On the left of the Dell Studio XPS 13's chassis is a Gigabit Ethernet port, and some video output ports. Count them: there's three to choose from. In chronological order, there's a VGA D-Sub connector, for legacy displays and projectors. Next up is an HDMI port, for modern displays and flat-screen televisions. And the final option is a DisplayPort connector, the new computer industry competitor to HDMI which offers comparable high-definition video specifications alongside digital audio.

Driving the onboard graphics is an nVidia GeForce 9500M solution, which actually comprises a 9400M integrated chip (as used by the new Apple MacBooks and Mac mini) with a 9200M GS discrete card.

Using Hybrid SLI, the pair can be set to work together, when they are known collectively as a GeForce 9500M. Used as intended, the low-power integrated chip allows you to save power when on batteries, while the pair combine together for best graphics performance when on mains power.

We used our usual FEAR game test to evaluate the graphic cards' performance. With the game's graphics set to Maximum quality, we recorded an average of 21 frames per second - not a bad result, but not too far off what we've measured from the efficient on-board 9400M chip running alone. Dropping graphics quality a single notch to High, however, gave us an average framerate of 51fps, a great result.

In our MobileMark 2007 battery life test, the XPS Studio used its six-cell powerpack to good effect, providing just over three hours (188 mins) of unplugged productivity. We would have preferred to see four hours-plus, but considering the notebook's hidden firepower this is still an impressive run.

And what about its overall real-world performance?

Until we tested the Sony VAIO VGN-AW11XU this month, the Dell Studio XPS 13 had hit our highest recorded score for a notebook computer, achieving a startling 108 points in WorldBench 6. This result is faster than more than a few desktop system we see in the lab.

OUR VERDICT

‘Desktop replacement’ used to be a euphemism for a noisy and heavy laptop. Not so with the Studio XPS 13. It’s as powerful as many desktops, yet compact enough to carry almost anywhere. To expand its modest display it can be plugged into any screen thanks to a versatile collection of video ports. Despite all that raw power, the Studio XPS 13 is near-silent in general use, thanks to no hard disk noise and a fan that only kicks in when the laptop is under load. Combining great style, solid build quality and sheer outright performance, the Studio XPS thoroughly earns its PC Advisor Gold Award.