It might be worth keeping in mind that there's nothing else on the market like the out of Stockholm post concept and now available to market Pacemaker as a device to compete with it.
 
But then again a Laptop and pro digital all in one mixer solution would better be compared to other similar hardware solutions as a more appropriate means of comparison in terms of a professional full sized solutions beyond a two turntable metaphor and not the Pacemaker. The reasoning being that they allow you to do far much more beyond just a two track juggle.
 
With the i7 release onto the consuming market some time back it was inevitable that the M6400 was going to see a refresh which landed in the form of the M6500. No doubt the fact that the M6500 hasn't changed in its exterior design from the previous M6400 will have garnered it some critics. However I might point out that Macbook pro's haven't really deviated in design for near a decade until the last two refreshes to receive nothing but praise before and after. Dell's M6XXX revamped portable 17" workstation range might make it seem to appear like its some kind of new kid on the block having possibly gained more awareness of its existence and ultimately users with its all new slicked out clean minimal industrial design to lure them in. However Dell's been knocking them out for some time now only previously with much less attractive and far duller exteriors of various kinds in its evolution.
 
Inevitability still hadn't quite finished as the i7's general availability also meant that Lenovo (formally International Business Machines) were still to bring their refresh to their 17" portable workstation the W700 to the table. It was only recently with the release of Dell's M6400 did Dell manage to edge past the long standing Lenovo business portable workstation range in terms of power. However the W701 seems to have better placed Lenovo's top end 17" portable workstation to compete with the Dell Precision range purely from a hardware perspective. As far as design goes long time Lenovo business class machine and IBM users will know exactly what to expect.
 
Workstation class machines have been tested extensively for reliability and stability within any combination of officially stated available and compatible components as well as upgrade paths. Even the system drivers for them have been programmed to operate with a cap in order to remain within a certain threshold of solid reliability with plenty of headroom. Anything not tested yet won't be mentioned in the official listings to avoid any potential overheating and system failures as a result of it. Overheating should not occur unless the air vents have somehow become blocked if used within the official recommended specs.
 
Having said that there are a number of utilities and modified system drivers that will help you over clock the GPU and system ram above the regular manufacturer set base rate. Just be careful not to over clock too much I guess.

Below a size comparison of the blood orange Covet version of the 17" Precision workstation against the Lenovo 17" workstation.





Take your pick

I think someone might have miss - interpreted my speaking about the image overhaul on the precision portable workstation range as subtext for something else. As far as their relative performance and reliability goes on the timeline of any product range as better technologies become available, it's always been a taken that they did what they were built to do. But from a commercial, perception and image standpoint you can't actually dispute it has been something that's in fact proven to have increased the machines popularity and demand of it as a product in general within the appropriate market segments. Ultimately the machines pretty much do exactly the same thing under the hood in terms of what they've been made  to do but obviously more progressed and much faster in terms of capability against the backdrop of advances in technology used in them within their respective generational time frames.

As far as the Lenovo workstation range is concerned they have always had their reputation for producing rugged solidly built machines that utilise the most cutting edge technologies available to the consuming market for in the field deployment under their  belt. Its basically a given as something that they're indisputably recognised for regardless of other manufacturers trying to sell on the same merits to generally be overlooked because of IBM's (Lenovo's) long standing tradition.

The difference is the Precision range offers cheaper start out entry points to owning one with lower powered components and a barrage of upgrade options that you can later take if you choose to in the future despite having a hefty price tag for the top end versions which slightly excels the Lenovo. That and its vastly more appealing looks over the previous generations. The Lenovo workstations are pretty much premium configured and premium priced from the outset with a higher entry point to ownership.

With the latest refreshes there isn't actually much between them in their respective specification ranges to pretty much leave it down to personal preference and slights of particular needs in terms of setup, budget and the most appropriate solution.

 




Maybe going DAW with the M6400




Given the capabilities of what it allows you to now do in terms of dynamic creative multi-channel mixing/production on the fly beyond just the regular 2 in a live setting I reckon the rig size trade off is worth it and could still potentially be even more streamlined. However I guess you've now got to try and look as animated as possible. Cue tongue in cheek head slightly tilted toward a raised shoulder with hand to ear and thin air record stab action with the other hand. With my current machines ability to actually boot up being about as reliable as your chances of winning the lottery (slight exageration there but you get the point) it was time to look into other avanues.


