Dell XPS M1730 Gaming Benchmarks

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The Dell XPS M1730 was made to game, it’s why you would buy this $4,000 machine. Within this article we look at the gaming performance of the M1730. If you’re looking for the full review of the XPS M1730 that focuses on the system build and synthetic benchmarks then view the XPS M1730 review here.

Real-life games

I tested a sample of the latest and most demanding games on the M1730. Each game benchmark was done over a 60 second period of actual gameplay (no pre-programmed demos).

I ran each of the benchmarks twice for the games, once with the processor at its stock 2.8GHz clockspeed and once overclocked to 3.4GHz, but unfortunately the processor performance difference was difficult to measure. The bottleneck in most games is the graphics cards and not the processor. I found that in all of my game benchmarks that the performance differences between the 2.8GHz processor and the 3.4GHz were insignificant. The reported scores are the ones done with the processor clocked at 2.8GHz.

How to read the benchmarks:

  • Frames: the number of frames rendered during the 60-second benchmark
  • Avg: the average number of frames produced in one second of the benchmark
  • Min: the minimum number of frames per second (FPS) produced in a one second period during the benchmark
  • Max: the maximum number of FPS produced in a one second period during the benchmark

The minimum number of FPS to have a ‘smooth’ gaming experience is 30. However, some games are more playable than others at less than that.

Crysis Demo

Crysis has been a long time in the making and the gaming community has been highly anticipating the arrival of this advanced first-person shooter. Unfortunately the demo is a mixed bag for performance benchmarking because it does not support SLI. The benchmark results I am reporting are done with SLI disabled. I found that if SLI was enabled, the game skipped unnecessarily for an unknown reason. The settings I benchmarked with are as follows:


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I tested with two different resolutions: 1440×900 (WXGA+) and 1280×800 (WXGA). I ran the game in DirectX 9 mode as I found it had better performance with no discernible visual difference. The results are as follows:

WXGA+ Resolution

  • Frames:  1082
  • Avg:  8.033
  • Min:  11
  • Max:  25

WXGA Resolution

  • Frames: 883
  • Avg: 14.717
  • Min: 8
  • Max: 23


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I found the results for the Crysis demo to be less than desirable. The poor performance leads me to believe one of two things: one, the demo is not optimized, or two, there is an issue with the M1730’s software configuration. To find out whether the software configuration was the problem, I reinstalled all of the system devices (such as the video card and wireless card) using the latest drivers. Neither changed the performance. The only change that did help was disabling SLI, which made the game skip less. Note that Crysis only existed as a demo at the time this review was written; hopefully the full game will have better performance. Electronic Arts said the full game will support SLI.

Unreal Tournament 3 Demo

Unreal Tournament 3 is another game that has been a long time in the making. It makes use of multiple processors, physics accelerator cards, and SLI. I benchmarked with the following settings:


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Level: Heat Ray (Deathmatch vs. AI)

  • Frames: 1750
  • Avg: 29.167
  • Min: 19
  • Max: 37

Level: Shangri La (Deathmatch vs. AI)

  • Frames: 1734
  • Avg: 28.900
  • Min: 20
  • Max: 35


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UT3 looked beautiful on the M1730’s display; the performance was playable at WUXGA but I would not call it completely smooth. Regardless, the fact that the M1730 is capable of providing a playable gaming experience at this extreme resolution is without a doubt impressive.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Call of Duty 4 is the latest installment of the Call of Duty series, however unlike previous games in the series this is the first one that is not based on World War II and actual events. I used the following settings for benchmarking:


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I performed two benchmarks during the first level; one during the training and the second on the ship. The second benchmark was more demanding because of all the explosions, shooting, and rain.

Training part

  • Frames: 1614
  • Avg: 26.900
  • Min: 12
  • Max: 41

Ship part

  • Frames: 1536
  • Avg: 25.600
  • Min: 14
  • Max: 44


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The game was mostly playable at WUXGA and it seemed like I was getting more than the mid-20s average framerate. However, as I noted with the Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark, it is impressive that the game is playable at such an extreme resolution. This game used the full power of the M1730’s dual Nvidia graphics cards.

DIRT Demo

DIRT is a recently-released driving game with intense graphics. It proved to be the M1730’s biggest challenge after Crysis. I ran the game at a reduced resolution of 1680×1050 (WSXGA+) to get playable performance. The full settings I used for benchmarking are as follows:


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Level: Avelsbachring track, Germany

  • Frames: 1906
  • Avg: 31.767
  • Min: 24
  • Max: 36


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While the game is not playable at 1920×1200 (WUXGA), 1680×1050 (WSXGA+) proved to be more than enjoyable. The framerate range was small which led to a consistent gaming experience.

Star Wars: Battlefront II

Battlefront II is not a new game but its settings can still be cranked up to the point where it will stress most graphics cards. The M1730 had a relatively easy time with the game, as I had no trouble playing at the highest resolution and settings. Note that this game is capped at 80 frames per second. I benchmarked with the following settings:


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Level: Jabba’s Palace

  • Frames: 3194
  • Avg: 53.233
  • Min: 15
  • Max: 76

Level: Death Star

  • Frames: 2947
  • Avg: 49.117
  • Min: 30
  • Max: 68

Level: Courscant

  • Frames: 3084
  • Avg: 51.400
  • Min: 8
  • Max: 63

 


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Battlefront II was more than playable as I expected, even with 4X anti-aliasing. The minimum FPS are misleading as the benchmark started when the level first started; the game was still loading files needed for the game.

Overall Gaming Impressions

The dual 8700M-GT video cards do struggle in the latest games but only at extreme resolutions with maximum detail settings. All in all the M1730 delivers solid gaming  performance. I find it impressive that two cards with 128-bit memory interfaces can produce around 30 frames per second in many of the latest games; normally WSXGA+/WUXGA resolutions are too demanding to be played on 128-bit cards.

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