Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dell XPS M2010

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.

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. 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 test, 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.

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