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Dell XPS M1710

With a beefy dual-core CPU and nVidia's latest mobile graphics purring under its hood, Dell's latest high-end laptop hot rod tore through our 3D benchmark tests with a vengeance.

Cisco Cheng - PC Magazine

April 18

Serious mobile gamers have known for some time now that the portable rig of choice is Dell's distinctive metallic and black XPS M170 notebook ($4,215 direct). That common wisdom is unlikely to change, because the company has enhanced its popular laptop's look by adding extra flair and some hot new parts. Dubbed the Special Edition Formula Red XPS M1710, this laptop is guaranteed to draw attention at your next gaming soiree. And thanks to its new nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX graphics chipset, coupled with the fastest Intel Core Duo processor available, it's still the best gaming notebook deal in town.

Though it doesn't bear the famous racecar emblems of other automotive-styled notebooks such as the Acer Ferrari 4000 or the Asus Lamborghini VX1, the XPS M1710 is a speed-evoking bright red. Underneath its lid, however, the laptop has the same Arctic silver chassis as its predecessor. There are some exciting design elements: The Dell XPS M1710 name is stamped in crimson, right above the white-clad keyboard, and an illuminated XPS logo is on the system's touchpad.

Like the old XPS M170, the new XPS M1710 is equipped with six grills, lacing the laptop's edges, that light up in a myriad of user-definable colors. You can customize the LED lights to match the XPS's red color or choose from among the 15 other colors available through Dell's Quickset software interface. Either way, gaming in the dark will never be the same. The system's TrueLife 17-inch high-contrast widescreen display is a joy to behold, bringing life to games and providing bright and lovely movie images. Thanks to its powerful graphics subsystem, the laptop can handle the screen being cranked all the way up to 1,920-by-1,200, its native resolution. You won't miss a single detail at this level.

You still get the white-glove customer service experience that Dell's XPS line is known for. For example, you'll have the same salesperson at your disposal throughout the life of the warranty, plus an MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) qualified support staff if things get really hairy. You also receive a 30-day trial subscription to Dell's On-Call support, a fee-based extension of Dell's hardware-only warranty; this service helps users troubleshoot anything from spyware problems to setting up a home network. (It's figured into the price.)

For an operating system, the M1710 runs Windows XP Media Center 2005 Edition, which boasts features to organize and play all your photos, videos, and music. Unfortunately, the system lacks a TV tuner. You can, however, purchase an external USB tuner separately. For a more AV-centric laptop, check out my review of the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV600, which has an integrated TV tuner and a slew of ports.

The M1710 also comes with Dell's Media Direct, which is arguably the best instant-on multimedia software on the market. Simply press the laptop's Media button instead of its Power button, and Media Direct launches within seconds. No more waiting for Windows to boot. The software's interface is easy to use and lets you play everything from DVD movies to MP3 files. It also allows access to media files anywhere on your hard drive, optical drive, or the included 5-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC, MS, MS Pro, XD).

The M1710 is well endowed with connections: It has the most USB ports—six—I've seen on a laptop, plus a FireWire port, which comes in handy for connecting camcorders. There's also a DVI-D port for displaying digital content over an HD-ready display. One interesting development is that the XPS M1710's external expansion slot is ExpressCard only, so all your legacy PC Cards are useless for this machine.

The real thrill of an XPS notebook is its performance, and the M1710 doesn't disappoint. It's the first gaming notebook to arrive in PC Magazine Labs that's built with nVidia's GeForce Go 7900 GTX, by far the most powerful mobile graphics chipset available. Benefiting from this screaming 3D subsystem, my M1710M test system beat the XPS M170 by 12 percent on 3DMark 2005 and by 23 percent on our Doom 3 benchmark tests. Thanks to a muscular Intel Core Duo processor (T2600), 2GB of RAM, and a 7,200-rpm hard drive, the laptop soundly trounced all of its close competitors on our SYSmark 2004 SE tests. It was 66 percent faster than the M170 on Internet Content Creation and 59 percent faster on Office Productivity.

All this power will cost you—and I don't just mean the $4,215 sticker price. The XPS M1710's blazing configuration demands plenty of juice, and its short (2.5 hours) battery life reflects that reality. Because of the notebook's substantial weight (8.8 pounds), the likelihood of your playing games on battery power is pretty slim.

Despite its high price, the Dell XPS M1710 is still the gaming notebook to beat. It's without a doubt the fastest notebook I've seen. Your gaming buddies will be seeing glorious, gleaming red, as you pummel them frame after frame.

Look at our laptop comparison chart to see how the Dell XPS M1710 matches up to similar systems.

Dell XPS M1710 - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 -

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