Dell Inspiron XPS2 Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (40,908)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 7
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 7
      • Usability
      • 7
      • Design
      • 7
      • Performance
      • 7
      • Features
      • 7
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 7.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

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by Paul Rossman, New Mexico USA

note to readers, the XPS2 is a popular notebook on this site and other reviews of the Inspiron XPS2 exist here:

Overview

The notebook being reviewed here is a Dell Inspiron XPS Gen. 2 with the following configuration:

  • Intel Pentium M Processor 760 (2 GHz/2MB Cache/533MHz FSB)
  • 512MB (2x256MB) dual-channel DDR2 RAM at 533MHz
  • NVIDIA GeForce Go 6800 Ultra with 256MB dedicated RAM
  • 80GB 5400RPM hard drive
  • 17 inch WUXGA with TrueLife LCD
  • Intel 2200 Pro Wireless 802.11 B/G
  • Dell 350 Internal Bluetooth Wireless
  • 8X DVD+-R/RW DL
  • Windows XP Home Edition including backup CDs
  • 3 Year Limited At-Home Warranty
  • 9 Cell Battery

Reason For Buying

I have a Gateway desktop that I purchased back in 2002.  The desktop has been quite good for me, but I really needed a new computer that could effectively handle 3D drafting in AutoCAD 2006.  I am also in a couple of civil engineering courses that will require group presentations.  I needed a computer that was portable so I could display presentations yet have the graphic and processing power to handle 3D drafting in AutoCAD 2006.  Dell released a 35% off coupon, found and utilized thanks to NotebookReview.com, which drastically reduced the price of the Inspiron XPS Gen. 2 for me.  I had originally planned on getting an Inspiron 9300 through the Dell education store, but the online coupon code put the XPS at a price I could not resist.

Where Purchased

The notebook was purchased directly off of Dell’s home consumer website utilizing the 35% off coupon.  Before the coupon, the price was over $3000.  After applying the coupon it dropped the price to $2080 not including tax or the $19.99 shipping fee.  The shipping was the regular 3 to 5 business day ground via UPS.  The notebook was shipped on a Thursday and arrived on a Tuesday.  Overall the Dell website was very straight forward and made ordering a breeze.

Build & Design

In my opinion, the XPS Gen. 2 can’t be beat when it comes to design and attention getting looks.  It is equipped with a total of 6 areas that are illuminated with LED lights.  The lights can be customized to a total of 16 different colors and the LED brightness can also be changed.  The ridged metal on the back of the LCD is also a nice touch as are the multimedia controls on the front of the notebook.  There are seven buttons which control muting, volume up or down, play/pause, fast foreword, rewind, and stop.  The buttons can also become illuminated when they are pressed, unfortunately their illumination color can’t be controlled.  The XPS Gen. 2 feels sturdy and there is hardly any give to the keyboard and the palm rests beneath the keyboard provide a sturdy area too.

Dell Inspiron XPS2 lights! (view larger image)

More lights! (view larger image)

And some media buttons (view larger image)

Display

The display on the XPS is amazing.  The XPS comes standard with a 17-inch WUXGA+ TrueLife glossy LCD that has a resolution of 1920 x 1200.  The LCD has a very large viewing angle that people around you will have no trouble seeing.  The only problem with having a high resolution LCD is that there are very few games that will run at the LCD’s native resolution.  Even with the hardware that the XPS packs, there are still some games that it won’t run at the native resolution.  Additionally, there are still games that lack widescreen resolutions.  This is not the fault of the XPS but rather game developers.

Speakers

The XPS Gen. 2 is equipped with three speakers.  Two of the speakers are located at the front and are illuminated by LED’s.  These speakers are situated so that they produce sound directly towards the front of the notebook.  This means that the LCD can be closed yet they can still play sound effectively.  There is a third speaker located underneath the notebook; it is situated on the left-center of the notebook.  The third speaker is labeled as a subwoofer, but it is rather a larger 1 inch speaker.  The sound is pretty good, keeping in mind that it is a notebook.  Any 2.1 computer speaker system will produce better sound than the notebook.  Bass is still lacking but, when compared to other notebooks, it sounds amazing.  Movies, music, and games take on a whole new level when it comes to this notebook.
 
