Dell XPS M2010 review
Luxurious extras and design make this a highly desirable machine. It's ideal if space is at a premium at home
Dell is shifting the focus of its XPS systems from performance and gaming to innovative design and luxury. And this XPS M2010 is the most daring of the new range, billed as the ultimate entertainment centre.
The design is sublime: the screen moves lithely over the base unit and tilts to any practical position on two sturdy arms. Then there's the slot-loading DVD writer in the centre, which whirrs up with a pleasing action and sound. The full-sized desktop keyboard complete with touchpad detaches smoothly and seamlessly switches over to Bluetooth, before recharging once slotted back in.
Then there's the Premium Remote Control. Not just content with the standard Windows Media Center features, there's a motion-sensitive Gyration sensor, so you can move the mouse pointer by twisting and tilting the remote. Its mouse buttons will also get you through anything the standard navigation buttons can't handle. But it's the tiny LCD screen that makes the remote so special: browse your music collection via the iPod-like menu system, and then set it playing.
The M2010 may have a battery and plenty of mobile components, but it's even more of a break from the norm than Acer's massive AS9802WKMi. For a start, it weighs 8.4kg and, even though there's a comfortable, chunky rubber-coated handle, arm-ache will set in quickly if you're carrying it around. When packed up, the unit is larger than a normal briefcase, and the rear ports and vents are also exposed. The lid and main body are incredibly sturdy, though, while the four clasps hold the keyboard and lid firmly in place. You'll even get a couple of hours out of the battery.
Dell uses a glossy 20in widescreen TFT running at a resolution of 1,680 x 1,050, and our test photos looked rich and vibrant. The screen has some less-than-optimal colour handling at the bright end and a slightly uneven backlight, so colour critical work is better done elsewhere. But it's a joy for movies and games. Eight tiny speakers sit under the screen, with a 2in subwoofer under the base unit. They give a surprisingly rich and loud sound; you'll only need external speakers for surround sound.
You'll have to dial down some detail settings in the latest games to get a playable frame rate from the ATi Mobility Radeon X1800 GPU onboard, but the last few years' games will run at maximum settings at the native resolution: Far Cry with High Dynamic Rendering still ran at an average rate of 80fps at our Medium settings. There's plenty of power elsewhere, with the Intel Core Duo T2600 and 2GB of RAM racing to a healthy 1.07 in our application benchmarks. Remarkably, the M2010 hardly made a sound while benchmarking, even when both CPU and GPU were being stretched - highly impressive considering the performance on offer.
There's only one real disappointment, and that's the lack of an integrated TV tuner - you'll have to pay another £70 inc VAT for that, or resort to a USB or PC Card option. There are four USB 2 ports present, along with a Type II PC Card. There's also an ExpressCard/54 slot and an SD/MMC card reader to the right. There's space for an extra hard disk inside and Dell takes full advantage by including two 120GB disks. An eSATA port is also available, albeit with no power connector. 802.11a/b/g WLAN is onboard, as is Gigabit Ethernet networking.
The M2010 is both impressive and unique. There's a much more compelling case for getting this system rather than a traditional desktop-replacement notebook, with the ergonomics striking exactly the right balance. With extras such as the excellent Premium Remote Control, the system oozes class, although it comes at a price - particularly considering the stingy one-year warranty. However, like all Dell systems, you can adjust the specifications to match your budget: the base specification costs a more affordable £1,650, for example. If space is a bit cramped and you want a jaw-dropping system without sacrificing any performance, the M2010 is it. Use E-Value code PPUK5-N08205R to get this specification.