The third pillar of the M1730's graphics system is an Ageia PhysX processing unit. While the CPU is busy doing things like artificial intelligence and the graphics card is rendering the visuals, the PhysX unit calculates all the movements and interactions between objects. Complex object interaction is certainly possible without a PhysX unit, but to the detriment of either AI or graphics speed.
Dell could have ruined the entire exercise by fitting the wrong type of screen, but it hasn't. The 17-inch display on the XPS M1730 runs at a highly-impressive 1,920x1,200 pixels. This resolution is significantly higher than most other 17-inch laptops, and since SLI graphics works best at high resolutions, it's ideal. The only drawback is the fact the screen is too dark. It's very difficult using it indoors, although bizarrely, despite it having a glossy coating, it's perfectly visible outside.
The XPS M1730's hard drive configuration is a bit of a mystery to us. It's available with single hard drives of up to 320GB in size, but the dual hard drive configurations only allow for two 250GB drives simultaneously. This allows for a maximum 500GB of storage and not 640GB as we'd have preferred. The good news is that The Beast is available with a Blu-ray drive, and the DVI output port is HDCP-compliant so you can watch copy-protected flicks in full 1080p. A DVD rewriter drive is also available should you wish to save £270.
For those of you who've scrolled straight to the performance section, we'll put you out of your misery. Even though our review sample doesn't use a Core 2 Extreme CPU, it's still the fastest laptop we've tested. PCMark 2006 returned a score of 5,830, which is way higher than the 4,828 returned by the Lenovo Thinkpad T61p -- and that used a 2.4GHz CPU.
Gaming scores were equally impressive. It racked up 8,870 in 3DMark 2006, which is the highest we've seen on any laptop. Its closest competitor -- the Alienware Aurora mALX --
scored 5,905. If you're after a laptop that plays the latest and most demanding games at high resolutions, The Beast is truly the one to own.
The XPS M1730 is by no means perfect -- some games are still too demanding to run at full resolution, even for its blisteringly quick components. Culprits include Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, but you can scale back the resolution and detail levels slightly and still have a good old frag-fest.
Battery life was pretty laughable -- hardly surprising, since it's powering so many different high-end components. It lasted approximately 30 minutes in our intensive BatteryEater test, which will come as no surprise to you. If you stray too far from the mains with an XPS M1730, you're going to run out of juice quicker than vending machines at marathon finishing lines.
The XPS M1730 is the best gaming laptop in the world right now. It slays the Alienware mALX for several reasons: it's nearly 2kg lighter, its display resolution is significantly higher and it's less expensive. If you're a fan of hi-res PC games, you needn't look any further.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday
Update: A previous version of this review stated an incorrect 3DMark 2006 score.