Potential new setups:
 
Streamlined version
- 1 new stylus based tablet PC running Ableton Live
- 1 Zero4
 
...or...
 
elaborated setup in having no touchscreen on the computer
- 1 M6400 portable workstation with Ableton Live
- 1 Zero4
- 1 iPad with direct finger multi-touch interactions
 
The point of having a touchscreen is to get round the need to use a mouse whilst DJing since its pretty lame having to use point, click, drag and drop interactions whilst trying to turn out a DJ set. Plus direct onscreen touch interactions are obviously a lot more intuitive. The iPad would be connected to the laptop via Wi-Fi to act as your direct multi-touch control surface for Ableton Live which can also be quickly pinched'n'zoomed. Plus in theory there's the option to connect a second multi-touch iPad tablet via Wi-Fi if your laptop has a secondary Wi-Fi adaptor and provided your machine has the processing power to handle it for even more direct multi-touch real-estate. I've been able to install 3 functioning internal mini PCI Wi-Fi adaptors in a Precision M6400 and with something like a X9300 extreme (its basically a corei5 before it was a corei5 with the recent change in processor naming conventions that Intel now use) to throw the clock cycles it shouldn't have too much trouble crunching the numbers between the chips 4 central processing cores to have everything running smoothly. However that's still yet to be tested for stability and proven.
 
It'd be cheaper to opt for the second option in my case since I could just upgrade current hardware much more cheaply then buying a whole new central machine to run it all from. The Precision as a portable workstation was designed to have adequate TDP efficiency within the scope of its maximum upgradability. More simply put, it won't over heat or at least shouldn't with them having performed extensive testing on it for workstation class reliability and performance before releasing it to the consuming market according to the official blurb. Plus there's also the fact that the Precision has an instant quick removal cartridge like hard drive bay much like the high end Lenovo range that operates at full sata speed allowing you to quickly and easily swap out entire 2.5" hard drives without having to unscrew the machine each and every time you needed to. In turn this could potentially let you have multiple instances of an OS installed to different hard drives for completely different specialised and none specialised generic applications. Security shouldn't be a problem since the hard drives can be optionally encrypted to then only be able to operate on your machine via the TPM module provided you actually remember to set it up on each of the drives you use with it. However a more substantial processor then the a base P8600 might be a good idea for the real time encryption to work quickly and lag free. Again looking to the top rung of installable processors on the M6400, something like an X9300 should more then adequately do the job and still have plenty of number crunching clout left over to do plenty of other things without breaking a sweat on the multi-tasking front.
 
 
Modular portable direct touch control surface options
 
At $499 for the 16GB base model (with no wireless mobile 3G capability) direct from the official Apple website iPad's have Wi-Fi capability, are extremely portable, allow for accurately fast direct multi-touch interactions with touch, swipe and pinch'n'zoom finger control gestures. They're wirelessly connectable and are significantly cheaper then the stylus based Wacom introus12 tablet priced at $1000 which is more geared toward high end graphical applications. It doesn't have swipe, multi-touch or pinch'n'zoom control features. It has to be connected via USB and doesn't have a battery pack to require its own separate mains power source as far as I was aware. 


Update: Apple are now offering refurbs of the 16GB iPad with Wi-Fi for $449 stateside with free delivery direct from the Apple store.
 

 
Security on the M6400 (so as not have a false sense of security about it)
 
Despite the Precision having a relatively high level of security features when put against the average machine it obviously doesn't mean that the system can't still potentially be accessed by certain individuals with the appropriate expertise or clearance.
 
Depending on your selected pre-configuration its possible to have a one touch fingerprint reader installed on the M6400 portable Precision workstation. Once the TPM is programmed with your unique biometric finger print(s) it can be set to dis-allow unauthorised access on boot up as well as within your chosen Windows OS for which Dell provide native support for under Windows XP, Windows Vista, Server 2008, and Windows 7 for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions via their supplied embassy security software. You can either set it to allow access to the system on the basis of having the appropriately owned and scanned fingerprints or a combination of fingerprint recognition and different strong passwords at boot up and Windows login.
 
Sure no doubt the people who designed the security measures will have their own means of bypassing it just as I'm sure any associated trained employee/technician will have the means to bypass it also.
 
