Dell XPS M1730 First Look Review

by Reads (19,716)

by Kevin O’Brien

The Dell XPS M1730 is the latest high-end gaming notebook from Dell, replacing the aging M1710. Dell has improved both the outside appearance of this gaming rig and the components inside its glossy shell. One item added to this notebook, a first for any notebook, is the AGEIA PhysX Processing Unit. Packed inside you also get dual 256MB NVIDIA 8700M GTs running in SLI alongside the Intel Core 2 Extreme X7900 processor making this notebook a force to be reckoned with.

This Dell XPS M1730 has the following configuration:

  • System: Dell XPS M1730 (Smoke Color)
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme X7900 (2.8 GHz)
  • Memory: 2GB @ 667MHz – 2 DIMM Slots (2 x 1GB) (Max Ram 4GB)
  • Hard Drive: 2x200GB 7200 RPM running RAID 0
  • Graphics Card: Dual NVIDIA GeForce Go 8700M GT with 512MB total memory
  • Physics Card: AGEIA PhysX 100M
  • Screen: 17" WUXGA Truelife (1920 x 1200)
  • Optical Drive: 8x CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW/+R) with Dual-Layer
  • OS: Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Wireless Card: Intel 4965 (802.11b/g/n)
  • Battery: 9-cell lithium ion recharegable battery
  • Ports / Slots: 5-in-1 Memory Card Reader, DVI-D, S-Video, IEEE 1394 (Firewire), 4 USB 2.0, Express Card slot, Modem, Ethernet/LAN, Microphone in, 2 Headphone out
  • Price of this configuration: $4,499 (base model starts at $2,999)


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Build and Design

From the moment you slide the notebook out of the box, you realize just how massive this notebook is. Clocking in at over 10lbs for the notebook alone (add on almost 3lbs for the ac adapter), you realize this is more of a portable desktop in terms of weight and gaming power. The body is extremely well built, on par with many rugged business notebooks, in some cases could probably destroy the business notebook in a fight.


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The display cover is a mix between a glossy painted plastic finish, and a semi-transparent plastic shell that LED’s illuminate to show off the Dell "XPS" logo. The materials used are fairly scratch resistant, and should hold up well with minimal scuffs over time. For a gaming rig the design is pretty tame, and not too flashy, but with the lights going full blaze it will stand out in a classroom. The color for our review model was the "Smoke Grey" design, but Bone White, Crimson Red, and Sapphire Blue are also available.

Screen

The Dell WUXGA screen included on the M1730 is gorgeous. Colors are rich and vibrant, and the backlight is fairly powerful. Black levels are very deep, and backlight bleed is minimal. Unless you are extremely picky you would consider the screen to be perfect. Viewing angles while not perfect are much better than average, meaning colors stay fairly accurate at steeper vertical viewing angles.
Another screen exclusive to the M1730 is the inclusion of a LCD gaming screen, similar to those found on many gaming keyboards. This provides information such as processor and ram usage, media controls, stop watch, timers, and other capabilities.

Below is a video highlighting some of the features of this notebook and it gives you a look at the quality of the screen.

Speakers

The speakers on the XPS M1730 are exceptional, and what you would expect from a gaming rig. Volume levels are more than adequate for intense gaming, and frequencies from all but the lower range come through clearly. Although no subwoofer was present on this model, bass reproduction seemed to be within the same range as models equipped with them.

Gaming and Performance

So what exactly did you buy a 10lb notebook for anyways? I am betting it was for the insane performance that can usually only be seen with much larger desktop gaming setups. Since this is a first look we won’t go too in depth on its performance, but will give you a few hints.

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi.

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Dell XPS M1730 (Intel Core 2 Extreme X7900 @ 2.8GHz) 29.345s
Dell Vostro 1500 (Intel Core 2 Duo T5470 @ 1.6GHz) 53.827s
HP Pavilion dv6500z (AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 40.759s
Systemax Assault Ruggedized (Core 2 Duo T7200 @2.0GHz) 41.982s
Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @2.2GHz) 37.299s
HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 40.965s
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
Alienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz) 38.327s
Hewlett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s
Samsung Q70 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 42.218s
Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz) 42.947s
Samsung X60plus (Core 2 Duo T7200 @ 2.0GHz) 44.922s
Zepto Znote 6224W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 45.788s
Samsung Q35 (Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.83GHz) 46.274s

PCMark05 comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Dell XPS M1730 (2.8GHz Core 2 Extreme X7900, Dual NVIDIA GeForce Go 8700M GT 512MB) 7,006 PCMarks
(7,953 PCMarks
overclocked to 3.4GHz)
Dell Vostro 1500 (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 3,585 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,925 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,377 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks

3DMark06 comparison results:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Dell XPS M1730 (2.8GHz Core 2 Extreme X7900, Dual NVIDIA GeForce Go 8700M GT 512MB) 8,369 3DMarks
Dell Vostro 1500 (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5470, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 1,269 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,329 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 794 3DMarks

 

HDTune results:


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Heat and Noise

For a gaming notebook the XPS M1730 is incredibly tame in terms of heat and noise output. Fan noise is less than my Lenovo T60, although the M1730 is pushing more air. Heat output is higher from its vents, but it is also twice the size and 8x as powerful. Keyboard and palmrest temperatures were very low, barely above room temperature even after the notebook had been on for a while. For a notebook that you might spend hours in front of, this was pleasantly surprising.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The XPS M1730 sports a full-size keyboard with 10-key number pad. Key spacing is just about perfect, and key action is excellent. Support beneath the keyboard is good, although some flex can be felt when you press firmly onto the sides of the keyboard.


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The touchpad on the XPS M1730 is very nice, with quick and accurate finger tracking. Dell touchpads I have found to be finicky in the past with lag, and this had none of it. Another element to this touchpad is the white XPS logo is illuminated from behind, allowing you to set it to a rainbow of colors.

A full array of media controls are also present on this notebook, located on the front edge of the notebook. They were far enough out of the way that you wouldn’t accidentally hit them by accident, but they were also close enough to easily access.

Input and Output Ports:


Front: Infrared Port and media controls. (view large image)


Left Side: DVI, Svideo, USB, Firewire, 5-in-1 Card Reader, Fixed Optical bay, microphone and 2 headphone jacks. (view large image)


Right Side: Expresscard/54, Wireless On/Off, Wifi Catcher button, 2 USB, and Kensington lock slot. (view large image)


Rear: Power Input, USB, and LAN. (view large image)

Battery and Power

Battery life is not one of the key shopping points on many gaming notebooks. Fully charged, when unplugged from the wall the XPS M1730 reported 1 hour and 27 minutes of battery life remaining sitting idle on the desktop. In this type of setting it acts more like a UPS, protecting against power outages or brownouts.


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The power adapter is equally as amusing for a portable device, being as large as some ultra portable notebooks themselves. This of course is needed to feed the power demands that a notebook with dual video cards, dual hard drives, and a super fast processor require.

Software and Operating System

Not unlike many of the standard consumer Dell notebooks, you still get a ton of added junk fresh out of the box. From antivirus software to various toolbars, you can figure at least 15 to 20 minutes just uninstalling it all to get a clean gaming platform. With all the unneeded bloatware removed, the included Vista Home Premium operating system really speeds up. My only surprise was our review system had Home Premium, and not Ultimate.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned to NotebookReview.com for the full review of the Dell XPS M1730, coming soon!


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