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Dell XPS M1710 Version 2.0
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Date: Feb 22, 2007
Section:Mobile
Author: Sean Pelletier
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Introduction

 

Last year, we had the pleasure of taking a look at Dell's flagship Inspiron XPS M1710 notebook. Taking into account the top-notch components, excellent build quality, and best-of-class performance, we awarded the system our coveted Editor's Choice award.  Dell has since returned to market with a minor refresh of the award-winning XPS M1710 and they're aiming to build upon their successes in the DTR (desktop replacement notebook) market. 

In terms of aesthetics, the revised XPS M1710 is identical to the system we previously reviewed. Given the quality finish and unique appearance of the system, this is certainly not a bad thing. In order to truly appreciate the changes Dell has made to their flagship notebook, one must look inside the system. Easily, the most dramatic change is the upgrade to NVIDIA's latest enthusiast mobile GPU the GeForce Go 7950 GTX. However, there are additional enhancements which have been made including the inclusion of 802.11n wireless networking as well as the ability to overclock the CPU thanks to the new Intel Core 2 Duo T7600G with its unlocked multiplier. Overall, we were extremely impressed with Dell's initial XPS M1710. More than six months later, we were anxious to see whether Dell was able to improve upon their previous efforts with the latest incarnation of the XPS M1710 notebook.

Dell XPS M1710 v2.0 - Special Edition Formula Red
Specifications
Processor
.
_Intel Core 2 Duo T7600G processor
(2.33GHz)

Chipset
.
_Intel 945PM + ICH6

Memory
.
_Two SODIMM sockets
.
_2x1GB DDR2 667 Unbuffered Non-ECC memory
.
_Supports maximum memory capacity up to 4GB

Graphics
.
_NVIDIA GeForce Go 7950 GTX 512MB (MXM)

ATA
.
_1 x DMA 100/66
.
_100GB Hitachi 7200rpm HDD
.
_8x Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW

Communications
.
_10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet
.
_Dell Wireless 1500e(802.11b/g/n) Wireless LAN
.
_56K v.90 Fax/modem

Display
.
_17" WUXGA TFT LCD (native 1920 x 1200)

Audio
.
_2.1 speakers and subwoofer
.
_24-bit High-Definition Audio

External I/O Connectors
.
_1 x Power port
.
_1 x Lock jack
.
_1 x Ethernet port
.
_1 x Modem port
.
_1 x Headphone jack
.
_1 x Microphone jack
.
_1 x SPDIF jack
.
_1 x PCMCIA slot
.
_1 x TV-out port (S-Video)
.
_6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
.
_1 x D-Sub port
.
_1 x DVI port
.
_1 x 4-pin mini IEEE1394 port
.
_1 x Multimedia (MMC/SD/MS/MS Pro) Card Reader

Dimension and Weight
.
_1.6" x 15.5" x 11.3"
.
_Starting at 8 lbs.

Software
.
_Microsoft Windows Media Center 2005

 

  

Taking a quick glimpse at the system, we can see that Dell has opted to retain the exact same casing used previously. Again, this is hardly an issue as the XPS M1710 is sure to turn heads thanks to the special edition Formula Red casing and the user's choice of 16 different LED colors for the illuminated logo and fans. As before, the fit and finish of the casing's construction is excellent with panels fittings tightly and buttons having a very positive tactile feel.

 

Starting on the left side of the system and working our way over, we find an 8X Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW optical drive along with two USB ports, a large air intake, and a Kensington lock port. The back of the system is loaded with ports including an S-Video, modem, RJ-45 ethernet, 15-pin D-Sub, DVI, power, and 4 USB 2.0 ports. Rounding out the right side of the notebook, we have an ExpressCard expansion slot, IEEE 1394 port, audio jacks, and a 5-in-1 memory card reader.

Directing our attention to the bottom of the system, we find a pretty standard orientation. In addition to the fan intakes and battery, we have the wireless NIC and memory bays along with a port allowing for a docking station. Overall, the layout is clean and concise with no particular areas for concern.

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Internals

Without question, the latest incarnation of Dell's flagship XPS M1710 notebook looks identical to the company's initial offering. However, in this particular case (both literally and figuratively) it's what is lurking beneath the system's clean and polished surface which makes it unique. Armed with a handful of screwdrivers and a will to see the latest mobile technology with our own two eyes, we began to disassemble the system.

