Introduction

Apple recently launched their ultra swank, ultra-sleek MacBook Air, a three pound ultraportable laptop potentially capable of running for five hours on a single battery charge. Like most ultraportables, however, performance compromises were necessary in order to meet the size and mobility targets. What does all this have to do with the Dell XPS M1730? Nothing really, except as an interesting contrast.

When it comes to mobile computing, there's more than one way to skin the proverbial cat. The MacBook Air takes the approach of providing a lightweight computer that you can take on the road and use for the better part of an eight-hour workday. The XPS M1730 is far on the opposite end of the mobile computing spectrum. Battery life, weight, and size get kicked to the curb in deference to ultra-powerful desktop replacement components. One thing that it maintains in common with the MacBook Air, however, is that it is not a notebook for every computer user. In fact, the target market might be even more limited than the market for the MacBook Air.


We looked at WidowPC's Sting 512D2 a couple months ago, and the XPS M1730 is a case of one-upmanship in pretty much every way. A single 8800M GTX is very fast when it comes to mobile graphics performance... so why not have two paired together in SLI? Core 2 Duo T7600 is a fast mobile CPU, but how about increasing the clock speed and cache a bit more and moving to Intel's latest Penryn architecture, courtesy of the overclockable X9000? You can also get two hard drives in RAID 0 (or RAID 1 if you prefer data integrity to performance), a brighter LCD, a better keyboard layout, and a few miscellaneous odds and ends like the configurable glowing LEDs that light up the chassis.

When it comes to gaming notebooks, this is undoubtedly the fastest notebook we've ever used, and outside of using desktop CPUs there's not much that can be changed at present to make something faster. All that speed comes with a few major drawbacks, as usual: battery life, size/weight, and cost. Provided you are looking for a desktop replacement notebook as opposed to a laptop that you can run on battery power for several hours, the first two drawbacks are easily ignored. Cost on the other hand is something that you'll just have to live with. The base model M1730 (which first became available last year) comes with a T8300 CPU (2.4GHz 3MB cache 800FSB Penryn), a single GeForce 8700M GT, a 120GB 7200RPM hard drive, 2GB of memory, and a one-year warranty for a price of $2400. Once you upgrade the graphics, CPU, and hard drives you can easily spend over $4000; the test system we received should retail in the neighborhood of $4500 -- once the X9000 actually becomes available for order (which should be in the next couple of weeks). On the bright side, that does include a standard three-year warranty.

Truth be told, there's nothing revolutionary with XPS M1730. We've seen systems like this in the past: take all of the fastest mobile components currently available, stuff them into a 17" chassis, and you're ready to roll. On the other hand, we are talking about a laptop that can compete favorably with many high-end desktop systems, and you're certainly not going to be able to pack up your desktop system, display, keyboard, and mouse and head out to a LAN party (or somewhere else) in a matter of minutes. If that sounds like something you'd be interested in buying -- or perhaps you're looking for a transportable workstation you can carry to and from the office -- the XPS M1730 is definitely worth a closer look. Just don't mind the scorch marks in your pocketbook, or on your lap.

System Overview
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  • LoneWolf15 - Thursday, February 28, 2008 - link

    I would like to see nVidia take Notebook SLI, and add the ability to switch one GPU off while on battery if the user chooses. I think this could really make a difference in the system's battery life, and it wouldn't affect non-gaming uses.

    Good article.
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