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Valentine's Day 2007 Buyer's Guide

Dell XPS M1710 With Blu-ray

Just when you thought Dell's acquisition of Alienware might mean it would skid away from the high-end consumer notebook market, along comes the XPS M1710, with ample HD capabilities to knock the stuffing out of any such notion. In addition to a high flying Blu-ray HD DVD player, this new unit features a 17" LCD with 1920x1200 resolution, well able to accommodate 1080p HD resolution, as well as delivering lots of real estate for desktop or gaming use.

At a base price of $3,699 - the lowest you can go with a Blu-ray driver included - this unit also comes with 1 GB of DDR2-667 RAM and an 80 GB hard disk. For an additional $275, you can upgrade from the stock Core 2 Duo T7600 at 2.33 GHz, and get the overclockable T7600G version instead.

The Blu-ray version of the XPS M1710 packs a lot of HD punch into a relatively compact package (photo courtesy of Dell Inc.).

We can't really do complete justice to the M1710 without waxing eloquent about its graphics equipment: not only is the UltraSharp TFT active matrix WUXGA LCD a real knockout, it also includes a 512 MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7950 GTX graphics card. The M1710 is clearly equipped to play back Blu-ray DVDs and handle high-resolution gaming. Given that, we wonder why Dell didn't provide this unit with any HDMI connections, or include a TV tuner card as part of the standard Blu-ray package. (The latter, at least, is available as a $99 add-on option, along with an MCE-compatible remote control).

Upgrading memory gets pricey when you go beyond 2 GB: 4 GB of DDR2-533 is $1,800, and 4 GB of DDR2-667 a whopping $3,000. You can bump your drive to 100 GB for an extra $50, or to 160 GB for $115, both much more reasonable prices by comparison. An extra 9-cell Lithium ion battery is only $99; for those planning to run this monster from batteries, buying a spare is a very good idea.

At the prices Dell is charging, it's a little surprising that no carrying bag or Bluetooth connectivity is included in the base bundle. Bundled software includes MS Works 8, 15 months of Norton Internet Security, various software trials and Dell games, and lots of other add-on options. Dell is already offering its Express Upgrade service to Windows Vista for the M1710, including various bundled on-site support services.

This is a pretty expensive notebook, but with performance and capability commensurate to its cost. If you love somebody enough to buy this kind of notebook PC as a gift, that person will remember your largesse for a long time to come.