System Features

When looking at configuring an XPS M1710 notebook, there are four starting points. Depending on which price bracket you select, certain upgrades and/or downgrades are eliminated. The more economical configurations start with slightly lower performance parts by default, while the high-end configurations max out nearly everything and only need a few minor tweaks before you're ready to purchase. For example, the $2300 model starts with a T7200 processor, 1GB of RAM, a GeForce Go 7900 GS, and a DVD/CD-RW combo drive; in contrast the $3700 configuration starts with a T7600 processor, 1GB of RAM, a GeForce Go 7950 GTX, and a Blu-ray optical drive. We were sent a higher spec system for testing with a price that starts at around $4600 with a one-year warranty, configured as follows.

Dell XPS M1710 Specifications
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo T7600G (2.33 GHz, 4MB shared L2, multiplier unlocked)
Chipset Intel 945PM 64-bit Dual-Channel
Memory Samsung 2x1024MB DDR2-667 5-5-5-13-21
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce Go 7950 GTX 512MB GDDR3 (600/1150 Core/RAM clocks)
Display 17" WUXGA (1920x1200) UltraSharp with TrueLife
Expansion Slots One ExpressCard 54mm slot supporting 1.5V and 3.3V, ExpressCard/34 and ExpressCard/54, 26 pins
Hard Drive Seagate ST9160823AS 160GB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM
Optical Drive Matshita Blu-ray BF-RE UJ-210
USB2.0 (6) USB2.0 ports (four rear ports, two ports on left)
Networking/Communications Integrated 10/100/1000 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet and 56K Modem
Intel Pro/Wireless 3945 802.11a/b/g Mini Card
Audio 24-bit High Definition Audio with 2.1 Speakers
Sound Blaster Audigy HD Software Edition
Firewire 4-pin Unpowered IEEE 1394A (right side)
Back I/O Ports 1 x RJ45 LAN
4 x USB 2.0
1 x RJ11 Modem
1 x DVI-D
1 x VGA
1 x S-VIDEO Out
Keyboard 87 Key QWERTY (US)
Battery 9-Cell 80WHr Smart Lithium Ion
Dimensions 1.7"x15.5"x11.3" (HxWxD)
8.8 lbs. (Display, 9-Cell battery, DVD-Combo drive)
Power Adapter 130W 1.42"x2.56"x6.67" (HxWxD), 1.68 lbs. with cables
Chassis Metallic Black Dell XPS M1710 or
Special Edition Formula Red Dell XPS M1710
Other Features 5-in-1 Flash Reader (MS, MS Pro, SSD/SDIO, MMC, xD
Headphone and Microphone connectors (or 4 channel audio)
XPS 16 Color Configurable Accent Lighting
Trackpad with scroll bars

If you start with the $2300 model, the upgrade from a T7200 (2.0 GHz) to the T7600G (2.33 GHz unlocked) adds $700 to the price - and getting the unlocked T7600G adds $275 over the cost of the T7600! While that might seem like a big jump in price for a small increase in performance, the T7600 is also $250 more than the T7400 (2.16 GHz), so if you're really after maximum CPU performance in a notebook being able to easily overclock your processor to well beyond the fastest official speed from Intel might be worthwhile. For most people, we feel that the T7200 still offers the best overall choice, as it's more than fast enough for just about any application.

Other major costs include the Blu-ray drive (about $475 more than the 8X DVD+RW), Windows Vista Ultimate ($200 extra relative to Vista Home Premium), and the 7950 GTX ($400 more than the 7900 GS). How important these upgrades are is up for personal interpretation, and of course end-users are free to select components as they see fit. Worth noting is that Blu-ray is only an option with Windows Vista, and it's also only available on the most expensive XPS M1710 build, the "Hi-def Viewing" configuration. The Blu-ray playback certainly works, but we're still hesitant to recommend investing in such a system.

When we first received the notebook, Dell had sent us what amounts to their maximum performance configuration. Shortly after the notebook arrived, however, Dell (and Alienware) became the first notebook manufacturer to offer Seagate's newest 250 GB 5400 RPM 2.5" hard drives. We expect performance of the larger hard drive to actually be lower than the 160 GB 7200 RPM drive in our test system, but users that need increased storage capacity might be interested in the updated hard drive offering. Of course, if you just need a lot of storage space for your notebook but you don't always require it, purchasing an external hard drive would allow you to store for more data with a lower total cost; unfortunately, that's just one more piece of equipment to tote around when you're on the road.

Despite all of the high-end options, it should come as little surprise that in gaming situations even the mighty GeForce Go 7950 GTX is going to be the limiting factor at most resolutions and detail settings likely to be used with this sort of notebook. If you are after maximum mobile gaming performance, would consider looking at getting a Core 2 Duo SLI notebook. While prices for such systems start at over $4000, the XPS M1710 really isn't much cheaper. We hope to have a review of Alienware's m7950 in the near future, which is one such notebook. For those who tend to run CPU limited applications more, however, the M1710 might be the better choice.