 

After popping-off the casing over the LCD hinges using a flathead screwdriver, we simply remove two Phillips screws and unlock a ribbon cable to allow us to remove the keyboard. Here, we get our first glimpse at both the CPU and GPU which are both hiding under very sizeable heatsink assemblies. In the case of the CPU, there is a single heatpipe running to a solitary copper radiator. In contrast, the flagship NVIDIA GeForce Go 7950 GTX relies upon two heatpipes and a dual copper radiator configuration to keep temperatures under control.

Unfortunately, being able to see these components at this stage is nothing more than a tease. In order to gain total access to the CPU and GPU and be able to remove the heatsink assemblies, there is an endless array of screws which must be removed from both the top and bottom of the lower assembly. After removing upwards of fifteen screws, the black bottom of the system can be removed from the silver keyboard casing and the true internals be fully exposed. Despite being a fairly long and painful process, this is certainly something only a small percentage of inquisitive enthusiasts will have to endure. 

  

The first fruits of our mechanical efforts are easily the most critical new aspect of the latest version of the XPS notebook. Here, we have the flagship 512MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7950 GTX which is designed around an MXM3 HE form factor. Looking closely at the GPU core, we see it is marked as a "GF-GO7950-GTXHN-A2". Although NVIDIA refused to comment on the details of their internal GPU marking, we would suggest that this nomenclature is to specify a particular "premium bin" of this GPU which are guaranteed to work at a particular frequency. Somewhat ironically, it is odd that the GPU "could" be binned as Dell has opted to run with the lowest 600MHz memory frequency option and not the highest 700MHz frequency the GeForce Go 7950 GTX was also supporting per the launch information.

 

The next piece of hardware we uncovered would be the Intel Core 2 Duo T7600G processor. What is extremely interesting and unique about this product is that Intel has released it with all the necessary feature for overclocking. In addition to unlocked multipliers, the CPU also features a 2.33GHz operating frequency, 4MB cache, and a 667MHz FSB. Slightly closer to the center of the motherboard, we find the Intel 945GM chipset. Seemingly a testament to a cooler operating temperature, the chipset is able to share the same copper heatpipe and radiator as the processor without having any adverse effect upon stability or system temperatures.

 

Luckily, accessing the components which reside on the below the motherboard is infinitely easier to access. Removing two screws allows us to open a small lid which covers the system's two SO-DIMM slots. The test system we received was shipped with two 1GB Samsung M470T2953CZ3-CE6 memory modules which are rated to run at 667MHz.

 

Another improvement over the previous generation XPS M1710 can be found by accessing the system's wireless bay. Again, two screws allow us to remove a lid which houses the discrete modem and wireless NIC. Unlike the Intel 3945 wireless NIC which supports 802.11a/b/g, the latest XPS M1710 uses the new Dell Wireless 1500 dual-band wireless card. Supporting a draft of the new 802.11n standard, this wireless card can support a theoretical data rate up to 270Mbps which is a healthy upgrade from 802.11g's 54Mbps, at least on paper. Looking at the wireless module itself, it is surprising to see how small the device actually is. The entire module easily fits in the palm of even the smallest hand. Putting our surprise at the size of the device at bay, we discover that Dell is utilizing a Broadcom PHY to power their latest wireless module.

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Wireless Networking

The Dell XPS M1710 arrived complete with the latest wireless technology which supports the 802.11n draft 1.0 standard. Here, we were presented with the Netgear RangeMax Next Wireless-N Router (WNR834B). By supporting up to a theoretical 270Mbps and utilizing advanced MIMO (Multi-In, Multi-Out) technology, the wireless router is able to ensure the highest possible performance for wireless operation. 

 

Taking the WNR834B wireless router out of the package, we find that the product is a very clean and understated device. This SOHO-class product supports four physical ethernet connections in addition to the support for 802.11b/g and draft 1.0 of the 802.11n standard. In addition, the router also provides both a Network Address Translation (NAT) and Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) firewall for increased security.

Rounding out the wireless network we're creating, we have the Dell Wireless 1500 network card. As previously mentioned, this device is significantly smaller than most other wireless NIC's such as the Intel 2945 802.11a/b/g wireless card found in the original XPS M1710 we reviewed last year. Looking closely at the image above, one can also clearly see the Broadcom logo on the board's logic.

