Pros Graphics, Multitasking, memory, fast and quiet, LCD
Cons Power brick, bloatware, Vista compatability issues
Summary KNOW WHY YOU ARE GETTING THIS
I will start by saying that this "laptop" is not for everyone. It is pricey and has more than many need/want in a notebook. I bought this because I play the latest games, because I’m a heavy user of programs like Adobe CS3 suite software, and, let’s face it, I love gadgets. I also move around and have numerous business/professional needs as well. So, if you looking for a notebook that has to horses to handle all of your projects and satisfy your gadget lust, this is the best all around notebook for the price at the moment. It is not perfect. With that said, ANY rating under an 8 should be disregarded or ignored.
If you don’t want to read my long review, this paragraph is a basic summary. PROS: this laptop is fast and quiet, it allocates memory and processor usage efficiently, multitasking is superb, graphics are unbeatable for a laptop, it is a great value for the price (despite being pricey), LCD panel. NEUTRAL: Huge and heavy, weak battery life, most software not yet advanced enough maximize this machine. CONS: unnecessarily huge power brick, struggled with Crysis on everything above medium settings, Dell bloatware, Vista issues. Overall gets an 8/10 (due to power brick, Vista, bloatware).
I won't reiterate all the features others have discussed but it is worth noting a couple of key features and key specs of mine for context:
2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Extreme Processor
400 GB hard drive each at 7,200 rpm
4 GB RAM at 667 MHZ
Blu Ray player/DVD burner (w/out Blu Ray burner)
Every M1730 has a PhysX processor as well as dual SLI 256MB Nvidia 8700 GTS and WUXGA 1920 x 1200 resolution. As of this review, no other notebook packs all these features into one package. Feature junkies, your lust is warranted, this thing has it all.
This laptop is huge and heavy. It has to be to do what it does so this shouldn’t count against it. Also, depending on your previous notebooks/desktops, you may not be “blown away.” This is because only software written with dual processors sharing the load, dual graphics cards, PhysX, etc. in mind can take advantage of it. Again, this is not Dell’s fault so it’s a neutral.
The gigantor power brick is a MAJOR con. Some might say that this should be a neutral but there is no reason why Dell couldn’t have stuck with the size of the already huge bricks on other models. This limits the portability of the notebook. Believe it or not, the notebook size itself is manageable if you want to move around. However, once you tack on the brick, good luck finding a case, bag, etc. If Dell fixes this (which it will have to), I’d give this thing a 9. Some, who won’t be moving this around at all, won’t mind. For you guys though, I would STRONGLY consider a powerful desktop – at the end of the day, there is no reason to buy a notebook unless you desire at least some mobility.
The Vista issues (which are a separate topic) really take away from the initial joy of this machine. That, plus Dell’s bloatware (which you should/must uninstall) take off another point. Again, there are workarounds (i.e. XP but not DX 10) but the software that Dell installs like roxio, media direct, dell support software all cause problems with Vista so I have to ding Dell for that.
There are some minor cons like no keyboard shortcuts to shut of the lights/LCD and I was disappointed with the debut of Crysis on this machine. It took me two hours to get the settings to a point that was playable and that point is far from max. As I understand it, this is the case for nearly every gaming rig so I don’t hold these against Dell too much. But, I want to feel like nothing can slow me down and I didn’t get that joy. I’m also not blown away by the “flashy” design.
This is without a doubt the best computer I have ever owned, desktop or notebook (including my wife’s MacBook Pro, iMac, etc.).
Memory and Multitasking
The 400 GB hard drive finally allows for the space today’s computers need, plus they’re at 7200 rpm. With 4GB RAM (of which only 3.16 is usable), you won’t have ANY real issues with multitasking (CS3, Lightroom, Office, etc. just hum). Those who use editing and rendering software will love this even more than gamers. Plus it is relatively quiet and well vented.
Graphics and Blu Ray
The graphics this notebook delivers are clean and crisp – even with Crysis, once I got that game running. Other games and media look great too. Blu Rays look stunning (but you have to use Dell’s media direct which is a clunky setup).
I was initially lukewarm about this feature, but I’ve come to like it. Think of it as your window into how your computer is “feeling.”
Some might not agree, but this is a pro. My setup costs about $4300 – WOW! That’s a boatload of money for any computer. But it will be at least 3 years before I need even a minor upgrade. Also, if you tried to build this rig yourself today, you wouldn’t get all of this for this price. And, I used Dell’s 12 month same as cash financing which helped. I admit I’m rationalizing a bit, but considering the amount of time I spend on a computer, I might as well enjoy it, right?
If you made it this far, I'm impressed (and sorry so long). I would recommend this notebook to anyone, with the caveats I've discussed. I know price is an issue, but you can bring it down to earth if you can do without blu-ray, can manage with 2GB RAM, and don't need a 2.8 GHZ processor. With these slight mods, you'll be in the upper $2Gs but you are still rocking. You will not find a better notebook anywhere right now, even though this notebook isn't perfect.
Pros DirectX 10 + Windows XP
Cons Size of power brick, AC cord pops out a lot
Summary I have only owned 2 brands of computer: Apple and Dell. For the past 10 years I've been using exclusively Dell computers both at home and at work. Dell isn't perfect, but I wouldn't be choosing to stay with them year after year if they weren't darn good.