The Precision's TPM chip allows for two layers of encryption once activated on any installed internal hard drives. The first one is pretty straight forward as you simply just drop into the bios to setup an individual password for the hard drive(s). It gives you the option of either just setting up a password or setting a up password to then auto wipe the hard drive(s) on too many failed attempts if the drives have been removed and placed in another machine to try and access the data on it.
 
The second layer comes from within Vista ultimate or Windows 7 pro and upwards within the Windows 7 range. The OS basically recognises that you have a TPM chip installed to then offer native support for real time encryption and decryption. Meaning it will decrypt and encrypt data as you are using your computer in real time which will require a little more processing power. But again as ever that's not to say the people who designed it to begin with along with all associated personnel with clearance (and possibly some without) will have the means to get round it.
 
Plus there's also the fact that if you do use the internet with the machine its open to all the usual prying eye's that have the means to monitor your activity to whatever degree and I don't think there's anybody that doesn't have flash installed on their machine in order to basically just be able to have actual access to a large portion of content on the internet these days.
 
Then there's what your GPU actually does other then just locally display things on your screen for you to see what you're actually doing on it especially with something like the M6400 since there seems to be a large portion of the GPU memory that's combined with the system ram that remains inaccessible for use to the end user even under Linux. Through various bits of research there were documented cases of this also being the case with Lenovo's W700 portable workstation too.
 
The installed TPM chip also offers remote disabling and wiping of the system with the appropriate software installed. The same software can also be used to track the machine down if subscribed to the appropriate service.
 
But despite all the potential flaws it would still certainly keep it a damn sight more secure as well as keeping a whole bunch of people out of your system on a more domestic and general user level as is for case within corporate and business organisational use also.
 
So that's my take on having vastly increased security without having a false sense of security about it as far as the M6400 goes.
 
The M6400 has now been replaced with the M6500 which is corei7 based (having 8 processing cores on the main processing chip). It has a slightly higher official base front side bus and RAM operating speed at 1333MHz over the previous base 1066Mhz of the M6400. But I might also point out that the M6400's clock speeds across the system bus and ram can in fact actually be scaled significantly higher then 1066Mhz with ease without getting anywhere near its TDP threshold despite what numbers in the OS say. Almost as if its kicking into turbo mode much in the way that the recent sate of core-i chips do but in this case without telling you. Externally the M6400 and M6500 look exactly the same and as far as I'm aware they also have the same internal component layout despite utilizing much more recent hardware in the M6500. This would potentially make it possible to upgrade the mainboard in an M6400 to one that was capable of accommodating a corei7 processor and faster RAM as found in the M6500.
 
 
 
Custom native Adobe application controls
 
The M6400 also has a shuttle control feature which is revealed by tapping the lower corner of the touchpad. After which a jog dial glows up on the touchpad along with a some touch control buttons. They provide native support for various timeline based pro Adobe visual and audio content creation and editing software including Audition, however the controls can also serve the more general purpose of controlling your chosen media management software too whether that be iTunes or WMP. Additionally they can also be custom assigned to other types of other applications via a supplied OEM applet that's pre-installed.
 
Both the M6400 and M6500 are capable of accommodating 3 internal 2.5" sata hard drives one of which can be quickly swapped out as mentioned before. They both are also capable of internally accommodating up to 3 mini PCI devices of various types too.
 
I'm not sure what the current rate is but no doubt there'll be a fair few reconditioned M6400 about with the release of the M6500.
 
 
An outlet M6400 somewhere near the beginning of its release with the following specs would have run you about $1200 - $1300 from somewhere like eBay.
 
- P8600 2.26GHz core2duo processor
- 4GB DDR3 1066GHz RAM
- 160GB 7200RPM SATA hard drive
- 512MB DDR3 Nvidia FX2700 workstation class GPU
- 17" 1920 x 1200 hi resolution LCD screen
- 24x CD and DVD reader
- Windows Vista business 32-bit
 
I can only assume an M6400 system with similar specs today should have dropped considerably in price since then. The P8600 is the base processor for the system. I suggest you get the next one up from that if possible for better stutter free operation.
 
A fully kitted out M6400 with all the top components like an x9300 extreme installed along with a 1GB FX3700 would have set you back around $5000 back then. I don't know how much they are now.