So here’s my long overdue hardware review / disassembly “guide” of the Dell Precision M6600… (Thanks, Dell for the exchange upgrade covered under your wonderful warranty!)
DISCLAIMER: I take no responsibility for what you do with your own machine. Also, any “guidance” herein is merely suggestions and is in no way an official disassembly instructions from Dell. When writing this, I assume that you have working knowledge on laptop repair. You’ve been warned.
My apologies if some of these pictures are blurry – I was in a hurry to get my new M6600 up and running so I wasn’t as careful as I could have been to get better quality pictures.
So here are a few pictures comparing the new M6600 series with the old M6400/6500 chassis:
This one is a picture of the two systems side by side (M6600 on the left). Visually, you can tell that the new series is longer and thinner than it’s older series. This is mainly because of the change in aspect ratio from about 16:10 to the HD “Standard” of 16:9.
As you can see from the two pictures above, the ports on the left side of the Precisions have been distributed more evenly to make better use of space. This also allows for fatter USB devices to be plugged directly into the system.
The right side of the Precisions have also changed. The Express Card (EC) slot has moved over to the left side and there is no longer a PC card slot (It’s also worth noting that the new EC slot is spring loaded, contrary to the one in the M6400). The VGA, ethernet, and now dedicated eSATA port have moved to the back. In its place are 2 USB 3.0 ports. The wireless switch is also moved closer to the front, but the DisplayPort is still in the same location
Here you can see the M6600’s VGA, ethernet, and dedicated eSATA port on the rear of the machine. Dell also added an HDMI port and moved the power input to the left, back side of the machine.
Here’s a picture of the two laptops side by side , opened to show you their full glory (M6600 on the left). The two systems have a different keyboard layout. Most notably the volume controls have moved to the top left of the palmrest assembly as silver buttons that are flat, click, and are harder to press. The “Page Up”, “Page Down”, “Home”, and “Del” keys have been relocated and in their place, 3 media keys are now present (Back, Play/Pause, Forward). The convenient calculator key has just moved down and is the same spot. The speaker grill on the M6600 is also clearly visible. Although it can’t be clearly seen in the photo, the M6600 no longer has a fully “perforated” top cover (where the speaker bar is), which traps less dust. Also not shown on the M6600 is the FIPS fingerprint reader, which is exactly the same as the M6400, but in lower right hand corner just above the Windows 7 logo sticker. The M6600’s screen is gloss finished because this model has a multi-touch panel built in.
The bottom cover of the two systems are much different as well, save for the docking connector, which is the same (and also compatible with any E-family dock).
The M6600’s battery is much smaller than M6400’s battery, but ONLY due to a reduction in the extra plastic size. Otherwise they’re pretty much the same in physical size and charge capacity (97 vs 95 W-Hr).
The interior of the M6600’s bottom is also different (of course). Unlike before, the primary hard disk is not directly removable from the bottom. The two “user replaceable” RAM is also accessible from the bottom. Two more are underneath the keyboard, which will require a partial disassembly to reach.
To remove the primary hard disk, you have to remove the “H” screws and push the release tab in the battery compartment to release it.
Now we’re going to discuss accessing and replacing the major components on the M6600. IMPORTANT NOTE: Some details are omitted because I’m writing this from the re-assembled system.
First, you need to remove all the “P” labeled screws plus a few unlabeled screws: 2 next to the primary hard drive and a few more I don’t remember exactly where (probably 2 near the screen hinges and one under the optical drive, don’t quote me on it). You’ll only need to remove these screws if you’re going to access anything BEYOND the keyboard and the “internal” memory slots.
The first step is to remove the plastic keyboard cover that surrounds the entire keyboard. You’ll need to start at the edges and use a plastic card to carefully pop it up. Hint: it’s very fragile.
After removing the keyboard (5 screws, “K”), the “non-replaceable” memory memory slots can be accessed. Because of an Intel Sandy Brigde CPU limitation, you must have a quad Core-i7 CPU in order to use these two RAM slots. This is because each 2 cores has its own memory controller that only supports 2 slots of memory.
Remove all the remaining “P” screws & use a plastic card at the edge of the chassis to remove the palm rest assembly. Three of these screws are self-retaining. Of course, disconnect all visible cables. If so equipped, there’s a Bluetooth cable you won’t be able to unplug until you get the palm rest removed, so be careful.
Here’s a closeup shot of the CPU socket. Is is compatible with any Socket G1/G2 Sandy Bridge CPU. Personally, I replaced my Core-i5 with a Core-i7 2820QM (and subsequently enabling the “internal” memory slots). Unlike the previous Precision laptops, there is only 1 daughter board. Additionally, unlike the M6500 series, there is only 1 motherboard that supports both Dual and Quad core CPUs.
Removing any other components from this point on requires that the display be removed. The procedure is the same as the M6400. Here is a picture of the GPU (upper middle card) with the GPU heat sink removed. The GPU is an MXM card.
Here’s a picture of the main board without the GPU card.
Here’s a picture of the GPU by itself. This one is the nVidia Quadro 4000M.
To re-assemble, just go backwards. Make sure you keep track of your screws 😀
This picture shows the M6600 “BIOS” (firmware to be correct) screen with the option for uEFI boot.
To wrap it up, I’ll leave you with another interesting tip: because of nVidia Optimus, the M6600 supports 3 screens (1 internal, 2 external) for sure. The Intel integrated graphics on the CPU drives the internal display and the VGA port and the dedicated GPU drives the DisplayPort and HDMI ports. Apps are selectively processed on either the dedicated GPU or the integrated chip (as determined by drivers) and then passed to the display (see nVidia’s website on how Optimus technology works). Because the Intel GPU is driving the VGA port, I have reason to believe that a 4th monitor can be added, but I don’t have the resources or the space to test this out.