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Test Systems

 

 

HotHardware's Mobile Test Systems
A Sampling of Notebooks...

 

Dell XPS M1710 version 2.0
  • 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7600G
  • Intel 945PM Chipset
  • 1 x 1GB DDR2 667MHz memory
  • 512MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7950 GTX
  • 8x DVD+/-RW with dual-layer support
  • 100GB 7200RPM Hard Drive (SATA/150)
  • 17" WUXGA display (native 1920x1200)
  • Dell Wireless 1500 802.11n draft WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 9 cell Li-Ion battery
ASUS Lamborghini VX1
  • 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7400
  • Intel 945PM Chipset
  • 2 x 1GB DDR2 667MHz memory
  • 512MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7400
  • 8x DVD+/-RW with dual-layer support
  • 160GB 5400RPM Hard Drive
  • 15" SXGA+ display (native 1400x1050)
  • Intel Pro 3945 a/b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 8 cell Li-Ion battery
ASUS Z96JS Whitebook
  • 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo T2600
  • Intel 945PM Chipset
  • 1 x 1GB DDR2 667MHz memory
  • 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1600
  • 8x DVD+/-RW with dual-layer support
  • 80GB 7200RPM Hard Drive (SATA/150)
  • 15.4" WXGA display (native 1280x800)
  • Intel Pro 3945 a/b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 6 cell Li-Ion battery

Alienware Aurora m9700
  • 2.4GHz AMD Turion64 ML-44
  • NVIDIA nForce4 SLI Chipset
  • 2 x 1GB DDR 400MHz memory
  • Dual 256MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GS
  • 8x DVD+/-RW with dual-layer support
  • 2 x 100GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive (RAID)
  • 17" WUXGA display (native 1920x1200)
  • Realtek 802.11b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 12 cell Li-Ion battery
Dell XPS M1710 Formula Red
  • 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo T2600
  • Intel 945PM Chipset
  • 2 x 1GB DDR2 667MHz memory
  • 512MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GTX
  • 8x DVD+/-RW slot-load with dual-layer support
  • 100GB Hitachi 7200RPM Hard Drive (ATA100)
  • 17" WUXGA display (native 1920x1200)
  • Intel Pro 3945 a/b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 9 cell Li-Ion battery
Alienware Area 51 m5500
  • 2.0GHz Intel Pentium M
  • Intel 915PM Chipset
  • 2 x 1GB DDR2 533MHz memory
  • 128MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600
  • 8x DVD+/-RW slot-load with dual-layer support
  • 80GB Hitachi 7200RPM Hard Drive (ATA100)
  • 15.4" WSXGA+ display (native 1680x1050)
  • Intel Pro 2915 a/b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 6 cell Li-Ion battery
ASUS W2V
  • 2.13GHz Intel Pentium M 770
  • Intel 915PM Chipset
  • 2 x 512MB DDR2 533MHz memory
  • 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon X700
  • 8x DVD+/-RW slot-load with dual-layer support
  • 100GB Fujitsu 4200RPM Hard Drive (ATA100)
  • 17.0" WSXGA display (native 1680x1050)
  • Intel Pro 2915 a/b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 8 cell Li-Ion battery

HP/Compaq TC4200 Tablet

  • 1.86GHz Intel Pentium M 750
  • Intel 915GM
  • 1 x 512MB Samsung DDR2 PC3200 memory
  • 8x DVD-ROM/24xCD-RW combo (external)
  • 60GB Hitachi 5400RPM Hard Drive (ATA100)
  • 12.1" XGA display (native 1024 x 768)
  • Intel 2200BG 802.11 b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 6 cell Li-Ion battery
Dell XPS Gen 2
  • 2.13GHz Intel Pentium M 770
  • Intel 915PM Chipset
  • 2 x 512MB Hynix DDR2 533MHz memory
  • 256MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 6800 Ultra
  • 8x DVD+/-RW
  • 100GB Fujitsu 5400RPM Hard Drive (ATA100)
  • 17" WUXGA display (native 1920x1200)
  • Intel 2915 a/b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 9 cell Li-Ion battery
Dell Inspiron 6000
  • 1.86GHz Intel Pentium M 750
  • Intel 915PM Chipset
  • 2 x 512MB Micron DDR2 400MHz memory
  • 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon X300
  • 8x DVD+/-RW
  • 60GB Fujitsu 5400RPM Hard Drive (ATA100)
  • 15.4" WXGA display (native 1280x800)
  • Dell 1450 a/b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 9 cell Li-Ion battery

