Though the chassis and in particular the screen do throw up some question marks, it’s in performance that the XPS M1730 really disappoints. Not because it’s incapable of performing well, but that for a variety of reasons getting the very best out of all that hardware is a very difficult thing to do.
These comments must be prefaced by the fact that application performance is very good, with the M1730 putting in solid results in all of our tests. Unsurprisingly this can’t be said of battery performance, with one and half hours being the most one can reasonable expect. However, this is hardly a great issue for a gaming notebook, what counts is gaming performance and as you might have guessed by now not everything is how it ought to be.
To test gaming performance the XPS M1730 was put through a number of tests, including Counter-Strike: Source, Prey and Crysis as automated tests, along with some purely subjective testing using a number of different games. What became clear from all this testing was that gaming performance was too inconsistent, while even at its best it wasn’t much of an improvement over the Alienware Area-51 m9750 that used two GeForce Go 7950 GTX’s in SLI.
Indeed, in the case of Counter-Strike: Source performance was even lower than a single 8700M GT, in both SLI and in single card mode. Why? In large part this is caused by a lack of proper driver support because, unlike desktop graphics, it is up to the vendor (i.e. Dell) to keep updating the mobile graphics drivers as nVidia updates its own drivers.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen anywhere near as quickly as it ought to, with the current Dell provided drivers being version 156.69 while nVidia’s have reached version 163.75. It is this and some continuing issues with multiple GPU support in Vista that makes the XPS M1730 an awkward machine to use, with many resorting to unofficial drivers to try and eek out the performance they expect – a luxury many less informed users will not seek out.
A brief look at the results of the automated benchmarks demonstrates this. In Counter-Strike: Source, with all tests being run at 1,920 x 1,200, the M1730 was as much as 20 frames per second slower than even a machine using a single 8700M GT and though this result is skewed somewhat due to software issues, that these issues exist is worrying enough.
Moving to Prey, where no such issues exist, the results are decent, but by no means outstanding. As mentioned previously they’re still slower than previous the generation Go 7950 GTX in SLI, while unsurprisingly it trails the GeForce 8800M GTX equipped Rock X770 T7700-8800 by some margin. This is hardly the kind of performance one would expect of a machine that’s meant for gaming, while the aforementioned inconsistency only compounds the problem.