See the Dell XPS M1710 slide show
Say what you will about market leader Dell (and many have), but with its top-shelf XPS line, the company has consistently put out distinctive laptops that feature the most advanced components on the market. Despite its recent acquisition of niche player Alienware, Dell sticks to the script with the newest iteration of its flagship gaming laptop. With the XPS M1710, the company adds just a few aesthetic curlicues to the same basic form factor found on Dell's other 17-inch wide-screen models, upgrades to Intel's Core Duo platform, and drops in Nvidia's new top-shelf GeForce Go 7900 GTX GPU. The unsurprising result: an extremely pricey system that extends the company's dominance of our gaming benchmark tests and solidifies Dell's reputation as the vendor to beat in the gaming laptop market. If you're a hard-core gamer who's looking to play the newest games (Oblivion, F.E.A.R.) at the highest settings, this is the best system that (a lot of) money can buy. Otherwise, there are plenty of much less expensive but still powerful alternatives, such as the Toshiba Satellite P105-S921 and the Gateway NX850XL.
Aside from our test unit's Special Edition Formula Red cover (it's also available in Metallic Black), the XPS M1710's design is nearly identical to that of the previous model, the XPS M170, and very similar to the more multimedia-focused Inspiron E1705. (Well, except for all of the glowing lights: the XPS M1710 can emit shafts of light in any one of 16 colors from its lid, side vents, and speaker vents.) Crafted out of sturdy and stylish magnesium alloy, the XPS M1710 measures 15.5 inches wide, 11.3 inches deep, and 1.6 inches thick. Our test unit weighed 8.8 pounds (10.2 pounds with its AC adapter)--a few ounces more than the Gateway NX850XL, but nearly 1.5 pounds more than the compact Toshiba Satellite P105. The XPS M1710 is certainly easier to move than a desktop gaming rig, and it's portable enough for room-to-room movement, but we don't recommend it for regular travel.
The XPS M1710 includes a full-size keyboard, though it lacks a separate number pad, as found on some other desktop replacements, such as the Satellite P105-S921, the HP Pavilion dv8000, and the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV600. The XPS M1710's mouse buttons are very big, however, and the touch pad, which features a backlit XPS logo, is adequately sized. The touch pad also has arrows running along its right and bottom edges, outlining where to place your finger when using the software-enhanced pad to scroll through documents or Web pages.
Like most of the other models in the XPS and Inspiron lines, the XPS M1710 features Dell's MediaDirect software, which plays CDs and DVDs and lets you access photos and other media files stored on your hard drive without booting up Windows first. The two speakers and the internal subwoofer--a rare feature among laptops--deliver crisp and rich sound. Better yet, because the speakers sit in the corners of the laptop's front edge, your hands won't muffle them while you're typing, and you can play music with the lid closed. Sandwiched between the speakers, a row of seven buttons lets you control disc playback and adjust or mute the volume. Though the XPS M1710 runs Microsoft Windows XP Media Center 2005, it lacks the integrated TV tuner found on more expensive systems, such as the Qosmio G35-AV600, the Fujitsu LifeBook N6210, and the Sony VAIO AX570G. Dell sells an external, PC Card tuner for approximately $150, however.
Our XPS M1710 test unit came equipped with a reasonably bright, 17-inch wide-screen display; we love its superfine WUXGA 1,900x1,200 native resolution; Dell says that the XPS M1710's display is 30 percent brighter than the M170's. While we found it slightly brighter than the Inspiron E1705's display, we still prefer the superbright screens on the VAIO AX, the LifeBook N6210, and the Pavilion dv8000, though none of those models offer the gaming performance of the XPS M1710.