Monthly Archives: January 2010

XPS 16 Mini-Review

At the request of a colleague, I’m writing a little review on my precious baby… 🙂

Before I start boring most, I’m going to go out there and say I agree with *almost* everything this guy says, so I’ll just rehash a few things and give my opinion.

Firstly, some quick specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7 820QM (8MB 1.73GHz – 3.066GHz)
  • Memory: 8GB – 2DIMM 1333MHz DDR3
  • HDD: 128 GB G.Skill Falcon SSD (aftermarket – orignially with 500GB 7200RPM)
  • Graphics: 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4670
  • Display: 16.0" 1080p Full HD RGBLED LCD with 2.0 MP Webcam
  • Optical Drive: 4X Blu-ray Disc Combo Drive (DVD/CD +/- RW +BD Read)
  • OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
  • Wireless: Intel WiFi Link 5300 (802.11a/g/n)
  • Battery: 9-cell
  • Dimensions: 2.5-5cm x 38cm x 26cm with 9-cell battery (H x W x D) 

Build and Design

Pros

Just like the rest of the (Studio) XPS range, this laptop just looks sexy. It’s sleek, shiny, dressed in a little leather, and has all the shiny touch-sensitive media buttons to match. The backlit keyboard is an absolute pleasure to use with its big spaced keys. The unit has very little flex in it at all. The 16” frameless glossy RGBLED screen is so gorgeous it makes staring at code even more fun. All the ports are in the right place (security lock, VGA, Ethernet, DisplayPort, HDMI, 2x USB, 2x headphone, microphone, USB/eSATA combo, FireWire, ExpressCard and card reader). And the sound is awesome…

Cons

The shininess of the plastic means that fingerprints really stand out. The Synaptics multi-touch track pad is hard to use and can get very annoying when trying to do simple things like crop using in a picture editor. The gloss on the screen makes it pretty hard to use outside on a bright day. The slot-loader drive is not my favourite as it tends to be a bit noisy (compared to tray-loaders) and quite slow. Also, the battery doesn’t quite line up with the rest of the unit so there is a bit of a gap constantly staring me in the face as I’m typing.

Most importantly… THERE’S NO SEPARATE RAM AND HDD COVER ON THE MAIN PANEL!!! This really got on my nerves when I switched in my SSD, because it meant what is usually a 2 minute job on most laptops became substantially more due to the funny screw placements and fear of “screwing” something up.

Performance

I ran a few benchmarks in an earlier post, and found my PCMarks at 9018 and WEI at 6.7. The review on notebookreview had the PCMarks at 6303. It also had the WPrime 32M result at 31.827s, which I bested at 15.257s. I think it’s safe to say that this baby ain’t no slug… 🙂

However, there is usually one downfall to all this power that not even the XPS 16 could surpass… HEAT! This thing gets sooo hot that putting it to good use means it can’t be used as a “laptop”. Noise was not too bad, but probably because the fan isn’t actually doing much.

Also, the battery life is a bit too short for my liking. My 9-cell only gets me about 2.5hrs, which some might think is quite high given what it’s running, but I think could be improved.

Conclusion

I love  it. It’s sexy and fast. It falls down on the build quality a bit like most Dell laptops and can be used to help you get through the winters, but the bang for buck this machine offers more than makes up for it in my eyes.

XPS 16 Performance Benchmarks

Before installing a heap of junk, I thought I’d run a couple of benchmarking tools over my new machine.

PCMark Vantage (x64)– 9018 PCMarks

 pcmark - 9018

One thing you may note is the HDD Test Suite score thanks to this slight mod… 🙂

Windows Experience Index (WEI) – 6.7

image

I guess this means I need to upgrade my video card… =p

Replacing the Hard Drive in an XPS 16 with an SSD

Within an hour of accepting my laptop this morning I had already taken it apart. Why…? to install this little beasty:

hdtune g.skill take 2

As soon as I turned the machine over though, I already knew this would be a little harder than usual. Unlike most laptops, the XPS 16 doesn’t have a simple slot on the side to remove the hard drive.

After turning the machine over and removing the battery, you need to undo all the screws in the base plate. The screws do not come out of the holes though, so don’t keep turning hoping they will. After you’ve undone them, push the plate slightly left and lift it off the unit.

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Now there are three screws holding the hard drive bracket in. These need to be removed, keeping in mind that there is no screw in the bottom right hole, as the screw in the base plate goes here.

Pull the blue tab to unplug the hard drive and lift the drive out. Then take the SATA plug off the drive and take the four screws out that are holding it into the bracket.

Put the drive somewhere safe and reverse the process replacing the rust with your lovely SSD.

  1. Plug the SATA plug into the drive.
  2. Hold the drive in the bracket and make sure you have the bracket facing the right way so that it will slot in to the laptop and the plug will be facing the right direction.
  3. Put the four screws in to support it.
  4. Place the drive in the laptop (again ensuring the SATA plug is facing the right direction).
  5. Put the three screws in the bracket to hold it to the unit (leaving the bottom right hole empty).
  6. Replace the base plate and fasten all the screws.
  7. Plug in the battery and away you go!

Unboxing My New Laptop – Dell XPS 16

I finally received my new laptop… A Dell XPS 16. Specs:

Processor Intel Core i7 802QM (1.73GHz, 3.06GHz turbo)
RAM 8GB 1333MHz DDR3
Video 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4670
Optical Drive Slot Load  Blu-Ray BDROM, DVD +/- RW combo
Monitor 16″ Full HD RGBLED
etc…  

So, first thing’s first… unbox it!

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IMG_0261

 IMG_0262

 IMG_0263

What next…? pull it apart of course!