro CX that is a 1.5GB video card (desktop only) that is specifically designed to accelerate CS4. For Adobe Premier, the video encoding speed doubles when using this card!

    They also have a card called the Tesla C1060 which is a graphics card with no graphics output. Each card has 240 ALU processors which work in parallel and churn through almost 1000 Gflops. You can put up to four of these cards in a machine using SLI, resulting in a desktop computer capable of over 4 Teraflops! Of course, you need to be handling fluid dynamics, protein modeling, etc. to really appreciate this. Perhaps more of this tech will spill over into the photo/graphics world.

    Ok, that was off-topic.... my reason for asking is I want to know how much real-world difference I might see in GPU accelerated apps. The GeForce 9600M in the MBP rates at about 2,500 Marks using 36Mark06. The Quadra FX 3700M rates at 11,000. About four times faster. If Lightroom and C1 do use this, I assume that there should be a real performance gain here, especially with larger files. For right now, this is just conjecture. For as many photo-related review sites and helpful online forums (like this one) there are, the computer world is seriously lacking. Apparently, the only comparisons you are likely to find are for World of Warcraft or Doom. Where are all the RAW processing benchmarks/comparisons?!!

    David
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Quote Originally Posted by dfarkas View Post
    Jack,

    Dell states that the LCD panel is 100% AdobeRGB gamut. Not sure how this will stack up against an Eizo, but in theory it should be good.
    Do you really need that for working in the field given your preferred sRGB output? I ask only because I typically edit in Adobe as my main working space on the laptop and find I can soft-proof to my print profiles reasonably well off it. (Just to clarify, I use Prophoto on my desktop.)

    How do you find your MBP when dealing with your P45+ files?
    First note I have an 18 month old MBP 15" 2.6 duo-core with 6G ram and a single drive, so it's not going to be in the same league as the new machines. That said, it handles 16-bit P45+ files fine, though it can take a while to process out a couple dozen of them. When on the road, I'll usually process them out to 8-bit to save time and space -- and why I use Adobe RGB on my laptop instead of Prophoto. At 8-bit, the P45 files are only about 120MB files and it moves along just fine with them.

    So to clarify, my laptop edits are more like field proofs, though still more than adequate for online web posting. I typically edit very quickly in the field, so will always go back and more carefully edit the majors on my big machine for a large fine art print -- sometimes those edits can take several hours or on occasion even span multiple days in the case of a large pano or critical focus blend that I want to get just right.

    PS: One thing that rarely gets mentioned when discussing laptop choices -- and that's noise. Macs are very quiet, not sure about the Dell...
    Jack
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Quote Originally Posted by dfarkas View Post
    Terry,

    I have a 2.53 Core 2 Duo with 2GB RAM and 256MB discrete graphics right now. Running C1 and CS3 at the same time is excruciating. I don't know if it is mainly from a lack of RAM or CPU or GPU horsepower or maybe the SSD makes a big difference. And, I hate my LCD display for photo editing. It is somewhat accurate after profiling, but the whites are more red than they should be and the reds are desaturated (especially after I took down the red gamma to fix the white point issue).

    Of course, for everything besides serious photo editing, my machine is great. The LED-backlight LCD looks great for everyday else, it is relatively zippy, weighs 4.3 lbs and the battery lasts for 5 hours. But.... I need a machine that can handle serious image processing. If my laptop is struggling to work through a few hundred 10MP M8 files, what will it do with, say, a few thousand 40MP images?

    And, what RAW processor are you using for your A900? C1? Aperture? Lightroom?

    Thanks,

    David
    David,
    I have both C1 and Lightroom for the A900. I need to stick with Lightroom because C1 won't work with Panny files (small company called Leica standing in the way). I also have CS4 on the new laptop.

    My workflow on the Pano was to save the Lightroom files as 16bit tiffs. I then shut down LR (not sure how much impact it has) opened CS4 did the stitch and saved the file. This isn't the proper workflow by simply doing exports but I was planning on copying over all of my files to my drobo when I got home anyway.

    The key here on the pano was perhaps what is fine to me may be excruciating to you. It did take a couple of minutes but I don't know what that would take on Jack's souped up Mac Pro.

