System Overview

If you're the type of person that wants an eye-catching laptop, Dell's XPS line has you covered. The M1730 isn't quite as in-your-face as the M1710 (at least when comparing it to the red M1710), but it does add some additional LED lighting on the top cover. The XPS panels on the side are illuminated with a blue light while the center logo glows white. The lights on the side and in front can be set to one of 16 colors -- either within the BIOS or using Dell's QuickSet utility.


It's worth noting that the M1730 is actually slightly larger than the M1710, in all three dimensions. It's about a quarter inch taller, one inch wider, and a half inch deeper. Considering the fact that we are looking at an already large 17" chassis, however, it's unlikely most users would notice the difference. The main concern is that if you already have a carrying case for a 17" notebook, you may find that it's not quite large enough to hold the M1730.

Let's take a quick look at the features and configuration options available for the M1730.

Dell XPS M1730 System Configuration Options
Processor Core 2 Duo T8300, T9300, T9500, X7900, or X9000 (X9000 not yet shipping)
Chipset Intel PM965 + ICH8-M
FSB Speed 800 MHz
Memory Speed DDR2-667
Memory Slots (2) x SO-DIMM, up to 4GB RAM
Graphics 1 x NVIDIA GeForce 8700M GT 512MB
2 x NVIDIA GeForce 8700M GT 512MB
2 x NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTX 512MB
Display 17" UltraSharp WUXGA (1920x1200) with TrueLife
Expansion Slots 1 x ExpressCard/54
Hard Drives 2 x 2.5" HDD bay
Up to 2 x 320GB 5400RPM
Up to 2 x 200GB 7200RPM
32-64GB SSD Available
Optical Drive DVDR SuperMulti
Blu-ray reader/DVDR
Blu-ray recorder/DVDR
Networking/Communications Integrated 10/100/1000 Ethernet
Intel 3945AG or 4965AGN WiFi
Bluetooth v2.0 (Optional)
Modem (optional)
Audio SigmatelSTAC9228X HD Audio
Stereo speakers with 5.1 audio jacks
Left Ports DVI-D (Dual-Link)
S-Video/Component connector
1 x USB
1 x 1394a Firewire
SSD/MMC/MS Pro/xD Flash Reader
Optical Drive
Microphone and 2 x Headphone jacks
(Configurable as 5.1 audio out)
Right Ports 1 x ExpressCard/54
WiFi/Bluetooth switch
2 x USB
Kensington Lock
Front Ports Seven multimedia buttons (Mute, volume up/down, play/pause, forward, backward, stop)
Back Ports 1 x USB
Ethernet
Power adapter
Keyboard 104 Key QWERTY (US) with 10 Key Pad
LED lighting on keyboard
Extras Webcam
Logitech mini-LCD with software
Colored LED Chassis Lights
AGEIA PhysX 100M PPU
Operating System Vista Home Premium 32-bit

This is clearly a notebook targeted at performance first, and even the least expensive options on most areas are relatively fast. For example, the low-end T8300 CPU runs at 2.4GHz, and while it might have slightly less cache than a T7200/T7300, the extra 400MHz will definitely make up for that. Because it uses the Penryn core, it also offers this higher performance without adversely affecting battery life. Not that the CPU is the biggest culprit when it comes to battery usage -- the dual GPUs take home the gold in that event. And just in case the laptop isn't using enough power, Dell also includes an AGEIA PhysX 100M processor… though we're not sure how useful that hardware will actually be in the long run.

We really can't imagine anyone spending upwards of $2000 on a "gaming notebook" without opting to get a powerful graphics subsystem, so we recommend either going all the way up to 8800M GTX SLI or else looking at some of the alternatives out there that ship with a single 8800M GTS/GTX. 8700M GT SLI is essentially dead in the water these days, as it uses more power and provides less performance than a single 8800M GTX chip. In fact, if you're looking for a reasonable gaming notebook and you don't want to break the bank, the Gateway FX P-6831 is a far more likely candidate than any of the notebooks that have the potential to run SLI. (We are currently testing that notebook and are very pleased with the overall package, especially considering the $1300 price tag!)

