Dell XPS Gen 2
Editors' note: Since CNET reviewed the Dell XPS Gen 2 on March 18, 2005, Dell has renamed the system the XPS M170 and given it a slightly faster processor and a new, top-of-the-line Nvidia GeForce Go 7800 GTX graphics chip. Otherwise, the XPS M170 and XPS Gen 2 are identical. This review includes updated performance and pricing information for the XPS M170; details regarding design and features can be found in the original XPS Gen 2 review.
With the new XPS M170, Dell continues its dominance in the gaming laptop category. Replacing the company's high-octane XPS Gen 2 model, the extremely powerful XPS M170 gets some new components, most notably Nvidia's latest mobile GeForce Go 7800 GTX 256 3D graphics chip, though the case design and features have not changed. In addition to the new GPU, our fully loaded $3,642 test configuration was equipped with an Intel 2.26GHz Pentium M processor and 1GB of RAM--all of which resulted in a nice performance gain over the previous model.
At $3,642, our Dell XPS M170 test unit was quite expensive, even for a gaming machine. Still, our machine came richly configured with Intel's top-of-the line 2.26GHz Pentium M 780 processor, 1GB of fast PC 4200 DDR RAM, and a big 100GB hard drive spinning at a speedy 5,400rpm. The laptop's 3D graphics were handled by the new, top-shelf Nvidia GeForce Go 7800 GTX 256 chip, which boasted its own 256MB of discrete memory. Though this chip will soon become widely available, it's currently exclusive to the XPS M170.
CNET Labs gave the XPS M170 a full workout, and it burned our benchmarks to ash. Its SysMark 2004 performance was on a par with high-end mobile gaming rigs equipped with desktop CPUs, such as the VooDoo M790 and the HP zd8000. Further, the XPS M170 dominated in our gaming tests, thanks to its state-of-the-art graphics chip. It turned in a jaw-dropping 87.5 frames per second on our demanding Doom 3 3D benchmark test--significantly ahead of any other laptop we've seen so far, including the previous XPS Gen 2 model. In our battery drain test, the XPS M170 lasted for 145 minutes, about the same as the XPS Gen 2 and not bad for a desktop replacement.
Though Dell has moved to a 90-day warranty on its less expensive models, the company covers the XPS M170 with an industry-standard one-year warranty, which provides free parts and labor with mail-in service. For a $3,642 notebook, we believe that Dell should offer a longer support contract; and the upgrades are fairly pricey: a four-year warranty with at-home service, which Dell recommends, costs about $340. You can get help through Dell's 24/7, toll-free telephone line for as long as you own the laptop. Dell offers a special tech-support number exclusively for XPS owners, staffed by reps who can provide help with the latest games and technologies. The company also has a support Web site with downloads, FAQs, and hardware-specific user forums.