Below the screen is a single round power button, along with indicator lights for Num Lock, Caps Lock, Shift Lock, WiFi and Bluetooth. The keyboard is, thankfully, centrally positioned, unlike the 17in Clevo chassis that has a numeric pad squeezed in on the right.
The keyboard action is pretty good – the keys are full size and have a good degree of travel coupled with a solid break. There’s a reassuring absence of flex, even when typing at speed and I found that I could comfortably type on the XPS for extended periods. The layout of the keyboard is also good – The Shift, Caps Lock, Tab, Ctrl, Return and Backspace keys are all large, while the cursor keys are set slightly away from the main keyboard for easy access. Also, the Ctrl key is located at the bottom left, just like on a desktop keyboard – this should make things easy for anyone that uses a lot of keyboard shortcuts.
Below the keyboard is a silver touchpad that performed well. That said you have to set the sensitivity very high in order to traverse the whole screen – that’s the only downside with a super-high-resolution display I guess. The touchpad has sections allocated for both vertical and horizontal scrolling through documents, which is handy. There are two large, silver buttons below the touchpad that respond with a reassuring click when pressed.
Looking around the chassis, there’s no shortage of features on offer. On the right hand side you’ll find an SD card slot, a four-pin FireWire port, a headphone socket, a microphone socket and a Type II PC Card slot.
At the front you’ll find two blue lights that can be customised like the XPS logos in the lid, along with a full set of multimedia controls including volume up/down, mute, play/pause, skip forward/backwards and stop.
The left side is dominated by the DVD Writer that will burn both DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW media. You’ll also find a couple of USB 2.0 ports next to the optical drive.
The rear is pretty well stacked. Along with the power socket you get D-SUB, DVI, four USB 2.0 ports, modem socket, Ethernet port and TV-out.
But I guess that most of you are more interested in what’s going on inside this machine, and to be honest I don’t blame you. The main feature that sets this machine apart from other gaming notebooks is the Centrino badge. The majority of gaming machines I’ve seen have been Pentium 4 based, with the odd Athlon 64 system thrown in for good measure, but by going with a Centrino platform, Dell is hoping to offer great gaming performance and the ability to use this machine on the move.