Multimedia power at a steep price


The Dell XPS M1710 may just be one of the fastest and juiciest notebooks around. But don’t count on getting around town very fast with this baby.

Dell’s premium – and pricey notebook (it has a base price of $2,409) – is targeted at hardcore gamers and heavy multimedia users.

It packs quite a bit of punch, with two 2.1 GHz Intel Core Duo processors and the latest NVidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX graphics card.

This is definitely no itsy-bitsy notebook. At 3.99 kg (minus the power pack) it makes for quite a load to carry, and is not recommended for regular travel.

If looks could kill

If the weight doesn’t do it, the M1710’s appearance (after you turn it on) will stop you in your tracks.

“Wow, check this out,” cried Julian, my 12-year-old son, when the M1710 came to life with neon blue lights streaming out of the vents of its sleek matte silver and metallic black body.

Dell’s marketing team wasn’t off base in describing this unit’s design as “bold and brazen.” Aside from my reviewer’s metallic black face plate, the M1710 also comes in “Formula Red”.

With 16 optional light schemes to chose from, the illuminated XPS logo and a backlit touchpad, you’re guaranteed to standout in any crowd. In our dimly lit basement, the M1710 looked like a snazzy sci-fi gadget.

Industrial strength

The sci-fi, industrial theme goes beyond looks. Magnesium alloy was used on the top and bottom panels for sturdiness. The keypads and palm rest are of thick pliable plastic.

Dell also claims to have tested the unit’s steel hinges for durability by opening and shutting the lid for up to 20,000 times. The lid did have a solid feel to it; the locking mechanism doesn’t look like it would break off if you happened to slam the cover hard.

A StrikeZone shock absorber protects the hard drive for minor drops and bump. This, I never did get to try.

The matte silver theme extends to the keys which are well placed and easy to navigate. The keyboard is stable. I didn’t detect that annoying springy feeling you get with keyboards of some notebooks.

Although this computer was designed as a gaming laptop, the ergonomics will make it very suitable for an office desk as well.


I found the M1710’s 17-inch screen was excellent for watching movies, viewing photos, playing games and even the occasional word processing that I did on the machine. I didn’t detect any so-called “ghosting” or “tearing” of images during games.

The widescreen WUXGA with 1920 x 1200 resolution LCD with Dell’s TrueLife anti-glare coating delivered crisp and vivid images. Dell says this screen is 30 per cent brighter than that of the M170, which it is replacing.

Play it loud

he M1710 can be connected to a TV or home sound system to enhance your gaming experience. However, I found the laptop’s built-in speakers quite up to the task.

The unit’s sound system is exceptional. The stereo two-watt main speakers and five-watt subwoofer provided the bass sounds often missed by the average laptop. You can enjoy listening to music on this laptop without rigging it to an external sound system.

By positioning the processor and video card on opposite sides of the computer, Dell managed to keep this laptop cool.

Separate fans and heatsinks for these components, plus adequate vents on all sides of the computer, keeps the touchpad and surface of the M1710 cool to touch even after several hours of use. The bottom of the notebook, though, can become uncomfortably warm.

The fans, however, remain silent all the time.

Game on

Gaming is the M1710’s reason for existence and in that area Dell’s latest offering shines.

Downloading and playing games was a breeze with the laptops Core 2 Duo T7600 processors, 2 GB DDR2 memory and NVidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX graphics card. The Go 7900 fleshed out intense visual effects in games and DVD playback.

The two processors cores allow for multitasking. For instance, the M1710 was able to scan for viruses and receive e-mail ,while I was playing a game. Dell also said the dual core processors improved system performance by up to 27 per cent over single-core systems

The 512 MB of graphics dedicated DDR3 memory on the 7900 GTX card provided realistic 3D images.

It took Julian, all of five minutes to load and begin playing his favourite Battle Realms onto the M1710. The character movements were smooth and the images were devoid of the usual breaks-up.

Getting connected

The M1710 has six USB ports, a FireWire port, and other inputs including VGA, DVI, S-Video ports. It also has jacks for headphones and microphones, and features a media card reader

The notebook comes with a standard 802.11 WiFi card that allows users to connect to a wireless network. For gamers who compete in multi-player games over a local area network, this is especially enticing. The laptop also supports a wide media format that includes MP3, WMA, WMV, AVI, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2.

The 7200-rpm, 100 GB hard drive provides more than adequate real estate for games, music, video and digital photos. The M1710 also features a dual layer DVD burner. Battery life was reasonable as, I was able to work on the M1710 for about two and half hours with the WiFi feature enabled.

The M1710 comes with a standard 90-day limited warranty and a package that includes Windows XP Media Centre Edition, Microsoft Office 2003 Small Business, Sonic Digital Media and MyDVD Basic for DVD burning, Paint Shop Pro and Photo Album for photo manipulation and image management, MusicMatch Premium for audio file management and Sonic CinePlayer for playing movies.

The XPS gets top marks for power and performance. It gets negative points though for being pricey and heavy.

The looks are debatable. Corporate types might think the neon lights are a bit over the top, the gamer in some of us might see it differently. And the M1710 caters precisely to this group, bigger boys and girls who love bigger toys and have bigger wallets to buy them.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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