The original XPS desktop and notebook computers were products I lusted after but never actually owned. They are on a list of products that included the original Voodoo Envy, the HP Blackbird, and HP Firebird (had one of these HP made me give it back).
Sadly the original XPS line, which was kind of like the Chrysler Viper, all raw power but very little elegance, gave way to the more Ferrari like Alienware line and, just like the characters on Big Bang theory I too moved to Alienware.
I currently carry an Alienware M11X, which is the closest thing to the original Voodoo Envy on the market today.
Last week Dell announced a new XPS laptop line and while it doesn’t have the raw power and exclusivity of the original XPS products it is both more practical and more affordable reflecting a maturity and elegance that the earlier product didn’t have.
Let’s revisit the Dell XPS and chat about the new offerings this week.
XPS: At the Heart of Dell
Dell went from a project to build computers for friends and students into a full blown company over the period of less than a decade. If there was a part of Dell that refused to grow up it was the XPS line. This line, eventually peaked with the World of Warcraft limited run special addition XPS laptop that came with special external colors and graphics and unlocked unique game content in the game.
I can recall going to a huge lan party back when XPS was at its peak and row after row of machines were XPS with the majority of what was left being products that people had largely built from scratch. They had an edge and a case that made them unique and those few who could afford and bring the laptops.
But they were laptops in name only with a huge battery coupled with a battery life measured in minutes; they were more portable desktops than laptops and they were only marginally lighter than their desktop counterparts.
Dell got so excited with gaming they bought the leading game computer company, Alienware, and decided to phase out the traditional XPS passing over the gaming responsibility to this new subsidiary. And XPS had to change
XPS 2.0: Think Mercedes Benz AMG
So XPS started out kind of like a Dodge Viper but then Dell effectively bought the Ferrari of the PC space and had to do something else with XPS. So they stayed with cars, looked over at Mercedes Benz and thought, hmmm why not AMG?
AMG is a big tuner house for Mercedes Benz cars and they will turn a mild mannered MB into a fire breathing supercar. You can often buy a real fire breathing supercar for the money but you can’t take your kids to school in that so the result is for folks that want the performance of a beast but still need to drive the thing to the store.
Interesting idea, but it didn’t translate well to a notebook or laptop and buyers couldn’t seem to figure out why they’d want a high performance version of an off the self-laptop.
HP tried an different spin by having products with "Voodoo DNA" that at least were gaming products and where a connection was made back to the company they bought but all that seemed to do was kill off the Voodoo PC lines.
It wasn’t working.
XPS 3.0: XPS Reloaded
With this latest release, Dell is rethinking the XPS brand and leaving Alienware alone at the high end. However, they are done treating this as a tuner brand and are bringing out PCs that are likely closer to what the Dodge Charger is to the Viper.
While these machines are still relatively still high performance PCs, they are also more affordable and focused on doing more things than just racing, or in this case, just gaming.
With machined metal finishes these products got a heavy focus on fit and finish and where they excel is in audio performance using JBL technology, this has been enhanced with Waves technology which provides advanced signal processing, and the larger products have Subwoofers.
They also have Nvidia Optimus which shifts from discrete to integrated graphics on the fly similar to my Alienware and this provides a nice balance of battery life and performance similar to how a turbo charger on a car. Better gas mileage than a V8 but performance if someone decides they want to jump you at a light.
This is also one of the first products with a built in HD webcam. I use an HD webcam myself and it makes a huge difference when doing s Skype video call. The line comes in three sizes starting at $849 for the 15”, $899 for the 14”, and $949 for the 17” which is the one I’d likely get myself. You can option them up from there but the initial configurations are likely adequate for most.
Wrapping Up: XPS is Back and it has Mellowed with Age
I’m going to miss the old XPS but this new line is vastly more affordable and practical while still having a bit of a performance edge. Sometimes products, as with people, have to grow up and these new laptops have a refinement that the original XPS lacked.
However, all of the competition hasn’t been driven out of the line because Dell claims that the sound system in this new XPS will kick the HP Envy product’s butt. Maybe the field is different and the game goes on but we clearly live in a whole new world.