There's been a mantra associated with laptops pretty much since they came into being: if you're looking to build the fastest computer possible, get a desktop; the only reason to get a laptop is if you want mobility more than anything else, because laptops are always slower than equivalent desktops. While that statement is still true for the most part, the difference between top-performing desktop systems and top-performing laptops has been diminishing for many years. With NVIDIA working on mobile SLI solutions, we are nearing the point where the major difference between desktop systems and laptops is going to be price. Today marks the launch of NVIDIA's GeForce Go 7900 offerings, ranging from the 7900 256MB GPUs up through 7900 GTX 512MB configurations.

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Unlike the desktop market, it is extremely difficult (actually impossible at present) to review a mobile graphics offering without getting a laptop built around the new GPU. The good news is that Dell sent us their new XPS M1710 with the top-end 7900 GTX 512MB chip, so we have a chance to see exactly what the new mobile graphics "king" brings to the table. Dell didn't stop with stuffing in the fastest mobile graphics chip either; they've decked out the system with a flashy appearance, Intel's fastest mobile processor, 2GB of DDR2 memory, and a huge 17 inch widescreen display with a native 1920x1200 resolution. Clearly, this isn't a notebook targeting the Thin and Light market, but rather it's going after the Desktop Replacement (DTR) segment.

When it comes to computers, just about every person in the world has heard of Dell. Some people love them, some people hate them, and many of their competitors likely fear them. Dell is much maligned in the hardware enthusiast community, and though they have certainly deserved it at times, it's important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. Dell manufactures and sells literally millions of computers per year, and when you deal in that sort of volume, with product markets targeting everything from the value segment up through the high-end servers, there are bound to be better products and worse products. Most knowledgeable people realize that there's no such thing as a perfect system that will fill the needs of every individual; a system needs to be tailored to fit the usage requirements of the user, and as often as not that is where people run into problems when dealing with large OEMs.

It is extremely unlikely that any hardware enthusiast would be thrilled to get the latest value desktop system from Dell, just like a classic car buff probably isn't going to be happy fixing up a 1970 Ford Pinto. In fact, there are plenty of people that would never want any form of Dell computer -- for example, overclocking enthusiasts will find that Dell simply chooses not to cater to them at all. We need to keep things in perspective, though, because not everyone wants to overclock; many people will be perfectly happy with an inexpensive, reasonably performing, reliable computer.

Getting back to the topic at hand, laptops are a market that's quite different from the world of desktop enthusiasts. Balancing performance and features against weight, size, and battery life gives manufacturers plenty of opportunities to configure their laptops to fit specific needs. It doesn't require much deductive reasoning to determine that this particular laptop focuses more on improving performance and offering higher end features than on longer battery life or size, so what we're primarily interested in determining is how this system fares as a mobile gaming platform.

In order to keep the document size manageable and bring you the latest reviews in a timely fashion, we're going to review this laptop in two parts. This first part will focus primarily on the external appearance, overall system performance, features, and battery life. We'll be following up with a second article that will spend more time looking at the included software, construction, and some additional benchmarks.

Basic Features


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  • Schadenfroh - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    We got a thread going in the notebook forums about it if you guys want to join us:">Text
  • Cullinaire - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    On the BF2 page:

    "(If you look at what should be a circular map in the top right corner of the screen while playing, you'll find that it's an eclipse, clearly showing that widescreen resolutions are running with the wrong field of view.)"

    Did you mean ellipse? Just wondering. Nice article. I'll get one when I win the lottery, otherwise I don't go to enough LAN parties to justify one of these :)
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    Tired. Yes, ellipse. I must have misspoke originally. Reply
  • Poser - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    I assume this means you use speech recognition software for dictating your articles? Which do you use, and care to share any opinions about it? Even just a pointer to another forum posting would be great (and probably less distracting to this thread). I haven't ran across anyone who uses it on a regular basis for real work before. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    Funny you should mention that, because I was planning on doing an article on the subject shortly. Not to spoil the surprise, but I used Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 8. I toyed around with the speech recognition in Microsoft Office, and frankly it's pathetic by comparison. You can probably guess that I have carpal tunnel problems, which is what led me to Dragon NaturallySpeaking into first place. I've been using it for about six months now, and while it still isn't perfect, it actually works quite well overall. Probably the best $150 I spent in quite awhile.

    Jarred Walton
    Hardware Editor
  • nullpointerus - Wednesday, April 19, 2006 - link

    I used to get that intense, throbbing pain in my wrists after hours of typing. Then one Christmas I received a pair of typing gloves. They are tight (like spandex?) and have splints in them. At first I really hated them, but after using them for months I found that I no longer needed them.

    See, if you fight the material and the splints, you get a pain different from CTS but much more annoying and immediate, so your wrists are trained to assume the proper position when typing. Once I found that I didn't need the gloves anymore, I gave them to a friend who was suffering from the same problem.

    These are the kind I used:">

    A solid, natural keyboard with keys that depress easily; proper chair with good back a nd neck support and good armrests; good posture; correct input device height relative to your body, etc. also helped. There's no point in training your wrists if your computing environment doesn't allow you to keep them in the proper position.

    Then again, I don't know how badly you suffer from it or how much typing you have to do each day. Maybe someone else will find this post useful if you do not. :-)
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 19, 2006 - link

    I may have to give that a try - the wrist supports I have help, but they haven't solved the problem by any means. Reply
  • bob4432 - Thursday, April 20, 2006 - link

    carpel tunnel is not the only neurological condition you need to worry about when doing a lot of keyboard work. you also have muscle overuse syndrome, different types of dystonia (chronic muscles spasms) etc, so if you can get dragon working decently, go that route. your entire upper body will thank you. i may have to try out dragon again, i tried it 3-4yrs ago, or whatever else speech software was out there and it was pretty weak then.... Reply
  • gramboh - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    At 8.8lbs it's about the weight of a 17 inch Powerbook G4 so without seeing it I think it's portable. A MacBook 15 inch is 5.4lbs using the Core Duo CPU as well. I think this setup might be able to beat a MacBook in terms of performance which would be cool, because I like to see Apple lose at things, especially to Dell :). This is definetely a better gaming system than a MacBook with BootCamp running a measely X1600. Reply
  • timmiser - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    I just bought an XPS M170 with the 7800 GTX Go and this looks like its pretty much exactly the same on the exterior. This replaced my Inspiron XPS notebook that had a 15.4" screen with the 3.2 GHz Prescott and Mobility Radeon 9800.

    With them both sitting on the table next to each other, the new XPS M170 is about a pound lighter and much thinner but amazingly with the bigger screen, the 17" XPS and the 15.4" XPS are the exact same height because the 17" XPS is much thinner it all equals out. They are also the same length (front to back) but the M170 is a couple inches wider. I am amazed that the overall size with the bigger screen isn't all that much bigger.

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