Dell Inspiron XPS M170 review

Dell has made no bones about wanting to be the leading player in the gaming market not only with its desktop XPS systems but with its notebook offerings too, but is this the machine to convince the public it should be crowned King? We take a look and find out.

When it launched the Inspiron XPS 2 the company even managed to hook nVidia into an excusive contract with its GeForce Go 6800 card, which was the fastest GPU available at that time.

Dell hasn’t been so lucky this time around, as nVidia has allowed others access to the GeForce Go 7800GTX, so does this latest version of the Inspiron XPS live up to expectations?

Well, Dell has stuck with the same chassis design, with its dimensions of 394 x 282 x 49mm and 4.2kg weight, the XPS is the most mobile gaming system available. True, 4.2kg isn’t really a portable weight but if it’s better than strapping on a harness and lugging a desktop PC around to your friends LAN party.

In keeping with gamer-chic (if that’s possible?) the silver and black chassis is fitted with LED lights on three sides, which can be changed using the software applet to any or all of 11 different colours. A transparent panel on the lid allows users to customise the system by adding their own printed images.

Using a 17-inch super-TFT widescreen panel, images are displayed at a high WUXGA resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels. So we come to the heart of the gaming system - its nVidia GeForce Go 7800GTX with 256MB DDR3 memory on the board. With 24-pixel pipes, the nVidia card is a desktop part dropped into a notebook so there are four fans to keep things cool but surprisingly not that noisy. The good news is that it really lives up to expectations and blows anything else in a mobile format out of the water. When nVidia promised up to 40% better performance we scoffed, but they’ve delivered.

In terms of tests, we threw 3DMark 2003 and 2005 at it and returned scores of 14741 and 6667, respectively, which more than lives up to expectations and proves to us that no other card can come anywhere near the 7800 at the moment.

When it come to the rest of the specification, the M170 uses mobile technology, an Intel Pentium M 770 processor, which runs at 2.13GHz, delivers peak performance in the confines of a mobile chassis. The addition of a gigabyte of high-speed DDR2 memory improves performance further. Although the XPS is one of only two laptops in the test to use a mid-level 5400rpm hard drive, its 100GB capacity compensates somewhat, with ample storage for running games from disk.

Equally impressive is the usability and configuration of the XPS. While the keyboard is small - occupying just 287mm of the 394mm chassis width - the keys are well built and allow for a highly comfortable typing action. The mouse buttons and touchpad are equally well made.

Verdict

What can we say? Dell may have decided to stick to a familiar case but when it runs the best graphics card in a notebook currently available who cares - this is a fantastic gaming system that is bound to impress everyone who uses it. The only problem with this machine? You may have to wait up to 4 weeks for delivery - curses!