Obviously there’s a Pentium M CPU inside, and Dell has gone for the fastest chip currently available at 2.13GHz. Being based on the newer Sonoma Centrino standard, the XPS is also equipped with 1GB of DDR2 memory, to help make the most of the processor. There’s also a 100GB 5,400rpm hard disk installed, but this is still an IDE unit rather than SATA, despite Sonoma supporting the latter.
Of course what you really want to hear about is the graphics chipset inside this machine, and Dell has certainly pulled all the stops out. The nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra Go is a lightning fast mobile graphics solution, with the core running at 450MHz. The 256MB of GDDR3 memory is clocked at 532MHZ (1064MHz effective). The results are nothing short of staggering.
Look at Half-Life 2, which is traditionally strong for ATI rather than nVidia chipsets, and you’ll see just how good the XPS is. At 1,024 x 768 with no features on, the XPS turned in a score of 94.1fps compared to 72.5 on the Rock Xtreme XT. The latter was equipped with an ATI Mobility Radeon X800 and a 3.2GHz Pentium 4. Even if you crank Half-Life 2 up to 1,600 x 1,200, you’ll still get 64.9fps out of the XPS without any FSAA or AF enabled.
Turning to Doom 3, which is home ground for nVidia chipsets, and things look even better. The XPS turned in a score of just under 100fps at 1,024 x 768, compared to the Rock Xtreme XT’s 69.2fps. Turning on 4x FSAA does drop the score down to 67.8fps, but that’s still very playable. Don’t pay too much attention to the Rock Xtreme XT’s scores with FSAA, since it’s clear that FSAA was not actually being enabled, even when it was set.
Of course with a TFT screen, you really want to run at the native resolution, but when the native resolution is 1,920 x 1,200, that’s a lot to ask of any graphics chipset, especially a mobile one. That said, I fired up Counter Strike: Source and gave it a go anyway. Obviously I left FSAA and AF off, but when you’re running at that kind of resolution, you’re not going to see too many jaggies anyway. So how was it? Amazing, that’s how it was. Yes, it was smooth as silk for the most part, with only the occasional frame glitch here and there – I just had to keep reminding myself that I was playing on a notebook.