Compaq V4000

  • 2.0GHz Intel Pentium M 760
  • Intel 915GM Chipset
  • 2 x 512MB Hynix DDR 333MHz memory
  • 8x DVD+/-RW
  • 80GB Toshiba 4200RPM Hard Drive (ATA100)
  • 15.4" WXGA display (native 1280x800)
  • Intel 2200 b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 6 cell Li-Ion battery

IBM R52

  • 1.73GHz Intel Pentium M 740
  • Intel 915GM Chipset
  • 1 x 512MB Micron DDR2 533MHz memory
  • 8xDVD/24xCD-RW Combo Drive
  • 40GB Hitachi 5400RPM Hard Drive (ATA100)
  • 14.1" XGA display (native 1024x768)
  • Intel 2200 b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 6 cell Li-Ion battery
IBM T43
  • 1.86GHz Intel Pentium M 760
  • Intel 915PM Chipset
  • 1 x 512MB Samsung DDR2 533MHz memory
  • 64MB ATI Mobility Radeon X300
  • 2x DVD+/-RW
  • 60GB Hitachi 7200RPM Hard Drive (ATA100)
  • 14.1" SXGA display (native 1400x1050)
  • Intel 2915 a/b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 6 cell Li-Ion battery
Sony VAIO VGN-SZ150P/C
  • 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo T2400
  • Intel 945PM Chipset
  • 1 x 1GB DDR2 533MHz memory
  • 128MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7400
  • 2.4x DVD+R
  • 80GB 5400RPM Hard Drive (SATA/150)
  • 13.3" WXGA display (native 1280x800)
  • Intel Pro 3945 a/b/g WiFi card
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • 6 cell Li-Ion battery

 

 

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Business Performance - WorldBench 5.0

 

 

PC World's WorldBench 5.0: Photoshop 7, Nero, Office XP, & Multitasking Modules
Real-World Business And Content Creation Application Performance

With WorldBench 5.0, we run a series of pre-configured scripts that we believe give a well rounded view of system performance. The tests we focus on are Office XP SP2, Photoshop 7, Nero, and the Mozilla Multitasking Modules. These results are recorded in seconds. Lower times indicate better performance here, so the shorter the bar the better. 

Taking a glimpse at the results above, we can clearly see that the Dell XPS M1710 offers some solid benefits thanks to the use of the new Intel Core 2 Duo T7600G. Here, the flagship Dell system handily defeats the other notebooks with only the ASUS VX1 and its slightly lower-clocked Intel Core 2 Duo managing to keep up.

If there were any doubts as to the strength of Intel's new Core 2 Duo architecture, one need only take a look at this plot. Here, the older architectures are significantly outpaced by the notebooks using the new flagship mobile processor. Although the race for top honors is close, the Dell XPS M1710 once again emerges as the victor.

The Office component of this benchmark certainly yielded some much more competitive scores from the rest of the field. However, we again find ourselves looking at two Intel Core 2 Duo based notebooks when trying to determine the fastest overall system. Here, the slightly higher clock speed of the XPS M1710's T7600G processor gave it just enough of an advantage to narrowly best the ASUS VX1 for the best overall score.

For the first time thus far, the XPS M1710's performance is eclipsed by another system. Although by the slightest of margins, the ASUS Lamborghini VX1 is able to narrowly beat the flagship system from Dell. These two systems were clearly more powerful than the rest of the field, again proving that Intel's latest CPU architecture is a design to be reckoned with.

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Gaming Performance 1

 

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark05 v1.2.0
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/

3DMark05
3DMark05 is the part of a long line of synthetic 3D graphics benchmarks, dating back to late 1998. 3DMark05 is a synthetic benchmark that requires a DirectX 9.0 compliant video card, with support for Pixel Shaders 2.0 or higher, to render all of the various modules that comprise the suite. To generate its final "score", 3DMark05 runs three different simulated game tests and uses each test's framerate in the final tabulation. Fillrate, Memory bandwidth, and compute performance especially all have a measurable impact on performance in this benchmark. We ran 3DMark05's default test (1,024 x 768) on all of the cards and configurations we tested, and have the overall results posted for you below.

