"Big and Bad"4.5 starson by DSRoyall
Pros: Yes, it's fast enough to scare little children, appears well-built, ACPI actually works
Cons: Will stretch the arm carrying it, poor placement of multimedia controls on outside front
Summary: First, I should mention that I have a rather unusual use for my laptops; I use them to talk for me. I'm phyically disabled with Cerebral Palsy. I can only speak via computer using custom software I developed. The laptops are Velcro'd to a folding aluminum table mounted on my wheelchair. Power is supplied from the chair's batteries to the laptop's automotive-type adapter through a commercial 24-to-12 volt converter. The nature of this solution is that whatever is my current laptop gets almost continuous use in a central role as part of my everyday life. It is responsible for my banking, software development, shopping, communicating, and even entertainment. Such varied-but-central casting clearly stretches any laptop and its underlying service agreement to their utmost limits.
In all honesty, I must note that the jury is still officially out on the XPS Gen 2, because I've had mine for under a month. However, that's long enough to reach some initial impressions.
Indeed, the XPS line is fast, and the Gen 2 holds up its end admirably. This isn't news though, as the XPS is marketted as game machines. Games are the most difficult and demanding applications of all. Therefore, it logically follows that a good game computer can probably do whatever else you assign it to do while still half-asleep. The XPS Gen 2 accomplishes this in spades, leaving my Dimension 4600 (3.02 GHz) relegated to server duty. No doubt the Gen 2 is even more impressive with a full gigabyte of RAM, but that's a luxury that must wait until my Dell Preferred Account cools down some. Even at 512 MB of memory, my Gen 2 is laughing at CPU-hogs like GTR.
Speaking of being hot, I had expected the Gen 2 to have overheating issues. My previous laptop, an Inspiron 8200, developed that annoying habit after its last service call. I had anticipated the Velcro giving the hot-natured Gen 2 fits, but I'm relieved to say that isn't the case. I've used it out in 95-degree heat, and, while even the keyboard gets toasty, the internal fans keep the XPS Gen 2 purring.
Anything as powerful as the Gen 2 will be power-hungry. That's so much a given that I don't bother listing it as a con. Still, my Gen 2 can cheerfully draw my wheelchair batteries down to where the chair can't move in about eight hours. Factoring out the efficiency limits of the voltage conversion steps, that's still roughly 720-930 watts expended. Count your blessings if the Gen 2 gives you two hours on its internal battery. Fortunately, the laptop is the first I've encountered with ACPI functions that work reliably. That means that going to stand by and waking up are actually events you can count on happening. That makes the laptop a much more benign energy consumer.
The XPS Gen 2 does have a quirk I found annoying at first. It comes with multi-colored LEDs in the speaker, fan, and display panel areas. You can select from a menu of colors in the BIOS. These LEDs, like the 17" screen, are extras that I had no interest in. I don't buy laptops as fashion statements. Yet, after a while, I set the LEDs to a dull emerald green, giving the Gen 2 a pleasant "otherworldly" motiff. I still refer to the LEDs as "mood lights," however.
In short, the Gen 2 is a laptop with capacity to spare. Considering that it is available with a four-year service agreement, that's probably a very good thing.