We're sitting there, headphones on, eyes focused on the screen. Things are jumping out of the darkness at us as fast as we can blow them to pieces. This is a fairly common scenario for most PC gamers, so what's so special about this particular session of Quake? We're doing it on a train. Dell's latest gaming pc, the XPS M1710, is a powerhouse of a notebook. It has a list of specifications to outdo most people's desktop machines, meaning you can take all the flashiest and most demanding new games on the road with you. However, sadly it also has a price tag that exceeds most people's pay cheques, making it a niche machine for those that really need the best.
- Stunning gaming performance, Great LCD, Comfortable to type on
- Price, Keys could be placed better, Large
For those who want an ultra powerful notebook that can handle almost anything, the M1710 is a great choice. Just keep in mind high performance commands a high price tag.
Price$ 2,599.00 (AUD)
Dell has really made an effort with the XPS M1710 to ensure it is as flashy as possible. Nobody is going to mistake it for a business notebook. The interior is simple, monochrome silver, with a matte grey keyboard. The exterior however sports no less than four red, glowing LEDs along with a rippling, slightly holographic face plate. The two XPS logos on either side also glow red. See a theme forming? We didn't mind the overall design. It will be a little over the top for many people, but there are plenty of gamers who will appreciate the visual style and it isn't nearly as overdone as some other models we've seen.
Of course no gaming notebook would be complete without a big screen, and the M1710 obliges with its gigantic 17" LCD. The biggest notebook screen we have ever laid eyes on, it is quite an impressive panel, outputting at a native widescreen resolution of 1920x1200. With rich, deep colours, no noticeable ghosting and a crystal clear picture, this display is everything we would expect from a high end machine. It does have a glossy finish, which causes reflection issues under fluorescent lighting, but in most circumstances it looks just fine.
The only downside to combining such a big screen with powerful components is that it makes for a big machine. The M1710 is extremely chunky by notebook standards. Weighing in at four kilograms without the power supply and measuring nearly 40cm in width, this isn't the sort of notebook you want to carry around all day every day. It suits people who move around a bit and want the flexibility of having a powerful gaming PC no matter if they're in a hotel, a library or just sitting at home. It is powerful enough to replace most standard desktop machines, so we think it is best suited to those who want a single, powerful machine for all purpose use and are willing to pay a little extra for it.
The large design also means the keyboard isn't crammed in, like on some notebooks, but we still would have liked Dell to make better use of the extra space. Despite having several spare inches on either side, the arrow and function keys (DEL, INS etc) are placed above and below the Enter and Shift column, rather than occupying their traditional space on the side. All the function keys and those above them are also half width, meaning those with big fingers will struggle to use them. However, we have no complaints about the rest of the keys. They are fairly shallowly mounted, even by notebook standards, and are great to type with. The three or four inches of space below the keyboard make a great wrist rest, and we found it more comfortable than typing on a smaller model.
Amusingly Dell hasn't settled with just a standard set of speakers on this unit, it also included a small subwoofer on the base; when they go all out they really go all out! The overall sound quality was pretty good, although not quite on the same level as the HD-DVD enabled Toshiba Qosmio G30 we looked at on the same day. Many gamers will elect to use headphones, but the sub is nice nonetheless.
With such an imposing price tag, you'd expect top of the line performance and the M1710 delivers well in this regard. Shipping with a very impressive 2GB of RAM, along with a Geforce GO 7900 GTX and an Intel Core Duo T2600 processor operating at 2.16GHz, it is well equipped to handle the toughest of the new breed of PC games. We tested it with a variety of games, most notably the incredibly demanding F.E.A.R, and even running at its native resolution we experienced almost no slow down or stuttering. Many desktop PCs crumble under such a strenuous game, so the M1710 really proved itself in this test.
Our benchmarks corroborated this result. Scoring 27473 in 3DMark01 and an excellent 4756 in 3DMark06, it is currently the most powerful notebook we have tested. Its score of 107 in WorldBench was also well ahead of most of the competition, although not as awe inspiring as its gaming performance. Whatever you throw at this system it is likely to be able to handle, although its graphics capabilities are its strongest area.
The M1710 comes with all the connections you'd expect, including D-Sub, DVI and S-video, as well as Ethernet, Firewire and six USB ports. There is also an integrated card reader, which supports five of the major formats. It has a standard Gigabit wired LAN connection as well as 802.11a/b/g support. Our review unit did not come with Bluetooth support built in, but it is available as an extra if you so desire.
Core Duo chips are known for their low power usage, which equates to low heat output, and this is a vital factor to consider when purchasing a notebook. We found that while the chip itself may not put out much heat, the rest of the components, particularly the graphics card, more than make up for this. The M1710 is a reasonably hot machine by notebook standards, but some sacrifices have to be made for all that power. There are several ventilation grates, one on either side and another on the base, but even so we found the bottom of the unit heated up pretty quickly.
Generally when something puts out a lot of heat, it also consumes a lot of power, but although this model isn't the best unit we've seen in this regard, its performance really surprised us. MobileMark awarded it a result of 141 minutes for its battery life test, which is quite impressive considering how much power a high-end graphics card generally draws.
For those who want a desktop replacement they can move around and that can handle any multimedia or gaming tasks they throw at it, this is a great choice. Of course, all of this does come at a hefty price tag.
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