Dell Inspiron XPS Gen 2 Review

As time goes on, technology gets smaller, faster, and cheaper. Even when you consider televisions, although they do get wider, they get thinner and (slowly) cheaper. Until recently, to get a fast gaming computer, the only way to go was with a desktop, but due to Nvidia’s new GeForce Go! 6800, you can take your games on the go. Graphics cards in laptops have always been far behind the desktop cards, simply because of space, circulation, and power restrictions. The GeForce Go! 6800 is the most powerful video card in laptops today, and is featured in top-of-the-line notebooks from Alienware and Dell. Obviously another big factor in PCs is the processor; and until recently you could either go with the leg-melting, battery burning Pentium 4 desktop processors, or a weaker Intel Celeron. But now, Intel has introduced the Intel Centrino (Pentium M) which provides incredible, desktop quality power without producing too much heat or using too much battery power.

The notebook I am reviewing is the Inspiron XPS Gen 2, the newest, most powerful laptop from Dell. The first thing I noticed after opening the packaging was the case. Obviously it is not designed for a business person or any other type of owner who would not want a big, flashy case. It’s top has silver-colored polished gunmetal which reflects light like a mirror, and two 4.0”x0.5” “XPS” logos. Overall the case isn’t too large; only 0.06” thicker than Dell’s personal laptops. Looking at the left side, it has 2 USB ports as well as a system fan and the optical drive (in this case a CD/DVD Combo drive). The right side has a PC card slot, another, symmetrical system fan, a firewire port, the headphone and microphone jacks, and an SD card reader.

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The back has 4 USB ports, VGA and digital video out, as well as your Ethernet and modem jacks. It also has a strange video out port and an included adapter to output coaxial video, S-Video and digital audio, making it easy to plug it into a TV or projector. The 2 fan openings on the back are where most of the heat is dissipated, and you can see large copper heat dissipation units. The front is the most impressive, featuring large grilles for the speakers and 7 lit-up media buttons to control DVDs (like mute, volume controls, pause, play, fast forward, reverse, and stop). The coolest part about the speaker system is the fact that it sounds phenomenal. It has an integrated subwoofer (yes, a subwoofer in a notebook) which is visible on the bottom of the unit. Also, unlike some other, older laptops, the speakers are not covered by your palms when you type, and are still visible when the laptop is closed, meaning the sound quality is just as good when the laptop is closed. The RAM is easily accessible via a small panel on the bottom, and is therefore easy to upgrade.

One cool feature of the XPS Gen 2 is the lights. It’s got 6 locations which have LEDs which can be changed among 16 colors spanning the whole color spectrum from red to blue to green, white, orange, pink, and everything in between. The LEDs can be dulled to reduce battery usage. They are located on the system’s speakers, side fans, and XPS logos on the front cover.

The screen is magnificent. It is a 17” widescreen which leaves only a centimeter of plastic space on the left and right. However, the screen is very high gloss and produces a bad glare much easier than most other laptops. The right side hinge on the screen has the lights for power, processor usage, and hard drive usage. The area around the screen has 8 large rubber bumpers so you definitely will not have to worry about slamming it shut. The lights for caps lock, num lock, scroll lock, WiFi and Bluetooth are located above the keyboard, next to the power button. It also has another, smaller, non-lighted XPS logo and a small 2x2cm vent on each side of the keyboard. The touchpad seems a bit small, it definitely could’ve been a bit larger with all of the room the large screen allows; but it works great, and is very responsive, and the 2 mouse buttons are large and easy to use.

The device pumps out an amazing 1920×1200 native resolution which easily beats out even 19” desktop monitors at 1280×1024. The screen is, like I said before, magnificent. It features what Dell calls “Truelife”. I don’t exactly know what that means, but it looks incredible. You can set the screen to either stretch any resolution it is given to take up the whole screen, or center it with black around it. The contrast ratio is great, and the screen’s response time is the best I have seen on LCD screens yet, even on high-speed games like Need for Speed, it does not blur unless you enable motion blur in the game’s settings. I really can’t say enough to accurately describe the amazing display.

The processor is the best Pentium M you can get, at 2.13Ghz. I had assumed that downgrading from my 3.2Ghz desktop to this 2.13Ghz notebook would be a very big drop in performance, but surprisingly, it is almost exactly as fast as my old desktop processor. These new mobile processors are designed for high performance with low power. Even with Norton Antivirus and Internet Security running, it doesn’t hesitate for a second to load up Microsoft Word or any game.

Speaking of games, lets get to the real point of this review, gaming. To steal a quote from Dell, “The only thing better than the way it looks is the way it performs”. The video card is a beast, but can be tamed to preserve battery power via a Dell application included. The first game I installed was Need for Speed: Underground 2, because I remember even on my Alienware desktop, I had to turn some of the graphics settings down for a good frame rate. Before I started racing, I turned all of the settings; resolution, sound quality, graphics quality, etc. to the max, and to my surprise, it played just perfectly, with no noticeable frame rate drop. After a race or two, I began to feel a bit of heat on my right leg. In fact, my leg was melting. I exited the game and stuck my leg in the fridge for a few hours and it solidified and is almost as good as new. Seriously though, if you push the graphics to the limit, it will get hot enough to burn you. However, whilst playing Halo at full quality, it stayed relatively cool, as Halo is a less demanding game. You must also consider the fact that it never showed any slowing or any side effects of the heat.

When I first got this, I tried running it on the battery just to see how long it would be able to take a gaming beating, and to my prediction, it will only last about an hour. But like I mentioned, you can tune down the graphics card, brightness, LEDs, and other factors to easily double the battery life. Overall, if you are looking for a great gaming laptop, I’d definitely recommend the Dell Inspiron XPS Gen 2. It’s powerful and versatile, and looks sexier than Carmen Electra. The price is lower than you’d expect. With the most powerful processor and video card in laptops today, it starts at $2,300 USD.

• No PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
• Battery life is short and sweet when gaming
• Touch pad could be bigger
• Much too flashy for businesspeople
• Only one memory card format (SD)

• Sexy design with polished gunmetal and 16-color LEDs
• Integrated WiFi and optional Bluetooth
• Speakers are on the front, not the inside
• Media control buttons are useable when open or closed
• Integrated subwoofer
• The screen is breathtaking
• Blazing fast processor and video card
• Comes with fully-featured DVD player software
• Very sturdy and secure feeling case

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