Usually I've been getting more home-office oriented computers and this is the first system I ever bought that's designed from the ground-up for gaming. I chose (actually, waited for) the XPS M1730 for being available with DirectX 10 running on Windows XP. My other computers all run on XP and I was delighted not to be forced into Vista.
If you're used to business machines, the XPS M1730 is an absolute BEAST. I hadn't actually seen one before I ordered it and, even knowing about the 17" screen, it was bigger than I expected. I wouldn't call it a laptop unless you have a really big lap. It is wicked-fast and has a beautiful display. By the way, I didn't experience the hinge-creaking reported by the CNET reviewer.
All the juice the M1730 must take does require a huge power brick. I also found that the AC cord pops out of the back more easily than other laptops... probably due to the weight of the thicker cord. These are minor problems unless you're shifting it around a lot (like if you actually are trying to use it on your lap).
I can echo the experience that, even having it in my lap, the M1730 runs a lot cooler than I expected... cooler than my Inspirons.
I'm not really a big fan of all the LEDs. Nice gingerbread I guess, but I'm a little worried about how the laptop will look when some of them eventually burn out. The lightup keyboard is occasionally helpful. The LCD panel built into the top right corner gets a lot of praise, but so far I haven't found it useful for anything other than looking pretty.
I do really like the audio and other control buttons being on the front edge of the base, though.
I bought it with almost all software choices declined (including anti-virus, which I get free from my Comcast service). It still came with a few things installed that I didn't necessarily want, but I wouldn't call it seriously bloated.
Bottom line on this machine is that does a really great job at the niche it's targetted to: it's a high-performance, desktop-replacement gaming machine.
Pros High-end gaming in a mobile system, SLI, upgradeable video cards, PhysX, configurable LEDs, backlit keyboard, runs cooler than expected, affordable considering specs and competition, Logitech LCD
Cons Power brick is huge, A/C adapter plug to system seems to pinch at non-standard angles - needs right-angle plug, XP and Vista need BIOS changes to boot to each, limited software choices, bloatware
Summary I'm not sure what combination of luck and inexperience caused Annette so many problems, but that seems like an absolute worst-case scenario. Now, I'm no veteran on these boards, but I do use CNET a lot. Annette was a newly created profile with no other reviews, so take that for what it's worth. I'm not saying her experiences were false, but generic "won't boot" issues are not specific to the M1730. Also, why would someone buy a high-end gaming notebook for "business use?"
I do know that in order to boot XP you have to make two changes in the bios, changing ATA to emulation mode, from AHCI, and toggling a flash cache setting. To boot to Vista you have to change it back. Linux doesn't care what setting this is in, it boots fine. So I can tell the difference between poorly written software (Windows) and hardware issues (which I have had none).
Yes this is a beast of a system. Not as portable as most other notebooks, but that's not the point. I consider it "Relocatable Gaming" in that I can move to different rooms in the house, or using the broadband modem play games anywhere, go to LAN parties, etc. I only use this system for gaming, though, and it does what it says, and does it good.
My only gripe is the limited choice as far as software. I didn't want all the bloatware (but who does), but also didn't want anti-virus (I use avg), or even Windows. After battling Vista's endless issues (this software is not ready for prime time), I ended up putting XP and Linux (Fedora 8) on it. Since your choices are limited, I would recommend XP. However, 64-bit Fedora 8 runs WoW, and all my Steam games perfectly, so I'm extremely happy.
The price is very competitive, while not "cheap," it certainly won't require a second job. I do wish I could use a Fn key combo to turn off all the LEDs, but that has to be done in software. The backlit keyboard can be toggled with Fn+right_arrow, however. Lastly, I must say that the system running at full resources doesn't get near as hot as I would have thought.
Pros Lots of bells and whistles, best looking laptop screen I have ever seen, power of a desktop in a mobile foot print, not too much bloatware.
Cons Stability in games, Sli not proven on this setup and Dell support of this product
Summary This is really a nice laptop and I would have easily given it an 8-9 if it was not for the lack of driver support this system is getting from Dell. The official Dell video driver has not been updated since its September release and its current game/Sli performance is very poor considering its hardware configuration. I am hoping Dell will get their act together and let this laptop live up to its potential.Updated
In my first review of this laptop, I was less than impressed with the performance and support. Since that time Dell upgraded my video card to dual 8800m GTXs and I replaced my CPU with a X9000 Core 2 Duo Extreme. NVIDIA & Dell have done a pretty good job with the current drivers, although they are still a little slow.
This system is really flying now and I can play any game at or near high settings
Pros Good compromise between portability and power
Cons It's still a compromise, and an expensive one
Summary A previous reviewer asked why someone would bother with such a monster of a laptop when it still can't equal the power of a reasonably-priced desktop. I think it's a reasonable question. As someone who will never buy another desktop machine, I can say that even with a huge, heavy laptop, the fact is that you still can travel with it and it is simply more flexible overall. Despite it's bulk, it still goes into a backpack that you'd take as carry-on on an airplane, and you can even get some gaming in on the flight before the battery conks. More importantly, you can take advantage of seats in the waiting lounge next with nearby outlets, opening further gaming possibilites. Around the house, you can still move it from one location to another, and even if you don't, it duplicates the functionality of a desktop PC with 17" LCD monitor and a VERY large UPS using a small fraction of the space and wire clutter, in addition to some smaller advantages. It is, of course, a compromise, so it's appeal is subjective.