    I'm in now way trying to endorse one over the other but I was just saying that I was very pleasantly surprised that the little machine did as well as it did. For me I wanted the best I could get in the most portable form factor. That is clearly not what you are looking for.....you I gather are getting ready for your big S2 files

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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Quote Originally Posted by TEBnewyork View Post
    For me I wanted the best I could get in the most portable form factor. That is clearly not what you are looking for.....you I gather are getting ready for your big S2 files
    What would ever give you that idea?!

    The real-world info from you and Jack is what I'm looking for, and Jack's ability to work with P45+ files efficiently certainly gives me pause. I like the look and feel of the new MBPs, I like the 2lbs lighter weight, I'd love an 8 hour battery life. I also may be in a position where I just can't work it on a desktop and need to bring the "desktop" with me (even as heavy as it is), and be able to deliver print-ready files on location. Grrr. This is aggravating. I'd really like to just get both and see what works, but this is utterly impractical.

    Thanks guys. I really appreciate the feedback. I'm trying to decide in the next few days and as IT and digital workflow literate as I am (or pretend to be ), the real-world stuff is what matters.

    David
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    I am using Raid 0 on my laptop and i would suggest with any laptop PC or Mac and trying to make a desktop out of it (guilty) than this is something I would seriously look at. I am also using two Intel M 80gb SSD drives. In this case you have to say goodbye to your optical drive which I just added a nice fast external. Just for a FYI MBP 15 inch 2.93 setup with 8gb of ram and the two SSD drives I can process a full 16 bit P30+ file as a 186 mg Tif in about 15 seconds. This is actually the slowest part of the system is C1 because it is more core dependent. CS4 work I have absolutely no bottle necks even doing 8 shot pano's and is pretty equivalent to my old MacPro with 4 cores. I can't speak for the quad core machines but until ALL laptops get to at least 4 cores than we will still have slower C1 processing. I have this machine running almost as fast as it can without getting into server grade SSD drives which i will do when prices drop
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    David, chances are pretty good if you go to the Apple store they will have a 17" loaded with both Aperture and CS4. You can bring along a disc with files on it. The Apple stores also have a personal shopping service so you can set up an appointment to do this.

    Perhaps they would let you download a C1 trial but that I'm really not sure of.

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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    I am using Raid 0 on my laptop and i would suggest with any laptop PC or Mac and trying to make a desktop out of it (guilty) than this is something I would seriously look at. I am also using two Intel M 80gb SSD drives. In this case you have to say goodbye to your optical drive which I just added a nice fast external. Just for a FYI MBP 15 inch 2.93 setup with 8gb of ram and the two SSD drives I can process a full 16 bit P30+ file as a 186 mg Tif in about 15 seconds. This is actually the slowest part of the system is C1 because it is more core dependent. CS4 work I have absolutely no bottle necks even doing 8 shot pano's and is pretty equivalent to my old MacPro with 4 cores. I can't speak for the quad core machines but until ALL laptops get to at least 4 cores than we will still have slower C1 processing. I have this machine running almost as fast as it can without getting into server grade SSD drives which i will do when prices drop
    Guy,

    I remember you swapped out your DVD drive for a 2nd HD a while back. Very interesting. The Dell workstation I'm looking at takes two HDs and still retains the optical drive. It also operates on hardware RAID, not software. What difference this makes in real world performance, I'm not sure, but it should mean that even if my OS gets fried for some reason, the RAID is still good.

    Good to hear how well your machine performs on C1 and CS4 with P30+ files, though. How was it before the SSDs? Did that make a really big difference?

    Oh yeah... I have one more criteria. I need to be able to output full 1920x1200 video at a sustained 30fps to an external display or projector.

    David
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Quote Originally Posted by TEBnewyork View Post
    David, chances are pretty good if you go to the Apple store they will have a 17" loaded with both Aperture and CS4. You can bring along a disc with files on it. The Apple stores also have a personal shopping service so you can set up an appointment to do this.

    Perhaps they would let you download a C1 trial but that I'm really not sure of.
    Terry,

    This is what I was thinking of doing later today, if I have the time. Right now, I'm working on product photography (and getting distracted by online forums).