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  • Tommyguns - Friday, May 11, 2007 - link

    $4000 for a laptop to play games on?!
    Not trying to bash the artical, but whats the point of testing products if the actual market niche for such products is sooooo freaking small!?

    $2000, on a laptop is a lot of money. adding in the fact it needs to play games, do that many people really spend past 3k on one? let alone 4k+?

    If 10-20total fps in DX9 games is worth $2000, then someone let me know...

    Dell inspiron E1705 with a C2D T7200, 7900GS vid card, gig of ram, 9cell + 6cell battery, DVDRW, vista home pre., 17 inch UltraSharp Wide Screen UXGA Display, wireless N card,and a few other odds and ends can be had for $1875. Toss in one of the coupons available online, like the $500 off and its just shy of $1400 for a decently effective gaming laptop. is it the best buy? idont know, but the best well rounded one. also, the XPS 17inch laptop on dells site, with the same parts, retails for around $2500....wtf? yes, no coupon...but still.... I like dell, yet dislike them equaly as much.

    Thus, review a 7900gs dell offering so us poor people can see what an additional $1200+, really can do...Thanks... I would buy tommorow if i knew what all these machines did in terms of gpu power
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 11, 2007 - link

    Part of the point of the article was to show that the added CPU speed did little to nothing for gaming, so if you're interested in a gaming laptop I'd recommend getting something like the XPS M1710 but sticking with a T7200 and just maxing out the GPU. You can do that for under $3000. Also remember that the configuration as tested has a $500 Blu-ray drive thrown in that many won't care about. So, cut down the CPU ($700) and the BRD ($500) and it's a lot more reasonable. Reply
  • ziddey - Wednesday, May 09, 2007 - link

    Hi, this is definitely an interesting article, but I was a little disappointed in how it was presented and the testing done on it. I hope to not offend, but if you still have the ability to retest further, here's some ideas.

    So we're talking about throttling. If that's the case, how hot is it getting? You can track coretemps of meroms. The popular rmclock can also show any form of throttling in log form as well, and also shows it in graphical format as well. It also features ability to manipulate some finer features of it, although of course, at your own risk.

    Further, I'm assuming this is only possible on upwards unlocked cpu's. In that event, could you just use something like crystal cpuid to change the multiplier?

    Most significantly, how about this: If temperatures are still in line (and based on the track record of conroes, I see no reason they shouldn't, as long as vcore is as low as merom's are), can you set to maximum overclock in bios, and then use rmclock to force maximum multiplier while on AC
    Reply
  • Deusfaux - Wednesday, May 09, 2007 - link

    either you're homeless or you have an excessive amount of money and a butler or i dont know what

    but for all the reasons that make a laptop advantageous over a desktop, you strip them all away by attempting to make it one of the gaming variety.

    ridiculous cost
    battery life
    size
    weight
    hardly upgradeable

    I feel bad for the continual string of people who are convinced they can get all the benefits of a powerful desktop in a portable package (and not end up being inferior in every aspect)

    Get a laptop that has good portability, get a powerful desktop for gaming. dont try to do both in one.
    Reply
  • araczynski - Tuesday, May 08, 2007 - link

    sounds like its a nice laptop for 1280x800 gaming. curious what the screen looks like at that resolution, in comparison to the native resolution 'sharpness'. Does it scale very well or look as crappy as you'd expect the desktop to look at that resolution? Reply
  • suryad - Thursday, May 10, 2007 - link

    More like 1920 x 1200 gaming all except for Stalker which I dont care for much anyway. I am getting this bad boy tomorrow or next week Monday. Can't wait. Worst part is the wait to receive it in your hands...hope i can last the weekend. Also the 3dmark scores area bit low...ntoebooforums people are reporting slightly higher scores...but anywho...super speed here I come! Reply
  • kalrith - Tuesday, May 08, 2007 - link

    The spec page on page 2 shows *q* every place that quotation marks should be. Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, May 08, 2007 - link

    Fixed, sorry about that, we are on a new engine now, bugs still seem to pop up. ;) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 08, 2007 - link

    Heh... Gary's being nice to me. I screwed up my own table by reusing parts of an old article and forgetting to properly "convert" the generated HTML file into a clean format. That's what sleep deprivation will get you. Reply
  • redfirebird15 - Tuesday, May 08, 2007 - link

    Is it really possible to get thousands of FPS on Supreme Commander? I've never actually played it, but that looks like a typo. If that is correct, what is the difference between getting 500 FPS and 1000 FPS? I thought it was and RTS anyway.

    It must be a typo.
    Reply

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