Construction: Field Tested
Charger –The charger for the XPS G2 (130W) is the largest that is currently offered by Dell. Similar systems that I have used from Voodoo, Alienware, and Hypersonic usually take on the same large profile. Unlike others, however, it is good to see that Dell used the same straight plug format, instead of switching to a multi-pin plug format. Disappointingly, Dell did not design the charger for the XPS G2 in the same way as the others. There is no angled AC plug from the charger to the wall jack, which makes it harder to bunch up extra cabling. Likewise, there is no rubber strip to tie extra cabling down.
Display –The XPS Gen 2 only comes with one display configuration option; a 17.0" WUXGA UltraSharp TFT (native 1920 x 1200) with TrueLife.
Dell clearly is focusing on the gaming and overall viewing experience by making such a high end display the standard for this notebook. There are no compromises, and its is for the best, as lower end displays would only take away from the experience that Dell is offering with their 17.0" display. Especially with the way support is progressing on the gaming end, a wide aspect ratio display is the way to go. You can always force the panel not to stretch a 4:3 image via drivers.
TrueLife is simply Dell's way to refer to the glare type LCD display. We need to clear up the glare type issue, as this has been discussed by many but few people really understand the benefit and disadvantages. First, the glare type display does make just about any multimedia experience relating to video viewing better, provided a top notch display panel is used. However, it is not due to the better specs of the LCD panel. Instead, the glare coating helps produce more vivid colors, text, and backgrounds via an increase in contrast.
The down side is that even under normal lighting conditions, there is going to be some glare from light sources if you focus your eyes on the reflective spots on the screen. The advantage is pretty visible once you switch to a dark theater like setting, where a side by side comparison is noticeable in the tone of a person's skin. Under normal lighting conditions, like an office or library, the advantage of glare type LCDs is still visible, but you are going to have to get use to glare from near by light sources. As you move to the outdoors, glare type displays are out of their element, as the screen looks more dull.
As we mentioned in the past, a glare type display can and will make the viewing experience worse when it comes to significantly light or dark scenes. What you really need to have is a top notch display to pair the glare coating with in order to avoid these problems. After using the XPS G2 for a couple of weeks, we are pleased to say that this is one of the best brightest displays we have seen on a notebook, size and glare effect not withstanding. The problems we have seen in the past with other glare displays are not present in the XPS G2, though you still will have to contend with the glare effect from light sources. Obviously, a glare type notebook in the outdoors is out of its element. This is a notebook to be used inside, so don't say we didn't warn you.
With 8 display settings, the display has a fairly wide range from bright to dim. At its brightest setting (8), it is one of the brighter displays we have seen, size and glare not withstanding. The dimmest setting (1) is a bit too dark for us to be comfortable to use in a dark room, as the dim scene will get to be a strain on your eyes after a while. If you need to dial down the brightness setting, we recommend setting level 2. The battery and AC settings share the same brightness levels.
Fan - The fan was on the majority of the time we had the notebook running. The volume of the CPU and GPU fans is pretty close to some of the more quiet desktop towers.
At max speed, in a reasonably quiet work environment, say a cubicle with a desktop system on, you should be able to barely make out the noise. In a dead quiet library or room, you will hear the fan perfectly fine and so will the person next to you. Actually, the volume may disturb the person next to you.
We rarely found situations where the notebook was dead quiet. Such scenarios only presented themselves in the form of using the computer after being idle for sometime or after boot up. Generally, the notebook's fans only went to max speed once we were getting into CPU intensive loads. If you are just milling through your "run of the day" computer routine: email, word processing, browsing, etc.. the fan will spin at a speed close to max. When the notebook goes to max fan speed, you should be able to hear the difference, though.
If you are gaming, you are probably going to be playing at 25% volume. Anything less should allow you to distinguish the whirling noise from the fans. There is no reason you are going to be playing at mute or whisper-like volume levels, anyway. If you at a LAN party, I find it unlikely that the fans will pose a volume problem. Most people tend to tack on headphones in such scenarios.
Heat – After about five plus hours of straight use, the notebook was relatively toasty. The areas of the notebook that got fairly hot were the bottom of the notebook, where you'll find the two access panels, the space between the two panels, and the space to the right of the right access panels. The area where the hard drive is positioned only got warm, not too hot. When we say this, what me mean is that you should be able to keep your hands on the areas, but its right at the cusp of being too hot to keep your hands on or put on your lap. Obviously, this machine isn't designed to be placed on your lap, so heat shouldn't be too much of an issue. After all, its size and weight doesn't make it easy.
If you leave the system idle for 20~30 minutes, the whole notebook is relatively cool to the touch; no hotspots. Though, the fans will still be on.