    David
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Quote Originally Posted by dfarkas View Post
    Guy,

    I remember you swapped out your DVD drive for a 2nd HD a while back. Very interesting. The Dell workstation I'm looking at takes two HDs and still retains the optical drive. It also operates on hardware RAID, not software. What difference this makes in real world performance, I'm not sure, but it should mean that even if my OS gets fried for some reason, the RAID is still good.

    Good to hear how well your machine performs on C1 and CS4 with P30+ files, though. How was it before the SSDs? Did that make a really big difference?

    Oh yeah... I have one more criteria. I need to be able to output full 1920x1200 video at a sustained 30fps to an external display or projector.

    David
    Not sure on the video end but yes I did take a pretty big leap forward with the SSD and also than going Raid 0. I did it in steps and tested along the way and each new addition like Ram, SSD than Raid 0 the performance got better at each step up.
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    David

    I recently upgrade my laptop to a Dell M-6400 quad2.53, 8 GB Ram, 1GB NVIDA Quadro FX 3700M, Vista Ultimate 64, 8x DVD +/- RW, 250 GB Disk, WiFi Link 5300, Dell Wireless 5720 Mobile Broadband. The screen is 17" WUXGA LCD. I added a second hard drive (300 GB) shortly after getting the computer in early February that I use primarily as my scratch disk for CS4.

    The only downside is the weight; it weights a ton however this computer is the closest thing I've had to match my studio computer Dell Precision 660 dual quad core 3.00 with 24 GB RAM and I don't go anywhere without it.

    I've had no problems processing any images from my P45+ and in many cases I'm doing multiple image layered focus on CS4 and now Helicon Focus.


    Don
    Last edited by Don Libby; 28th June 2009 at 10:50. Reason: added thought
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Well David since it is your money we are spending, you could go ahead and buy the Dell and then take it to the Apple store for a direct comparison. I expect Dell's return policy would let you get away with that if you chose the Mac over the Dell.

    It would be very interesting to here results from a side-by-side comparison between the high-end Dell and Mac from a performance perspective. I have been using Windows 7 beta on my desktop since it came out and it is pretty good but, I still prefer the Mac OS. Also, I personally think weight, size, and battery life are very important factors in choosing a laptop - perhaps more-so than sheer performance.

    Good luck with your choices.

    Mark

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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    While the weight might be an issue I've found that I lug the bag to the Jeep then into a hotel where it'll stay till I lug it back to the Jeep and drive home. I haven't flown with it however I don't see it being a huge concern despite the weight. I feel this is the best laptop I've had the pleasure of working on - but that's just my own personal opinion and 2

    The plan for the future is to upgrade the RAM to 16 as you no matter what you just can't have too much memory.

    Don
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    I use a 15" MacBook Pro and have honestly considered going smaller and lighter, but I do travel by commercial airlines a bit. I would probably consider going larger (e.g, 17") if I only traveled by vehicle. It would be great have the extra screen real estate of the 17" if the weight and form factor were manageable for air travel.

    Mark

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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Quote Originally Posted by Iron Creek View Post
    David

    I recently upgrade my laptop to a Dell M-6400 quad2.53, 8 GB Ram, 1GB NVIDA Quadro FX 3700M, Vista Ultimate 64, 8x DVD +/- RW, 250 GB Disk, WiFi Link 5300, Dell Wireless 5720 Mobile Broadband. The screen is 17" WUXGA LCD. I added a second hard drive (300 GB) shortly after getting the computer in early February that I use primarily as my scratch disk for CS4.

    The only downside is the weight; it weights a ton however this computer is the closest thing I've had to match my studio computer Dell Precision 660 dual quad core 3.00 with 24 GB RAM and I don't go anywhere without it.

    I've had no problems processing any images from my P45+ and in many cases I'm doing multiple image layered focus on CS4 and now Helicon Focus.


    Don
    Thanks Don. I'm looking at a very similar config, so your experience is very helpful.

    I keep coming back to the weight. I will be traveling by air with this laptop and am worried about the logistics and the burden of lugging through airports. I could, of course, use a rolling laptop bag, but that might make too much sense.