One of the most surprising aspects of the results above is the fact that the change from the 512MB GeForce Go 7900 GTX to the new 512MB GeForce Go 7950 GTX in the XPS M1710 yielded nearly an additional 1,000 points and narrowly missed besting even the dual-GPU SLI notebook from Alienware for top honors. For those looking for some serious gaming horsepower, no other single-GPU can match this latest flagship mobile GPU from NVIDIA. 

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.0.2
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/

3DMark06
Futuremark recently launched a brand-new version of their popular benchmark, 3DMark06. The new version of the benchmark is updated in a number of ways, and now includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups the number of instructions to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting, and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.

Once we begin using a more updated benchmark with support for the latest visual bells and whistles, we see the new GeForce Go 7950 GTX truly flex its muscles. Here, even the Alienware SLI notebook with two GPUs is unable to keep up with the Dell XPS M1710. In fact, the XPS notebook is offering more than 6x the performance of the 512MB GeForce Go 7400 found in the ASUS VX1. Without a doubt, the XPS M1710 is one of the fastest mobile platforms on the planet when it comes to gaming. 

Performance Comparisons with Quake 4
Details: http://www.quake4game.com/

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, recently released the latest addition to the wildly popular Quake franchise, Quake 4. Quake 4 is based upon an updated and slightly modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows, but unlike Doom3, Quake 4 features some outdoor environments as well. We ran this these Quake 4 benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at a resolution of 1024x768 without anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering enabled and the aspect ratio set to "Widescreen".

 

Regardless of how a system performs in a synthetic benchmark, it takes an actual game to truly see how a notebook will perform in a true gaming environment. Using Quake 4, we are able to see that there is no other solution tested which can even come close to the performance offered by the latest iteration of Dell's flagship gaming notebook. Here, the newest XPS M1710 eclipses its predecessor by nearly 50fps and almost doubles the performance offered by the next-fastest system.

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Gaming Performance 2

 

Performance Comparisons with Quake 4
Details: http://www.quake4game.com/

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, recently released the latest addition to the wildly popular Quake franchise, Quake 4. Quake 4 is based upon an updated and slightly modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows, but unlike Doom3, Quake 4 features some outdoor environments as well. We ran this these Quake 4 benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at a resolution of 1024x768 without anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering enabled and the aspect ratio set to "Widescreen".

 

Unlike the previous scenario where no enhanced image quality settings were enabled, there is no large performance delta between the new XPS M1710 and the previous model. Rather, once 4xAA and 8xAF are introduced there is less than a 3fps difference between the two systems. With a mere 75MHz advantage in terms of GPU core frequency, this hardly comes as a surprise. Regardless, both the GeForce Go 7900 GTX and GeForce Go 7950 GTX have a sizeable advantage over the Alienware system equipped with two GeForce Go 7900 GS GPU's running in SLI mode.

Once the resolution is increased up to 1920x1200, we still see the same performance rankings we saw earlier. Here, the latest XPS M1710 barely edges out the previous iteration with the Alienware SLI notebook trailing in a somewhat distant third position. As the image quality settings increase, the performance delta between the XPS and Alienware notebooks begins to drastically decrease.

Once we introduce 4xAA and 8xAF when running at 1920x1200, there are less than 4fps separating the three notebooks. Regardless, the overall ranking remains unchanged with the latest XPS M1710 taking top honors followed by the previous version and then by the Alienware SLI system. It should be noted that all three systems were running with an average framerate above 40fps making for solid gameplay. As we suspected, this ranking changed once 8xAA and 8xAF were enabled as the power of the dual GPU Alienware system finally overpowered the single GPU systems from Dell. Even here, no notebook was able to break 20fps making the game anything but fluid and playable at these settings.

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MobileMark 2005 - Battery Performance

Battery Info & Performance
Transitioning Testing to MobileMark 2005

We are using the standard benchmark settings from Bapco, along with a few other minor system tweaks. The screensaver was disabled and the volume was set at approximately 20%.

MobileMark 2005 utilizes the following applications:

  • Microsoft Word 2002
  • Microsoft Excel 2002
  • Microsoft PowerPoint 2002
  • Microsoft Outlook 2002
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer
  • Netscape Communicator 6.0
  • McAfee VirusScan 5.13
  • Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1
  • Macromedia Flash 5
  • WinZip 8.0
  • InterVideo WinDVD 6.0

Compared with the thin and light design of the ASUS Lamborghini VX1, it is no surprise to see the desktop-replacement XPS M1710 taking a back-seat in the battery life test for MobileMark 2005. Regardless, the Dell system performs surprisingly well and manages to offer a very respectable score of 178. Considering the caliber of the hardware harnessed underneath this chassis, it is an impressive feat to see a score such as this.

