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Dell XPS M1730 17in gaming laptop

The machine Dell calls 'The Beast'...

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Those who enjoy playing games in the dark will be happy to find the keyboard is backlit, although the lighting can be turned off to save power. This may be needed if you’re away from a mains power source - we didn’t even manage an hour between charges with the Nvidia's dual-GPU SLI feature activated.

The chassis is constructed from a combination of plastics and magnesium alloy, and the results are impressive. Both the palm rests and the screen surround resisted pressure with ease, and you can pick this machine up from the very corner without fear of any creaks or groans.

Good build quality isn’t enough in the world of gaming, however, and any creditable challenger is required to sport as many coloured lights as possible. To this end, the M1730 has plenty. Most of the rear of the lid is taken up by backlit panels, with coloured LEDs also behind the speaker grilles and touchpad. For those wanting a more refined hue, the colours can be changed easily in the Bios.

Subtle lighting shades won’t turn the XPS into a shrinking violet, and the faux-carbon finish makes this one of the most distinctive laptops currently available. As with anything this brash, it’s a love-it or loath-it affair, but it's definitely not a machine for the shy and retiring.

A Logitech gaming display is located above the keyboard. This LCD screen is the same as can be found on Logitech’s gaming keyboards, showing system information, the time or other details. Bit of a gimmick, really.

On the right of the chassis you’ll find an ExpressCard 54 slot, hardware switches for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and two USB ports. The left-hand side offers a microphone and two headphone sockets, an eight-in-one card reader, one USB port and a mini Firewire port. There’s also a dual-format optical drive. Connections to external displays can be made using either an s-video or a DVI port but, disappointingly, there’s no support for HDMI. This is a particularly strange omission on the M1730, as it can be configured with a Blu-ray optical drive for an additional £260.

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