Introduction

There's been a mantra associated with laptops pretty much since they came into being: if you're looking to build the fastest computer possible, get a desktop; the only reason to get a laptop is if you want mobility more than anything else, because laptops are always slower than equivalent desktops. While that statement is still true for the most part, the difference between top-performing desktop systems and top-performing laptops has been diminishing for many years. With NVIDIA working on mobile SLI solutions, we are nearing the point where the major difference between desktop systems and laptops is going to be price. Today marks the launch of NVIDIA's GeForce Go 7900 offerings, ranging from the 7900 256MB GPUs up through 7900 GTX 512MB configurations.

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Unlike the desktop market, it is extremely difficult (actually impossible at present) to review a mobile graphics offering without getting a laptop built around the new GPU. The good news is that Dell sent us their new XPS M1710 with the top-end 7900 GTX 512MB chip, so we have a chance to see exactly what the new mobile graphics "king" brings to the table. Dell didn't stop with stuffing in the fastest mobile graphics chip either; they've decked out the system with a flashy appearance, Intel's fastest mobile processor, 2GB of DDR2 memory, and a huge 17 inch widescreen display with a native 1920x1200 resolution. Clearly, this isn't a notebook targeting the Thin and Light market, but rather it's going after the Desktop Replacement (DTR) segment.

When it comes to computers, just about every person in the world has heard of Dell. Some people love them, some people hate them, and many of their competitors likely fear them. Dell is much maligned in the hardware enthusiast community, and though they have certainly deserved it at times, it's important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. Dell manufactures and sells literally millions of computers per year, and when you deal in that sort of volume, with product markets targeting everything from the value segment up through the high-end servers, there are bound to be better products and worse products. Most knowledgeable people realize that there's no such thing as a perfect system that will fill the needs of every individual; a system needs to be tailored to fit the usage requirements of the user, and as often as not that is where people run into problems when dealing with large OEMs.

It is extremely unlikely that any hardware enthusiast would be thrilled to get the latest value desktop system from Dell, just like a classic car buff probably isn't going to be happy fixing up a 1970 Ford Pinto. In fact, there are plenty of people that would never want any form of Dell computer -- for example, overclocking enthusiasts will find that Dell simply chooses not to cater to them at all. We need to keep things in perspective, though, because not everyone wants to overclock; many people will be perfectly happy with an inexpensive, reasonably performing, reliable computer.

Getting back to the topic at hand, laptops are a market that's quite different from the world of desktop enthusiasts. Balancing performance and features against weight, size, and battery life gives manufacturers plenty of opportunities to configure their laptops to fit specific needs. It doesn't require much deductive reasoning to determine that this particular laptop focuses more on improving performance and offering higher end features than on longer battery life or size, so what we're primarily interested in determining is how this system fares as a mobile gaming platform.

In order to keep the document size manageable and bring you the latest reviews in a timely fashion, we're going to review this laptop in two parts. This first part will focus primarily on the external appearance, overall system performance, features, and battery life. We'll be following up with a second article that will spend more time looking at the included software, construction, and some additional benchmarks.

Basic Features
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  • rqle - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    i rather take 2 Dell 17inch w/ 7900GT then one 15.4 apple w/ 1600xt.
    Or rather take 2 non XPS w/7900GT then one with 7900GTX
    Reply
  • Quiksel - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    what are you smoking? The 17" PBG4 is only 6.9 lbs.

    http://www.apple.com/powerbook/specs.html">Specs for the 17" PowerBook

    8.8lbs. is crazy heavy. Nice performance, but DAMN, that's heavy.
    Reply
  • NullSubroutine - Wednesday, April 19, 2006 - link

    i have an E1705 which is a xps without the cool lights and currently has 7800 go, instead of 7900 go gtx (but i will be purchasing). i believe mine weighs like 7 or 8 lbs, and i take it with me to class, unless its just because im buff guy, 8lbs isnt that heavy. Reply
  • ProviaFan - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    ...but I'm not going to use this in favor of my Athlon X2 4400+ workstation with 4GB of RAM, multiple hard disks, and a 21" Samsung LCD. While it would be "good enough" for most photo editing (certainly has enough CPU), and it would totally kick ass for LAN parties, it doesn't dethrone the workstation plus smaller laptop that is actually portable setup for people who need more expansion flexibility with some portability as well. Reply
  • Trisped - Friday, April 21, 2006 - link

    So you would spend your $1000 mobility tax on a laptop and use the rest of the money to buy a desktop. That makes sense. The only disadvantage is if you need mobile power, but I think that would be rare. So you would spend your $1000 mobility tax on a laptop and use the rest of the money to buy a desktop. The only disadvantage is if you need mobile power, but I think that would be rare. Reply
  • Trisped - Friday, April 21, 2006 - link

    Sorry about the double print, just follow the second line Reply
  • KeypoX - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    can i have one Reply
  • PeteRoy - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    I want one too. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    And I don't want to send this one back! :( LOL Reply

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