Processor And Performance

The XPS Gen. 2 packs quite a punch when it comes to processor and graphical power.  Many gaming notebooks on the market are powered by a Pentium 4 desktop processor.  When I say gaming notebook, I mean a notebook that has the ATI X800 graphics card or higher.  However, Dell dropped the Pentium 4 desktop processor in favor of the more streamlined Pentium M processor and Intel Centrino technology.  I favor the change as the Pentium M processor is cooler running, more energy efficient, and has better performance for a GHz to GHz comparison to the Pentium 4 processor.  The only thing I don’t like about the Pentium M processor is its lack of 64-bit compatibility, as it is a 32-bit processor, but it will take quite a bit of time before 32-bit processors become obsolete.  Below are the results for my Super Pi test and my 3DMark05 test:

Super Pi results for calculating to 2 million digits of accuracy

3D Mark05 Results

Comparison of Pi to 2 million calculation compared to other notebooks:

Notebook  Time
 Dell Inspiron XPS 2 (2.0GHz Pentium M)  1m 34s
 Fujitsu S6231 (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  2m 6s
 Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s
 Asus Z70A (1.6GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)  1m 48s
 Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  1m 52s
 Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  2m 10s
 Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Pentium M)  1m 57s
 HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)  1m 53s
 Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s

Keyboard And Touchpad

In my opinion, this is the one area where the XPS falls in comparison to other gaming notebooks.  Other 17 inch notebooks from manufacturers such as Gateway, HP, Sager, and Alienware have numeric keypads situated next to the keyboards.  I use Microsoft Excel and AutoCAD 2006 a lot and an integration of a keypad would have been useful.  However, I feel that the performance of the XPS outweighs its lack of a keypad.  The keyboard is fairly sturdy and it takes quite a bit of effort for it to flex.  There are enough keys on the keyboard to get the job done and there is a full array of function keys, pretty much the standard found on today’s notebooks.  The touchpad could have been a little better as well.  I feel that the size of the touchpad is fine but I often find myself clicking the right button when I wanted to push the left button.  Making the left touchpad button larger than the right button would solve this problem.  Overall the keyboard and touchpad are nothing special and have the features commonly found on other notebooks.

XPS 2 Touchpad (view larger image)

Dell Inspiron XPS2 Keyboard (view larger image)

Connection Ports

This is where Dell put the extra effort into making the XPS a true gaming machine and desktop replacement.

Left Side:

Port for Kensington lock, 2 USB 2.0 ports, and the optical drive (view larger image)

Right Side:

PCMCIA Type II Slot, SD card Slot, 4-pin 1394 port, headphone and microphone ports (view larger image)

Front:

Out of the darkness of the night emerges…the front side of XPS2 with Media buttons and two of the three speakers (view larger image)

Back:

S-Video output, Gigabit Ethernet, modem, 4 USB 2.0 ports, DVI-D, VGA, and the inlet for the AC adapter (view larger image)

Networking

I configured my XPS to have the Dell Internal Bluetooth wireless adapter along with the Intel 2200 802.11 B/G wireless networking card.  I can connect to my wireless router easily and have no issues with the network.  My wireless card can also access networks that the wireless network card in my desktop can’t even detect.  I have not tested the Bluetooth adapter as I currently don’t have any Bluetooth devices but I plan on getting a Bluetooth mouse as I save my money.

Battery Performance

This is where I was pleasantly surprised by the XPS.  Most gaming notebooks get under an hour of battery life as they are powered by the Pentium 4 processor.  The Centrino technology in the XPS enables it to squeeze out an hour of battery usage when gaming.  In my usage, I tested the notebook with three presets.  I tested gaming with the brightness on max and I turned the NVIDIA graphics card up to full performance, tested regular usage with the brightness level on max and the NVIDIA graphics card up to full performance, and with the brightness level set to 4 with the NVIDIA graphics card scheme of battery life (in the Dell Quickset software package).  Results are as follows:

LCD Brightness 8, full gpu performance, gaming:           1 hour 5 minutes
LCD Brightness 8, full gpu performance, office work:     1 hour and 45 minutes
LCD Brightness 4, mobile quickset option, office work:  2 hours and 1 minute

Compared to other notebooks with Centrino mobile technology, the battery life times are dismal.  When compared to other gaming notebooks though, the battery life times are pretty amazing.

Conclusion

I feel that the XPS Gen. 2 is the best notebook I have used and is also the best gaming notebook currently on the market.  It offers a full PCI Express x16 graphics card, the NVIDIA GeForce Go 6800 Ultra with 256MB of dedicated memory — a feature still seen in high end gaming desktops.  It also features the super efficient Pentium M processor and a great 17 inch WUXGA screen with a glossy coat.  The onboard speakers are great and the wireless networking range is good.  This notebook is for the gamer that is looking for the power of a gaming desktop yet wants something they can take with them.

Pros:

  • Powerful NVIDIA GeForce Go 6800 Ultra
  • Large screen with great quality
  • Good battery life for a gaming notebook
  • The Pentium M processor performs good with games
  • The colored LED’s make it look like a modified gaming notebook

Cons:

  • 32-bit processor
  • Lack of a numeric keypad
  • There is only a SD slot, others offer a full arrangement of memory card readers
  • Left touchpad button a little small

Pricing and Availability

Extra Picture

Let’s compare the thickness of the XPS2 to a shot glass! (view larger image)

 


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