Although the ASUS Lamborhini VX1 remains the stronger system in this benchmark, the Dell XPS M1710 does manage to gain some ground and come within striking distance once overall performance is factored into the equation. Here, the slight advantage in terms of CPU clock speed gives the XPS enough of an edge to make the comparison closer than many might expect.

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Startup Performance

 

Startup Performance
Powering Up...

The times listed below reflect the time it took for the system to power up until the cursor appeared with no busy indicator on the desktop background.

Although far from being the worst offender, the XPS M1710 came equipped with a fair amount of applications which loaded each time Windows was booted. As a result, the system took a slightly better than average 33 seconds to boot. Fortunately, Dell now offers a service in which customers can specify what should or should not be loaded out of the box. If done correctly, the time taken to fully boot into Windows will be reduced dramatically. 

Although having a rather average showing in terms of required time to boot, the XPS M1710 finds itself on the podium with regards to the time necessary to recover from Standby mode. Here, only the Dell 6000 manages to have any significant performance advantage over the new XPS system. 

In similar fashion to the results coming out of standby mode, the XPS M1710 receives another top-three finish with a very respectable 11 second performance returning from Hibernation mode. Here, only the Dell 6000 and Alienware Aurora m9700 were able to best the XPS notebook by the slightest of margins.

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Overclocking

 

Overclocking
Pushing the limits of a  mobile platform...

Although overclocking is finally beginning to become a more mainstream effort on the desktop front, the last place many would expect to see overclocking tests would be in a notebook review. There are countless hurdles to be overcome when overclocking a mobile platform, with heat dissipation and power consumption being the most notable. However, given the sheer size of the heatsink assembly within the XPS M1710 it should be up to the challenge.

Accessible through the Performance section of the BIOS, users will find an option for "CPU Overclock Support". Here, we are given the ability to take advantage of the Intel Core 2 Duo T7600G's unlocked multiplier to effectively raise the CPU operating frequency up form the stock 2.33GHz all the way up to a healthy 3.16GHz. Unfortunately, we do not have any ability to raise core voltages to aid in the success of our overclocking attempts. However, it is still a welcomed sight to see any overclocking options at all appearing in a mobile system's BIOS.

Within the confinements of our lab, we were able to successfully overclock the Dell XPS M1710 to 3GHz with no adverse effects upon stability or performance. To ensure we were dealing with a stable system, 3DMark06 was configured to loop for six hours before we deemed the configuration acceptable. Unfortunately, our attempts to operate at the highest 3.16GHz option were met with some lackluster results as performance was actually lower and the system's behavior was flaky at best. Curious whether the system's heatsink assembly was beyond the breaking point and limiting our potential, we brought the notebook outside and introduced it to the balmy -9*F weather of New Hampshire. Even with such painfully cold temperatures, we could not obtain a stable system when operating at 3.16GHz despite being able to boot into Windows without error. We suspect the CPU throttling or was in need of a bit more voltage,although with no options in the BIOS to adjust this setting we'll never truly know.

Although 3DMark06 isn't known for huge leaps in scores when CPUs are overclocked, we still are able to see more than a 200 point increase over the stock configuration. If nothing else, this limits the chances of the CPU being the performance bottleneck for the system and allows the 512MB GeForce Go 7950 GTX to truly flex its muscles.

When running Quake4 at 1024x768, we witnessed some very impressive performance gains thanks to our overclocking attempts. Here, the jump up to 3GHz provided us with a significant 12fps boost over our stock configuration. Considering the fact that this change took less than five minutes and did not cost us a single cent, we you can't help but like that kind of result.

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Conclusion

When we initially agreed to take a look at Dell's latest version of the XPS M1710 notebook, we were a little hesitant since we had reviewed the older version of the notebook last summer and awarded it a coveted Editor's Choice award. At first glance, it seemed as though there was little that could possible change since the chassis and overall design remained untouched. Regardless, we opted to give the new version of the machine a chance and see for ourselves the difference a few months could make in the lifecycle of a mobile platform.