    Now, I need to complicate the issue. I saw that Dell also has an M4400 Precision Workstation. It is a 15", still with 1920x1200 RGB LED Adobe gamut screen, and still with QX9300 quad core 2.53 Ghz. Limitations are no 2nd HD, only 8GB (instead of 16GB), and only Quadro FX 1700M with 512MB. But, it weighs a hair less than 6 lbs. So, now I have to consider this, too. Life is never easy.

    A little research shows that there is more than just a memory difference between the FX 1700M and FX 3700M. The 1700 has 32 ALU cores, while the 3700 has 128 ALU cores! Double the memory should help, too.

    David
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    While the weight is truly a factor look at what you get - larger screen, more RAM, dual disk drives to name a few.

    The true weight is in the electronic box that plugs in the wall size similar to larger PDA and weights about the same. I have heard Dell came out with a smaller lighter weight box but haven't taken the time to research.

    Getting a proper case can be a PIA as you need to find one that will fit the the laptop and beast called the black box (I'm having a mental block as to the correct name). I found the Tenba Large Messenger Bag works very well. I keep the shoulder sling attached for long walks from the lobby to hotel room.

    You might also want to visit here for additional real life experiences with the 6400; you'll find some interesting view, thoughts and experiences here.

    There isn't much more I can add here other than to say again I've got one and like it.
    Don Libby
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    I am also using two Intel M 80gb SSD drives. In this case you have to say goodbye to your optical drive which I just added a nice fast external. Just for a FYI MBP 15 inch 2.93 setup with 8gb of ram and the two SSD drives I can process a full 16 bit P30+ file as a 186 mg Tif in about 15 seconds.
    this ain't a Laptop this is Max Planck institute in a suitcase!

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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    A 15" screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 will make text small and difficult to read at full screen resolution. The high resolution is nice for photos, but not text. I had a Toshiba laptop a few years ago that had a 15" high resolution screen and found that it was PITA due to the small text. It was especially frustrating because I intentionally got that laptop for the high resolution screen thinking it would be great for photos. I didn't even think about usability for day-to-day tasks such as using the web, a word processor, or spreadsheet. Although it is possible to increase font size in Windows, that approach didn't work very well for me because it was still necessary to increase the view from 100% to 125% or 150% in Word or Excel for example. I ended up using the computer mainly with the video card set to a lower resolution to get a comfortable text size, but the screen didn't really look good at the lower resolution.

    I recommend you go to a computer store and look at a 15" laptop with 1920 x 1200 resolution to see if you could live with it.

    Mark

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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gowin View Post
    A 15" screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 will make text small and difficult to read at full screen resolution. The high resolution is nice for photos, but not text. I had a Toshiba laptop a few years ago that had a 15" high resolution screen and found that it was PITA due to the small text. It was especially frustrating because I intentionally got that laptop for the high resolution screen thinking it would be great for photos. I didn't even think about usability for day-to-day tasks such as using the web, a word processor, or spreadsheet. Although it is possible to increase font size in Windows, that approach didn't work very well for me because it was still necessary to increase the view from 100% to 125% or 150% in Word or Excel for example. I ended up using the computer mainly with the video card set to a lower resolution to get a comfortable text size, but the screen didn't really look good at the lower resolution.

    I recommend you go to a computer store and look at a 15" laptop with 1920 x 1200 resolution to see if you could live with it.

    Mark
    Very good points Mark. I've used 13" and 15" laptops prior to this and in each one I had the same problems - not with a 17".

    Don
    Don Libby
    Iron Creek Photography
    Blog
    Tucson AZ

  25. #25
    Workshop Member
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    Re: Dell M6400 vs. 17" MBP - opinions wanted

    Okay, just pulled the trigger on my M6400.

    Quad core 2.53Ghz
    8GB RAM (upgradeable to 16GB)
    FX 3700M w/ 1GB VRAM
    RGB LED 100% AdobeRGB LCD (anti-glare) 1920x1200

    Came with a single 128GB SSD, but I am going to put in 2x Samsung 256GB SSDs in RAID 0 and steal the 128GB drive for my smaller travel laptop. Overkill perhaps, but I really wanted the speed, size and ruggedness of a 500GB SSD RAID setup.

    I should have it in hand by the end of the week.


    David
    David Farkas
    Leica Store Miami

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