After careful examination, we have found the XPS M1730 to be a well constructed laptop. The M1730's layout has been well thought out from a service and upgrade perspective and we found it fairly straight forward to work with. Now that we've thoroughly examined the XPS M1730, let's explore what it is like to actually use one.
While the M1730 may be taxing to carry around, its magnesium chassis makes it very sturdy. Unlike many smaller laptops, the M1730 is definitely not flimsy by any standard. The laptop lid is secured by two latches above the LCD screen and they do a good job of holding the lid closed during transport. While we made no attempt to overtly abuse our review unit to test its mettle, we are fairly confident the M1730 can survive the bumps and bruises of daily on-the-go use. The M1730 is probably one of the few laptops you could use to successfully defend yourself from a bear attack in a pinch, should such a scenario arise (HotHardware does not condone bear violence).
Located above the LCD monitor is a 2.0 megapixel camera and a pair of digital array microphones. The camera is fixed and cannot be rotated independently of the laptop lid. We found the picture quality to be average. It should be sufficient for webcam tasks. On either side of the camera is a microphone. The microphones did a good job of picking up our voice, even with moderate background noise, although they still can't beat a headset.
Like all recent Dell XPS models, the M1730 comes with a XPS branded leather binder. Inside the binder you'll find the user manuals and slots to put your driver DVDs. Also included with the M1730 is a small cloth pouch that contains a complimentary pair of Creative EP-630 in-canal earbuds.
Keyboard & Touchpad
The M1730 offers a full-size numpad complete with a calculator Fn key which launches the Calculator applications in Windows. Other Fn keys include the F1 key, which puts the system in sleep mode, the F3 key which is a shortcut for the battery life application and the F8 key which toggles the video-out. Three of the arrow keys also have alternate Fn functions. The up and down arrow keys adjust screen brightness while 'right' arrow key toggles the keyboard backlighting. We did notice some keyboard sag on the left side but it only became apparent when significant pressure was applied, more pressure than you would normally use to type. Overall, the keyboard was on par with other laptop keyboards we have used and relatively pleasant to type on.
The M1730's touchpad is quite responsive and tracking was reliable. The touchpad buttons have a good, solid feel and provide nice tactile feedback as well as a satisfying click sound. We found that the touchpad was a bit too small and we wished the tracking area was larger. On the other hand, the touchpad buttons were plenty large and we wish they had been smaller to allow more room for the tracking area. The row of media keys on the front of the M1730 were well positioned and easy to access but they provided poor feedback and felt 'squishy'.
Ports & Connections
Speakers & Sound Quality
As previously mentioned, the M1730 comes with a complimentary pair of Creative EP-630 in-canal earbuds. These earbuds are very popular and well reviewed. Also included are two extra sets of pads that can be changed with the set already installed on each bud. The new pads are of different sizes so it is a good idea to try them out to find the right size for your ears. We briefly tested them and found them to be quite good. Noise isolation is excellent, and the bass is out in force. Highs were good but mids lack detail. While we didn't particularly like them for music, they sounded great with movies and especially games. Overall a significant improvement compared to the M1730's speakers and decent headphones overall.
The XPS M1730 also has two headphone ports on the left side, as well as a microphone port. The extra headphone port lets you share your music or movie with a friend. These three ports can be configured to provide surround sound output in case you want to use a set of surround sound speakers with your M1730. We liked this feature since it means we can hook up surround sound speakers out of the box, without the need to purchase an external sound card or use a break-out box.
Heat & Noise
While the fans were quiet and easy to live with, the optical drive was not. When the optical drive spins up to speed, the entire laptop vibrates and a significant amount of noise is produced. While this is fairly common with laptops, we thought it was especially bad on the M1730. Thankfully it's not a huge concern unless your constantly accessing the optical drive. The hard drives, on the other hand, were completely inaudible.
Considering the caliber of the components in use and the relative silence of the system's fans, we were worried that the laptop would heat up after extended use. After a couple hours of loading, during benchmarking, the M1730 remained relatively cool to the touch. The wrist rest area under the keyboard was never more than lukewarm at worst and the keyboard also remained cool. The rear of the laptop did get warm but it was nothing too concerning. We are glad that Dell did not make the mistake of positioning the exhaust vents on the left or right side of the laptop. When the system is under load, the fans do jettison a significant amount of hot air and if the exhaust vent had been on the either the left or right side of the laptop, using a mouse could have become uncomfortable.