1/14/08 - Dell's XPS lineup of computers was originally designed specifically for gaming. Most of the XPS notebook lineup has shifted away from that focus to a more general performance platform. Dell's XPS M1730 however is still designed and marketed specifically for PC gamers. They even have a new World of Warcraft Edition available. Let's take a closer look at what they have to offer ...
Currently, the XPS M1730 uses the Intel Core 2 Duo T7000 series or processors. On the lower end of this is the T7500 which is still a very strong dual core processor. For those wanting the highest level of performance the Core 2 Extreme X7900 processor is available. This model is clock unlock for potential overclocking and the highest performance levels available from a mobile processor. Of course, Intel just released the Peryn base T9000 processors which Dell will likely begin to offer as well.
All versions of the Dell XPS M1730 use the fairly standard PC2-5300 DDR2 memory. This is the fastest level of memory that the Intel mobile platform currently supports. The base system comes with 2GB of memory which is generally sufficient for most applications without issues. Those wanting the best performance can upgrade to 4GB but this does encounter the 32-bit memory limits of Vista.
Dell offers a number of different options for the XPS M1730. This includes the use of solid state drives for those wanting extremely fast performance with the tradeoffs of high price and limited storage. The notebook itself has space for two notebook drives. Drives include a fast 7200rpm drive with 120GB of space up to a 320GB 5400rpm one for space. Options are also included for use of RAID 0 or RAID 1 for increased performance or data reliability.
Pretty much all notebook systems these days come standard with a dual layer DVD burner and the Dell XPS M1730 is no exception. How it does differ is that Dell also offers two options for those wanting high definition media support. Users can elect to upgrade to a Bluray combo drive that read Bluray media along with read/write support for DVDs and CDs or they can choose to get a Bluray burner that can also create Bluray media discs in addition to supporting DVDs and CDs.
Graphics and Display:
Currently Dell has two options for graphics available on the XPS. They are either a single NVIDIA GeForce 8700M GT 512MB graphics processor or two of these processors in an SLI configuration. Those wanting to save a bit of cash and not looking to run PC games in high resolution will opt for a single model while the SLI are for those looking for more. The display itself uses a very high 1920x1200 resolution for the 17-inch panel. This makes the SLI important for those looking to run games at this native resolution.
Dell's XPS M1730 adds some new and removes some old networking features. Unlike many laptops, a modem is not built into the system but an external option. It still features a Gigabit ethernet wired interface and a 802.11b/g or 802.11a/g/n wireless network. Bluetooth 2.0 is also an option for it to be used with various peripherals. Users who wish to use the XPS M1730 with the cellular based wireless networks of Sprint, Verison or AT&T can elect to have it built into the notebook as well.
The size of the XPS M1730 allows it to have a wide variety of external ports. Four USB 2.0 and a single FireWire port handle most external peripherals. A DVI-I connector is available for use with external monitors and can be used with both VGA or HDMI monitors via adapter cables. Expansion cards can be used via the ExpressCard/54 and an 8-in-1 card reader can handle flash memory cards. There are two headphone out ports and a mic/stereo output port that can be reconfigured to be used for 5.1 audio output to speakers.
The base operating system for the XPS M1730 is the Windows Vista Home Premium operating system. Some models can be purchased with the older Windows XP, but most do not. Upgrades to the Vista Ultimate are available. Users can elect between McAfee, Norton or Trend-Micro anti-virus software with the Trend Micro being the default. MS Works comes standard for productivity with options for the different Office versions. A variety of multimedia, photo, video and financial software is also available.
Because the Dell XPS M1730 is designed for PC gaming, the system tends to carry a much higher price tag than the average desktop replacement. The base systems start over two thousand dollars and can quickly escalate upwards of five thousand with all the optional equipment available. This is definitely something that will be on the minds of all buyers.
In terms of overall performance, the XPS M1730 is certainly one of the more powerful desktop replacements on the market. That level of performance is going to drop soon though unless Dell starts to either offering the new Peryn processors and the GeForce 8800M graphics processors or by dropping the price on the existing configurations.
The World of Warcraft editions of the XPS M1730 offer a higher set of base features but also specific case graphics for either the Horde or Alliance. This version of the notebook also carries a higher price tag due to its upgrade features and extra graphics. It's unlikely that they would do any other such editions for other PC games out on the market. Of course, if you don't want the fancy exterior, you always have the choice between blue, grey, red and white for triming of the LCD cover.
Those looking at PC gaming are really advised to look at getting a higher level of processor and the SLI configuration. This does add a fair amount to the price, but the performance boost for PC gaming is very noticable. With the resolution of the display being such a high level, it becomes even more important if you don't want to use a lower resolution with its extrapolation.
In the end, the Dell XPS M1730 is certainly a very strong gaming platform but if you aren't going to be getting the SLI setup, there are some more affordable options available on the market. In terms of a high performance portable platform, it is good but the features designed for gaming also make it a less than desirable design because of the cost.