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.