Dell XPS M1730 Mobile Gaming Notebook

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Under The Hood

Now that we've examined the shiny exterior of the XPS M1730, lets strip it down and examine its guts. The underside of the XPS M1730 is painted a plain, flat black. Worthy of note is that the M1730's chassis is mostly made of magnesium, which results in its 12lb weight (with battery). While the bottom of the M1730 appears to be hard plastic at first, it is actually metal with a thick layer of black paint. Located at the top is a large system of vents that spans the entire width of the chassis. In the center of the chassis is the memory bay, and to the left is the hard drive bay.

We begin our dissection by removing the battery. The M1730 gets its power from a large 85Wh battery. Like other Dell laptop batteries, the one used by the M1730 has a battery life meter built into it. The meter consists of five LEDs and a button. When the button is depressed, the remaining battery life is displayed by the LEDs. While this feature isn't especially useful when the battery is in the laptop, it can come in handy when you have one or more backup batteries. The meter allows you to easily check the remaining battery life in your backup battery without having to plug it into the laptop.

     

The memory bay is located in the center of the chassis and it's marked by a capital M. The bay is covered by a metal lid which is secured to the chassis by two screws. Once the lid is removed, the SO-DIMM memory slots are easily accessible.  Our review unit was populated by two sticks of Nanya 1GB PC2-5300 memory with factory timings of 5-5-5-12. Also visible in the memory bay is part of a heat spreader and a heatpipe. Under the heatpipe is the chipset. To the right of the memory bay is a rectangular hole which reveals a single screw. The screw secures the optical drive to the chassis.

The hard drive bay is to the left of the memory bay. Like the memory bay, the hard drive bay is also covered by a metal lid. Removing the lid reveals a strange drive contraption. The XPS M1730 can support two 2.5" SATA notebook drives and it does this in a rather unique way. The two drives are attached, back-to-back, to a drive bracket. The bracket has four dampened, captive screws, two per side. The screws suspend the drive bracket to the chassis. The drives are connected to a proprietary splitter that combines the SATA data and power connections of both drives into a single proprietary connector which connects to the M1730's motherboard. We thought this drive arrangement was quite clever and we also liked that the drives are suspended by dampened screws, which isolate a significant amount of vibration from the chassis, which reduces drive noise and protects them as well.

    

     

The last of the expansion bays are hidden under the keyboard. With the keyboard removed, we see the mini-LCD, monitor hinges and several shallow mini-PCIe bays. With the mini-LCD completely exposed, we can that it is indeed a Logitech product and the logo can be seen in the lower right corner. The mini-LCD is connected to the motherboard by a long cable that runs in a shallow channel cut into the chassis. Under the plug where the mini-LCD is connected to the motherboard is the CMOS battery. To the left of the battery is the WLAN bay which contains the 802.11 wireless card. All of the antennae for the M1730 are located in the monitor housing. The antennae wires for the WLAN run up to the monitor in another shallow channel cut into the chassis. Every M1730 has a WLAN card, but there are two to choose from, the Intel Wireless 3945 a/g and the 4965 a/g/n. Draft-n capability will cost you an additional $25.

To the left of the WLAN bay are two empty bays. These two bays, labeled 'WWAN' and 'WPAN' are located right above the touchpad. The WPAN bay is for the installation of a Bluetooth card. The WWAN bay is for the installation of a wireless mobile broadband card. Dell offers two different WWAN cards, a HSPDA 3.6 (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) card for use with 3G GSM mobile networks, like AT&T. Dell also offers a EVDO Rev A (Evolution-Data Optimized) card for use with CDMA mobile networks like the ones operated by Sprint and Verizon. In the case that a HSPDA card is installed, the SIM card can be inserted into a SIM card slot located under the battery, inside the battery bay. In the case that a EVDO card is installed, the user's subscriber information can be attached to the laptop via a bay, also located under the battery.

Our review unit did not come with Bluetooth or a mobile wireless broadband card so these bays were empty. A Bluetooth 2.0 EDR module only adds an additional $20 to the cost of the laptop and can be added with Dell's online configurator. Both WWAN cards add an additional $150 to the cost of the laptop, however you can receive a $100-$120 discount when you activate with a mobile broadband subscriber.

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