Looking at the specifications for the system, one could easily dismiss the latest XPS M1710 as a minor refresh using slightly faster parts. Judging from the benchmark scores and overclocking results, it seems safe to say this is anything but the case. Rather, there are enough significant gains in terms of performance and functionality that warrant giving the system an entirely new model designation. In terms of the CPU, Dell has certainly pushed the envelope by providing consumers with a notebook which can be manually overclocked with ease thanks to an unlocked processor and convenient BIOS options. In terms of the GPU, there are smaller gains with the update to the new GeForce Go 7950 GTX. Here, we have only a slight 75MHz increase in core frequency so it is hardly a groundbreaking event. Regardless, this new GPU represents the fastest mobile GPU available today so it seems logical to expect Dell to include it in the refresh of its mobile flagship. If nothing else, the power and flexibility of the PureVideo HD technology allows for stellar image quality and dramatically lower CPU utilization with multimedia playback. This segues perfectly into the new option for XPS notebooks that'll ship with Blu-Ray optical drives for viewing the latest high-definition media. When combined with the gorgeous widescreen LCD supporting a 1920x1200 resolution, the multimedia experience with this notebook should be top notch. Lastly, Dell has taken the opportunity to offer support for the latest draft of the upcoming 802.11n wireless standard. Although many will argue that supporting a "draft" of a standard is futile as specifications will change when the standard is finalized, it is hard to fault Dell for wanting to offer the latest and greatest technology which can be purchased today. This is an appropriate way to summarize the latest XPS M1710, as the notebook certainly does encompass the latest flagship mobile technology money can buy today. This level of technology does not come cheap, a fact evident by the roughly $3700 price-tag of the special edition XPS M1710 we tested. Then again, owning the absolute fastest technology has never been an thrifty exercise.

 

Like all good things in this world, the XPS M1710 is not without some faults, although we should probably lay some blame on NVIDIA. It would have been nice to see Dell opt for the increased 700MHz memory frequency for the "new" GeForce Go 7950 GTX rather than remain with the 600MHz standard. In fact, it would have been even better if NVIDIA (or ATI for that matter) could have offered a DX10 GPU to pair with Dell's latest revision to their XPS notebook. With no mobile DX10 parts available just yet, however, it also would have been nice to at least have the option of running two GeForce Go 7950 GTX GPUs in an SLI configuration to really have some phenomenal gaming horsepower. Granted, it is hard to complain with the benchmark numbers we witnessed from this mobile system. However, one would expect a little bit more of a performance increase in moving from the GeForce Go 7900 GTX to the "new" GeForce Go 7950 GTX than what we witnessed with Quake 4.

 

After spending months doing our best to stress the latest XPS M1710, we find ourselves in a somewhat unusual situation. Weeks of gaming, days of stress-testing, and even subjecting the system to the chaos of CES, and we never ran into any stability issues or encountered any glitches of any sort. In every respect, the Dell system was solid as a rock and always able to handle the task at hand. Here, the system was able to run any title we had on hand with ease at some of the highest resolutions. The notebook displayed a gorgeous image when viewing DVDs or HD content and did a respectable job in the audio department as well. And in terms of general productivity, the system's Intel Core 2 Duo T7600G processor was a great performer. Enthusiasts might find themselves clamoring for more, like a DX10-class GPU. However, with all of the performance and functionality of the system in mind we need to wonder whether any of it is needed right now. Dell can only offer what hardware vendors are making available today and to that end they have done an exceptional job. As it stands, the Dell XPS M1710 was an exceptional mobile system when we reviewed the notebook last summer. Thanks to the addition of the latest in mobile hardware and new functionality, Dell's latest update to this platform has managed to make what was already an ideal system that much better. Given the blistering performance, rock-solid stability, and excellent craftsmanship for the system we once again award the Dell XPS M1710 v2.0 our coveted Editor's Choice award and strongly recommend the system to anyone looking for enthusiast desktop performance in a mobile form factor.

   

  • Core 2 Duo with unlocked multiplier
  • Factory Overclocking
  • Desktop-caliber performance
  • Stunning customizable aesthetics
  • High Quality Accessory Bundle
  • Blu-Ray optical drive option
  • Still expensive
  • No DX10 GPU
  • 802.11n "draft" soon to be outdated
  • No SLI configuration

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