Notebooks aren't exactly known for their upgrade options, so why should gamers, who need state of the art equipment, shell out for a solution such as the Dell Inspiron XP Gen 2? The simple answer is: LAN parties. If you've ever seen a gamer carrying around a desktop PC, then you'll know why they're willing to sacrifice a certain amount of performance for portability.
Not that you need to sacrifice too much with this notebook. The main selling point of the XPS range is its cutting-edge technology. In this instance, it is the addition of the nVidia GeForce Go 6800 Ultra graphics adapter, which comes with 256MB of dedicated DDRIII memory. The thing you really have to take note of is the “Ultra” tag, as this is the fastest GPU currently available on the market and Dell has it under exclusive contract for the foreseeable future, so you won't be able to buy it from any other vendor.
Where this card differs from the standard 6800 is in the faster fill rate and improved performance. Under test running 3DMark 2003, we managed a score of 11200. To put this into context, a standard notebook GPU scores a little over 100. If you are looking for a clear advantage, there is currently nothing to touch the 6800 Ultra for performance.
To make sure that you get the best out of this graphic card, Dell has used a 17-inch panel that comes with an anti-glare layer, similar to that found on Sony VAIO notebooks. This way you get the best results on the best screen technology around.
It is not only the graphics performance that makes the XPS 2 worth considering. Built around a mobile core, as opposed to the desktop variant offered by the previous version, the XPS Gen 2 uses the 915P chipset and uses Intel's latest processor, the Pentium M 770, which runs at 2.13GHz. In order to get the most out of this system, it comes preloaded with 1024MB of DDRII memory, which really makes a difference when running a system with a 533MHz Front Side Bus.
In order to make sure all this works well, Dell has had to design a notebook that weighs in at 4.3kg. This may not be all that light for a notebook but it's considerably lighter than carrying a PC tower around. With a battery life of just over two hours, you'll be able to use the machine wherever you like but be warned: if you fire up any game while running on batteries, you'll find it dying on you after only an hour.
The XPS Gen 2 isn't the most attractive notebook to look at but it's a vast improvement over the old design. Dell has imitated its desktop XPS and included coloured lights that shine from four ports. With 11 colours to choose from, users can match the lighting to suit their mood from a user-definable software panel.
Yes, there are better looking machines out there. True, there are even more affordable gaming notebooks on the market with better batteries but the XPS Gen 2 isn't your normal notebook. If you're looking for a clear advantage over your gaming buddies there is simply no getting away from the fact that when it comes to performance this machine has it. Until we see a response from the people rebranding notebooks with car designs, this is the gaming laptop of the moment and it's encouraging to see Dell compete in non-business arenas.