The XPS M1730 is a groundbreaking achievement in mobile gaming. That isn't hyperbole from a Dell press release -- it's fact.
It's the first laptop ever to use a dedicated Ageia PhysX processing unit alongside two separate high-end graphics cards. In most gaming situations, there isn't another laptop on the planet that can compete. Anyone with a large enough wallet -- and a strong enough back -- can buy one from the Dell Web site starting from £1,599.
The XPS M1730 is not pretty, but what did you expect from a laptop nicknamed 'The Beast'? Like most of Dell's consumer laptop range, it's available in a range of colours, including red, blue, grey and white. We were sent the grey model, which if you look closely has a swirly, carbon fibre-esque pattern that give it a scaly, reptilian look.
Dell has stamped the XPS logo prominently on both sides of the lid. These sit atop illuminated glass panels whose sole purpose, it seems, is to tell the world you have a fast laptop. More lights can be found elsewhere on the laptop, including the white backlit keyboard, and red LEDs behind the front-facing speaker grille.
If the M1730's built-in lightshow doesn't grab enough attention, the enormous chassis certainly will. At nearly 51mm thick, it's probably the fattest 17-inch laptop we've ever seen. It's also one of the heaviest at 4.81Kg. It's not as weighty as its chassis might imply, but thin-bodied dorks will not appreciate taking it to and from LAN parties. The whole thing harks back to a time when portable computers were only 'portable' if you owned a forklift truck.
Other funky aesthetic inclusions include a 51mm LED display above the keyboard. This gives you system information including the current time and date, CPU and memory usage and a stopwatch and countdown timer. Less superfluous additions inclue media playback buttons on the front edge, two headphone ports for listening to audio with a friend.
The XPS M1730 can be kitted out with a range of parts to suit your needs -- and luckily for gamers, they're all very potent. Dell sent us the bottom-rung model, which uses a far-from-pedestrian 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T7500. A 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo T7700 chip is available, as is the all-singing, game-murdering Core 2 Extreme X7900. At the time of writing, not even Alienware has this CPU option, but be wary -- the price you pay for upgrading to the T7700 or X7900 can be pretty shocking.
The base model comes with 2GB of RAM, which should be plenty for most users. Power users and video editing aficionados may want to add an extra 2GB, but we wouldn't recommend this. It'll cost you a small fortune compared to what you'd pay if you bought third-party RAM and installed it yourself.
Graphics is what this laptop is all about, and you'll be pleased to hear it's more than capable of throwing a few polygons around. It would have been fairly potent if it used just one Nvidia GeForce 8700M graphics card, but Dell has thrown two together in a serial link interface (SLI). That's nerd speak for "there's two of the buggers -- so games don't stand a chance".