One area where Dell definitely excels in terms of configuration options is the storage subsystems. Hard drive options range from a single moderately sized 5400RPM drive all the way up to dual 200GB 7200RPM drives in RAID 0. If you prefer raw capacity over performance, you can choose to install dual 320GB 5400RPM drives. Solid-state storage is also available, although at present it is limited to a single 64GB SSD coupled with a 200GB 7200RPM drive. Optical drive options also cover all the bases: a standard DVDR, DVDR with Blu-ray (BD-ROM) support, or you can get a DVDR/Blu-ray recorder (BD-R). The last option is of course the most expensive, adding $400 to the total price, but if all you want is the ability to watch blue ray movies you can get by with the $200 Blu-ray upgrade.

We were actually a little surprised that Dell even provided any options on the wireless networking. Getting the older 3945AG support does save a bit of money, but most high-end gaming laptops simply include the 4965AGN. Bluetooth support is also optional. We definitely recommend adding Bluetooth support, if only to save your USB ports for other devices. Then again, Bluetooth keyboards and mice often aren't as responsive as gamers would like. Mobile broadband cards from Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T are also available, though a separate wireless subscription is required for these to work.

We have to admit we were quite surprised at the dearth of USB ports, considering the size of the chassis. The M1710 included six USB ports, but the total drops to only four ports on the M1730. Other 17" notebooks only offer four USB ports, but it seems like it should have been easy for Dell to include two ports on the back and left sides instead of only one. The right side also looks to have plenty of room to add a couple more USB ports.


One of the nice things about the M1730 is that it comes with a full-size keyboard and number keypad. All of the standard keys are present and in their usual places, with the exception of the Page up/Page down/Home/End/Insert/Delete keys. It didn't take long for us to adapt to their new locations, and we were very happy that we didn't have to use any Fn+key combinations. Like the MacBook Air, the keyboard is also illuminated (not shown in the above picture), making it extra convenient for use at dark LAN parties. Above the keyboard is a small Logitech LCD screen that can be configured to display a variety of information. CPU/memory usage is one option, and you can also view date/time, multimedia information, POP3 status, and a stopwatch. Other applications also register with the display, FRAPS being a primary example. We thought the LCD was a pretty cool extra, though it's certainly not required.

Index Beauty Is Skin Deep
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  • hyperealism - Monday, May 19, 2008 - link

    Are there any stats available showing how much power is saved by using the single video card compared to the SLI? I am buying one and I want to know if its worth getting the SLI version. It would be nice if you could disable one in the bios.

    Thanks in advance!
    Tye
    Reply
  • xantha - Monday, March 17, 2008 - link

    Just in case there are any Aussie readers that aren't aware but a gaming notebook can be more affordable than you think.

    You can get the XPS 1730 nicely specced for around AU$4300 (includes bluray, tv tuner, dual 8800, T9300, 4G) If you have the ability to salary sacrifice then that $4k+ starts dropping - lots :D

    First you don't pay GST so its now AU$3900. Then its taken out in pre-tax dollars so depending on what you are earning thats another 30-40% off. Making the XPS only AU$2340-$2730 effective cost. And its like 12mth interest free cause the payments are spaced out over the FBT year.

    Thanks Mr Taxman for a half price gaming notebook every year :D
    Reply
  • docjon - Monday, March 03, 2008 - link

    I'm just curious, With the new drivers is there still a large performance difference between Vista and XP? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, March 03, 2008 - link

    The short summary is that I found no reason to even want to run XP on this system. It works great as is. Time constraints do not permit me to test every option, unfortunately.

    As you can imagine, given the number of tests run, all of the testing was done with the system as shipped (after uninstalling any Internet Security Suite of course - PUKE!) It is possible to order certain models of the M1730 with XP, but at this point I see little reason to buy a DX10 SLI setup only to run XP. I believe that the focus on driver optimizations for 8800M SLI has been primarily on Vista as well.

