With dimensions of 406 x 302.6 x 50.7mm (WxDxH) and a total weight of 4.81kg in this respect the M1730 is every bit "The Beast" it purports to be, dominating any space it happens to be occupying. Its size isn't the only thing that's eye-catching either, with various shades of backlighting emanating from the lid, keyboard, touch pad and even the two speakers set into the front edge. All of which is actually quite cool, especially the lid backlighting which looks rather snazzy - many thanks to our photographer Martin for the excellent shots of this. If anything, though, the red lights on the front do stretch the concept a little far, making it look rather like Knight Rider's evil twin and consequently just a little bit silly.
Another feature of note is the small LCD screen above the keyboard, which is actually powered by Logitech software originally made for the Logitech G15 gaming keyboard. Since it's so popular there are plenty of small applets available that are designed for the screen and though only a minority might actually desire such an addition, it's another nice and unique feature that helps set the M1730 apart from other gaming notebooks.
Overall, it's difficult to know what to say about the design of the M1730. On first inspection you'd be reasonable to consider it rather ugly, but look beyond the rather unfortunate fake carbon fibre finish and there are lots of cool touches here and there. In some respects it falls into many of the typical traps that befall gaming notebooks, going for a gaudy modded look that just looks and feels a little forced - this is still an Inspiron based chassis after all. However, some of better and classier elements of the design do enough to make up for this shortcoming.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the display on the XPS M1730. Having seen a great number of very good 1,920 x 1,200 notebook screens in recent times, it's hard not to be completely under whelmed by what's seen here. Though it's sharp enough, it lacks brightness and has appalling light bleed from the bottom edge. So bad is it that it's easily visible while playing games and watching video, proving very distracting. Moreover, the lack of colour vibrancy makes watching video disappointing, with the only caveat being the above average responsiveness.
At least connectivity is fairly solid. A Dual-Link DVI is a nice addition, allowing for connection to 30in monitors with a 2,560 x 1,600 native resolution - though don't expect to be able to play games at this setting. You also get four USB ports, FireWire, dual-headphone ports, a microphone jack and an S-Video Out, along with an 8-in-1 memory card reader.
You may have noticed there are no HDMI or D-SUB outputs here, but such connectivity is possible thanks to DVI adapters that are included in the box. It does mean, though, that you can't pipe audio through the HDMI, which rather highlights the lack of an optical audio out. This makes for another compelling reason to avoid the Blu-ray drive, since output options are fairly limited.