Sibling Rivalry: Dell XPS M1730 vs. Alienware Area-51 m9750

XPS M1730 Components

Try as he may, chief lab technician Shelton Romhanyi wasn’t able to disassemble the XPS M1730 without damage, so our photos are limited to those few parts he could access.

One of the more impressive features of Dell’s XPS M1730 is its overclocking capability. Overclocking is a rare find in notebooks, so even minimal adjustability would be extraordinary, and that’s exactly what you get. The mobile Intel Core 2 Extreme X7900 is multiplier unlocked, so the 2.80 GHz XPS M1730 supports it at speeds up to 3.40 GHz. No further BIOS settings are available, and notebook cooling limits forced our testing to stop at 3.0 GHz.

Dell rates its battery in Watt hours rather than milliamp hours, but our calculators tell us that its 85Wh rating at 11.1 volts is equal to 7658 milliamp hours. That’s certainly larger than the 4400mAh typical of midsized notebooks.

Two DIMM slots come equipped with two 1GB DDR2-667 modules for 2GB total memory. Dell offers an upgrade to 4GB for an offensive additional charge, though our recommendation for XPS M1730 buyers who want 4GB memory is to order the 2GB configuration and replace the RAM themselves to avoid being ripped off.

Notebook drives are finally approaching acceptable daily-use capacities, and Dell boosted its XPS M1730 to 400GB by using two 200GB drives in the on-chipset RAID controller’s Level 0 mode. Level 0 also increases peak theoretical throughput by up to 100%, though typical increases are 20%-50%.

At no additional cost, Dell allows buyers to substitute these 200GB 7200RPM drives for two 250GB 5400RPM drives, increasing capacity from 400GB to 500GB but reducing performance slightly. The reduction in rotational speed typically decreases heat and power consumption as well, but Dell doesn’t provide any further details.

Buyers with loads of cash and not much need for capacity can also choose Dell’s flagship 128GB SSD (Solid State Disk) Level 0 array. Whoever buys these will help drive SSD’s into the mainstream, so wealthy customers should feel free to take one "for the team".

Likely chosen for its low power consumption and low heat output, Dell’s motherboard is based on Intel’s mobile P965 Express chipset. But unlike most other Intel chipset systems, the M1730 uses an SLI pair of mobile graphics chips for increased gaming performance. This presents something of a conundrum for desktop users who’ve found that SLI "doesn’t work" with Intel chipsets.

The magic is in the graphics driver: Nvidia simply refuses to let "competing brand" desktop chipsets use SLI mode because doing so would eat into its SLI chipset sales. In fact, Nvidia even "disables" SLI on some of its own chipsets so it can boost prices on those bearing the SLI label. Yet the company doesn’t produce an adequately power-efficient notebook chipset, so it allows (begrudgingly we assume) SLI mode on competing-brand notebook chipsets.

That the PM965 Express is nothing other than Intel’s desktop P965 Express with a few power-optimized features is further proof that Intel chipsets really are SLI capable, and that Nvidia is using graphics driver "locks" as a way to force desktop users to buy motherboards using its chipsets. This strong-arm tactic leaves desktop SLI users with the single hope that Nvidia will improve its chipsets to meet Intel’s technological challenge, while buyers of gaming notebooks such as the M1730 get the best of both worlds - SLI and an efficient Intel chipset - but only if they’re willing to accept the lower-performance of Nvidia’s mobile graphics processors.

Create a new thread in the UK Article comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • americanbrian
    Dell XPS's are nice, but to be fair the application performance is irrelevant. The huge cost of these are only justified by the gaming performance.

    In this the Low Res gaming, doesn't matter a toss either. Alienware probably have better build quality. Do you notice as well that only the dell got the look inside and out. Biased article. If you have a choice never buy dell.
  • Sewje
    I don't understand why you would bench compare the two machines with two different operating systems. This make the whole comparision between them very inaccurate.
    At least use the same os configuration if you want to compare benchmarks between the two.

    A very unprofessional article.