    I'm sure there are instances where XP is still slightly faster (and likewise others where Vista is faster), but the last time we took a close look at XP and Vista graphics performance those situations were very rare and generally not a serious concern. I mean, if we're talking about 30 FPS vs. 40 FPS that would be a serious issue, but when it's 180 vs. 190 I'm not too worried.
    Reply
  • Scottyboy99 - Tuesday, March 04, 2008 - link

    Am a bit gutted reading the article. I have dell xps m1730 (Core 2 duo 2.4 ghz, 8800m gtx sli & 4 gig ram - Vista Home Premium) & my 3d mark 06 are nowhere near the scores shown. I have 3d mark 06 basic demo version (I can only run half the tests & stuck at resolution 1280*1024) and my single gpu score is 8700 whilst my sli enabled score is 10750 ish. So I am 2000 points at least shy of the systems tested here. My drivers are dell stock 167.55. I did try out 174.16 from laptop2go & my scores went down by a few hundred so went back to 167.55.

    What am I doing wrong?

    Thanks
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 04, 2008 - link

    Well, outside of overclocking, at stock speeds with the official 176.55 drivers I got 12859. My guess is that you might have a bunch of other software still installed that is affecting performance. I clean out all the stuff I don't want (i.e. McAfee Internet Security Suite or whatever it's called - Norton/Symantec is just as bad - and various other programs; I shut of Dell QuickSet as well as most other system tray icons/utilities), so that might be the problem you're having.

    The CPU score is going to be a factor, of course. I tested with Penryn 2.8GHz and got the following:

    2.8GHz 3DMark06 Scores:
    3DMarks: 12859.000000000
    SM2.0 Score: 5971.000000000
    SM3.0 Score: 6559.000000000
    CPU Score: 2554.000000000

    Bumping up the CPU speed to 3.2GHz (the same 400MHz gap that your system has relative to the test system) yielded:

    3.2GHz 3DMark06 Scores:
    3DMarks: 13920.000000000
    SM2.0 Score: 6337.000000000
    SM3.0 Score: 6969.000000000
    CPU Score: 2893.000000000

    So that's ~1000 points right there, and potentially I have a 6MB cache chip vs. your 4MB chip (T7700?). That could account for another ~1000 points or so. Also, the 174.20 drivers dropped Futuremark performance, but they dramatically improve gaming performance.
    Reply
  • Scottyboy99 - Tuesday, March 04, 2008 - link

    Ok thanks mate. Yes mine is T7700 cpu. You are probably right in that I should shut a whole bunch of stuff off. I do have the McAfee security suite running so maybe I should re-bench without that on (if I can work out how to close it down without disabling it at start up!!!). Based on what you have said I lose 1000 based on my cpu & the cache might be almost another 1000 so perhaps my score isn't so bad after all. Having said that I expect I should be able to eek some more performance out of my rig and maybe go past 11,000 marks. Will post if I get any joy.

    Thanks again
    Reply
  • flatron85 - Saturday, March 01, 2008 - link

    **** - **** - **** - **** - ****
    the last B could be an 8 the rest is readable.
    Reply
  • mark3450 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    In Feburary 2005 Dell released the "Dell XPS/Inspiron Gen 2", which was the equivilant of the one machine reviewed here at the time. I own one.

    The last video driver update for this machine was November 2005. That means that Dell continued to the video drivers for this machine for LESS THAN ONE YEAR after it's release.

    I have attempted to update to various unofficial drivers without success (machine boots and runs but then crashes after a few minuites of use), and have been forced to return to the Dell blessed ones.

    Overall it's a nice piece of hardware, but the lack of driver support that was given too it makes me leery of buying the M1730.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    Would these by chance help?

    http://www.nvidia.com/object/winxp_notebook_167.51...">http://www.nvidia.com/object/winxp_notebook_167.51...

    I don't see any Vista drivers for those notebooks, unfortunately, but maybe I'm just not putting in the correct search criteria.
    Reply

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