Battery Life, Noise and Final Thoughts
Battery Life

As is the case with any flagship desktop-replacement notebook, battery life for the Dell XPS M1730 was less than stellar. Here, we were able to run our DVD playback test for only 1 hour and 20 minutes before the 9-cell battery was drained. Then again, when you consider the fact that we are dealing with the fastest mobile CPU, two of the fastest mobile GPUs, a monstrous 17” LCD, and a handful of drives this isn’t really much of a surprise. Unlike ultra-portables and more mainstream notebooks, the ideal usage for the XPS notebook is to be a flagship gaming desktop on the go. Although most of its time will surely be spent connected to an outlet somewhere, there is enough battery life to get you by should you not have an outlet readily available.

Noise Levels

Considering the amount of horsepower under the hood of this system, our expectations were that noise would be an issue as fans struggled to keep the notebook cool. We were excited to find that Dell has done their homework when designing the XPS system’s cooling assembly as the notebook was surprisingly quiet under all but the most taxing applications.

Features

Although sacrificing portability and battery life, the XPS M1730 comes with more features and functionality than nearly any other notebook on the market. Some might examine our system’s specifications and complain about the lack of a Blu-Ray drive. Although the specific system we tested did not come equipped with a Blu-Ray drive, it is an optional feature on Dell’s website. In fact, the only two features I would have liked to have seen added to the system would be an LED-backlit LCD and biometric fingerprint security.

Although it might initially seem like a gimmick, I was thoroughly impressed with the level of customization and personalization the LED lighting provided to users. With no less than 16 colors at their disposal and the ability to have different colors used in different zones, there is a seemingly endless variety of possible combinations to create a truly unique aesthetic. Four different LED effects and the ability to use plug-ins to link the LEDs to music make this an ideal way to tailor the system to yourself.

Usability

Any time you combine cutting-edge hardware with the massive real-estate a 1920×1200 LCD provides, you are bound to have an ideal system for productivity. The XPS M1730 is as capable as nearly any enthusiast desktop system when connected to an AC power outlet. Whether you’re playing Call of Duty 4 or working on a project within Photoshop, users can appreciate the power within this Dell notebook.  

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Unfortunately, the stellar capabilities of the XPS system begin to suffer dramatically once the user switches to battery mode or needs to bring the system away from their desk. Here, the size, weight, and power consumption of this large system make bringing the Dell notebook a very unpleasant experience. However, in all fairness this is not the target usage model for a desktop-replacement system. These notebooks are meant to typically be used in a stationary place and fed by a wall outlet with the “road-warrior” opting for an ultraportable notebook instead. With this in mind, the Dell XPS M1730 does an exceptional job at what it is designed to do.

Performance

Armed with the fastest mobile hardware money can buy; it is no surprise to find that the Dell XPS M1730 offers blistering performance in nearly any game or application. Here, the combination of Intel’s latest Penryn processor, NVIDIA SLI graphics, RAID-0 drive configuration, and other flagship components have provided us with the highest mobile scores we have ever seen in our benchmarks. Simply put, the Dell XPS M1730 is the fastest notebook we have ever had in our labs.

Appearance

Like most things in this world, the appearance of the XPS M1730 will appeal to some and not to others. Whereas some will appreciate the faux-carbon finish and rich LED lighting effects, others will prefer a more clean and professional appearance like a Macbook Pro. Personally, we’re not huge fans of the bold color options offered by Dell. However, we did find the test system’s Smoke Grey color understated enough to not make the notebook look obnoxious. Our only major grip with the system’s aesthetics would be the material choices used for the chassis. Although the faux-carbon finish is relatively high quality, we would much prefer to see actual carbon fiber used similar to Acer’s Ferrari lineup. When dealing with a system of this price, small details such as material choices could make an already impressive notebook impossible to pass up.

Pricing

At this time, Dell offers the XPS M1730 in a variety of different configurations in order to hit various price-points. The entry level configuration is priced at $1999 and is equipped with a very respectable mixture of components. Configuring a system with the component mixture we’ve tested here today, you’d be looking at a system cost of over $3999.

Assuming that last sentence didn’t give you heart-failure and you’re still reading this, it should be noted that this price-point is largely par for the course for flagship notebooks. Unfortunately, these cutting-edge mobile systems all come with a hefty price premium that is anything but friendly to your wallet. However, there are some configuration changes which can be made to dramatically lower the cost without having an adverse effect upon performance.

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First and foremost, there is little need to pay a $750 premium for Intel’s latest top of the line CPU. Although you’ll be forgoing bragging rights, you could save $625 by changing to an Intel Core 2 Duo T9300. You’ll still be getting a new Penryn CPU with all the bells and whistles and will hardly notice a difference in most applications. Those who are willing to sacrifice on gaming performance can also opt for a slower GPU configuration. By selecting two GeForce 8700M GTs in SLI instead of the GeForce 8800M GTX SLI configuration, you can save $700. However in this case you will definitely notice a drop in performance, especially when playing the latest titles or running at the panel’s native 1920×1200 resolution. Ideally, we’d love to see Dell offer a single GeForce 8800M GTX GPU as an option as that would offer excellent performance and still come at a reasonable price.

Final Thoughts

One could argue that the mobile industry is a collection of compromises and different specialties. Although some notebooks try to be the “swiss-army knives” of the market and can do nearly everything, they are unable to truly excel in any one area. In stark contrast, the Dell XPS M1730 is like an expensive butcher’s knife. When used for anything other than its primary purpose, it is unable to excel. However, when used for its specialty there is nothing better and this knife can cut through anything. In this case, the XPS M1730 is an absolute powerhouse which thrives on taxing applications and demanding games.

Given the weight, size, and battery-life of the system, the Dell is not an ideal candidate for carrying around and being productive on the go. However, for those looking for the performance of a flagship desktop in a form factor they can carry from one place to another it is hard to find a better candidate than the Dell XPS M1730.

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