Dell XPS M2010 review:

Dell XPS M2010

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The Good Sleek, attention-getting design; high-quality, adjustable 20-inch LCD; speakers offer crisp, rich audio; detachable Bluetooth keyboard and Media Center remote will work well from the couch or during a presentation; top-of-the-line components deliver high overall performance and competent gaming capability.

The Bad Absurdly expensive; TV tuner and some other A/V connections aren't built in; too heavy to be truly portable.

The Bottom Line A striking feat of engineering that's sure to garner attention in a stylish home or on a multimedia-intensive sales call, the Dell XPS M2010 is simply too expensive and impractical to be anything more than a curio for the rest of us.

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CNET Editors' Rating

7.3 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Support 4.0

With the XPS M2010, Dell has forgotten completely why laptops were invented in the first place. And that's a good thing--or at least an interesting thing. The company has packed an impressive multimedia experience into a form factor that's far more portable and self-contained than any other desktop PC's and considerably less compromised than that of other laptops that make do with smaller displays, cramped keyboards, and minimized feature sets. Unfortunately, with a base price of $3,500, the XPS M2010 is also about as expensive as a semester at a state college; the target market here is clearly those for whom money is no object. Something between an all-in-one desktop PC and a proper laptop, the XPS M2010 accommodates a fold-out 20-inch display, a detachable Bluetooth keyboard, a premium set of components, and most of the trappings of a modern Media Center PC, including an impressive sound system; a pop-up, slot-loading DVD player; and an integrated video camera and microphone for videoconferencing. It's a striking feat of engineering that's sure to garner attention in a stylish home or on a multimedia-intensive sales call, but for the rest of us, it's too impractical and too expensive to be anything more than a cool, techno-curio.

One thing is certain: the XPS M2010 is guaranteed to turn heads. Covered with subtly marbled, charcoal gray "soft-touch paint" that does a decent impression of leather, with the lid closed, it looks more like a piece of business-class luggage than a laptop. When you slide the two latches open and lift the lid, the black interior, chrome highlights, and glowing blue lights give the XPS M2010 the sleek look of a high-end stereo component. Despite its many movable and removable parts, we found the laptop solidly constructed and easy to open and close, though the paint starting peeling at one of the corners after some rough play.

Dell says that the XPS M2010's footprint takes up less space than a typical desktop computer; we're not so sure. Measuring 16.75 inches deep, 19.25 inches wide, and 3 inches thick, the XPS M2010 is definitely larger than any other late-model, desktop-replacement laptop we've seen, including the 19-inch Eurocom M590K Emperor. It's quite big even next to the desktop competition: small form-factor PCs from niche gaming vendors such as Shuttle and Falcon Northwest, and even business systems such as the Lenovo ThinkCentre M series, are all considerably more compact, though far less easy to quickly pick up and move. That said, between the display, the CPU, and the keyboard, the XPS M2010 weighs 18.3 pounds; with its bricklike AC adapter, it reaches 20.8 pounds. Though it's more portable than almost any desktop PC, it's simply too heavy to regularly carry any further than from room to room or out to the car.

Dell's line of UltraSharp LCDs is highly regarded, and the XPS M2010's glossy 20-inch (diagonal) display won't tarnish its reputation. The display is quite bright; it scored an above-average 230cd/m² on our Minolta luminance meter, and its 1,680x1,050 native resolution offers a nice balance between detail and screen real estate. While most laptop displays can swing only open and shut, the XPS M2010's is considerably more adjustable, able to sit at a 90-degree angle to the keyboard, be brought up to 10 inches inward, and tilt about 65 degrees upward. With eight speakers and a built-in subwoofer, the XPS M2010 can hold its own as a dedicated home stereo; it delivers rich, clear audio with more low-end sound than any other laptop we've seen, though it didn't get as loud as we would have hoped.

Two of the coolest things about the XPS M2010 are its detachable keyboard and Media Center remote. The keyboard, which is held to the base magnetically, is full size and reasonably comfortable to type on and includes a touch pad and mouse buttons, a dedicated number pad, and a complete set of multimedia controls. Once separated from the body, we were able to use it to type and navigate from about 18 feet away (via its built-in Bluetooth radio). The XPS M2010's remote has all of the standard Media Center features, as well as a small LCD screen that displays music and video track information; notably, it also has a built-in microgyroscope that lets you wave the remote at the display and control the cursor, sort of like a magic wand mouse. A separate Bluetooth mouse is also included.

For a Media Center PC, the XPS M2010 has a decent array of built-in multimedia features and connections; highlights include an adjustable 1.3-megapixel Webcam and integrated microphone placed above the display, for videoconferencing; two media card readers that support a total of 13 formats, including SD and CompactFlash; and a DVI output for connecting to external displays. A handful of additional, high-end A/V connections--such as SPDIF and analog 7.1 audio--can be made via the few included dongle cords. The XPS M2010's most significant omission is a built-in TV tuner; Dell offers a small, external single-channel USB tuner as an option (the exact price was unavailable at the time of this writing, but we expect it to be about $100).

Our $4,675 top-of-the-line XPS M2010 test unit came configured with an extremely high-end set of components: a 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo T2600 processor; 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM (667MHz); a high-end ATI Mobility Radeon X1800 graphics card (that's just one step down from ATI's top-of-the-line GPU) with 256MB of video memory; and two big 100GB, 7,200rpm hard drives (Raid 0). The $3,500 base configuration includes a slightly slower 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo T2400, 1GB of RAM, and 80GB of hard drive space. In CNET Labs benchmark tests, the XPS M2010 delivered a respectable overall performance, completing most of our dual-core multimedia tests slightly faster than the other Intel Core Duo laptops we've tested, all of which had slightly slower processors and often half as much RAM. The XPS M2010 also proved itself an able gaming machine, turning more than 60 frames per second (fps) in our Doom 3 and Quake 4 tests, though just 31fps in our F.E.A.R. tests. Though it's not the best gaming machine on the market (for that, look to Dell's own XPS M1710), the XPS M2010 will easily shoulder any multimedia or productivity task you throw its way. Though the XPS M2010 is too heavy to carry too far from a wall socket, its 12-cell battery lasted for more than 2 hours while sitting mostly idle on our desktop; we'll be running MobileMark 2005 on it today to get a better idea of its real-world battery life.

Though Dell has moved to a 90-day warranty on its less expensive models, the company covers all XPS products with an industry-standard one-year warranty, which provides free parts and labor with mail-in service. For a $3,500 notebook, we think Dell should offer a longer support contract with less expensive upgrades. 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.

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