The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

The Dell XPS 420- Five Years of Service

This is the last post I will write using the Dell XPS 420, a machine that has been in service for use a little more than five years now. Since I acquired it back in January 2008, the XPS 420 has acted as an immensely powerful tool in a variety of tasks. A generally well-received machine for its time, the XPS 420 is praised for its reasonably high performance-to-cost ratio and solid performance as a mid-range machine. In practise, the XPS 420 is reliable, capable and has aged reasonably well over the past four years it has been in operation. The XPS 420 I fielded has the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.4 GHz), 3 GB of DDR2 RAM, and an ATI HD 2600 XT video card: a configuration that is more than sufficient for word processing and web browsing, and capable of running a reasonable number of games, including Halo 2 Vista and Crysis on medium settings. For the past four years, this was my workhorse machine, although recently, common, everyday operations such as printing a PDF or opening Microsoft Office, has proven to be a taxing request for this system, and as such, I had resolved to build a new machine upon the completion of my undergraduate academic program.

  • I’ve fielded the Dell XPS 420 in all of my endeavours: classified as a media machine, the system has served exceedingly well during its active periods, taking on things of varying importance, from studying for the MCAT and writing my thesis to writing this blog and pwning n00bs in Halo.

  • However, all good things must come to an end. Thus, it is now that I choose to declassify the information surrounding my old system.

The decision to upgrade the entire system was a difficult one, as it is quite challenging to part with a computer that has been through everything in my entire secondary school and undergraduate career; necessity trumps nostalgic value. With this said, the amount of work this machine has performed is nothing short of impressive; the XPS has been used for everything from compiling SPARC code remotely, profiling Java projects, writing academic papers for course-work and publications, and completion of research grant applications, to more casual activities, such as converting anime into a format suited for iOS and getting killtaculars in Halo 2 Vista. Having written my undergraduate thesis project and countless other papers, this machine has seen everything from the release and discussion of the Gundam 00, Haruhi, K-On! and Strike Witches movies, to my transition from secondary education into undergraduate education. It is a private Ragnarok Online server, and once was my means for playing World of Warcraft with friends on another private server.

  • This experience brings to mind one of Char Aznable’s quotes: “I’ll show you that a superior mobile suit has its limits when it goes up against a superior pilot!” This holds true of the disparities between one factor or the other are sufficiently large, but as initially unskilled operators of capable technology gradually improve, skill alone is insufficient to guarantee victory.

  • When it was first deployed, the XPS 420 was the single most powerful machine that any one fielded at my secondary school. It has since been eclipsed by machines of similar price, including the next-generation machine I will be constructing on short order.

Therefore, the decision to retire the Dell XPS 420 was not a light one. After careful consideration, I have opted to go with a custom build running Windows 8. While I am not at liberty to disclose its specifications, I can say that this machine will be significantly more powerful than the ASUS G75 Series G75VW-NS71 Notebook, a machine that one of my competitors uses. Costing 1400 dollars, this laptop is equipped with an Intel Core i7 3610QM (2.3 GHz clock speed) and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670M (336 shader units); these specifications put a more expensive machine as having lesser performance compared to a less costly, more powerful machine. Whereas a great number of vocal parties have decried Windows 8 as a poor decision on Microsoft’s part, claiming it as an attempt to ensure that Windows remains competitive against Apple while removing functions users have come to familiarise themselves with in the past. However, I see Windows 8 as a necessary evil: in order to adapt and keep up with the latest technology, individuals should make an effort to familiarise themselves with new systems as they are released. Windows 8 is touted as the fastest and most secure version of Windows, being able to operate well on both traditional and touch interfaces. As such, I am willing to give Windows 8 a shot; this is similar to the reaction some gamers had when making the jump between Halo 2 and Halo 3, where several of the key bindings were altered, resulting in players switching weapons or unscoping when they made to melee. Players would soon adapt and the complaints faded to oblivion. The similar case is expected here (in my case, at any rate): it will take me a while to pick up the nuances of Windows 8, but once I do, I expect that my complaints will be minimal. Granted, my experience with computer technology allows me to pick things up faster than usual, but nonetheless, I contend that most individuals griping about the changes, especially those aforementioned competitors, are those who cannot step outside of their comfort zones and adapt to new technologies and approaches.

7 responses to “The Dell XPS 420- Five Years of Service

  1. ninetybeats May 1, 2013 at 01:25

    Those images, are those from a Microsoft mascot campaign or something? They look pretty damn good, nice choice on those images.
    Windows 8 sure is terrible, I heard somewhere there will be an update or something like that, that makes you boot from the homescreen/desktop view. I never owned a Dell myself, sounds like a decent system.


    • infinitezenith May 1, 2013 at 10:38

      The Windows 7 mascot, Madobe Nanami, is the first of the OS-tans to be endorsed by Microsoft. For the present, I’d say Madobe Nanami is the most polished of the OS-tans, although for personal reasons, I like XP-tan the most.

      As for Windows 8, I plan on giving it a spin to see what it is like. I say that because I wish to see for myself whether the OS itself is unusable, or whether people are making it to be a lot worse than it actually is. The update you refer to is Service Pack 1, which is to release somewhere in the future and will re-implement classic Windows features to some extent. I look forward to seeing it, but if Windows 8 does indeed prove to be too difficult to master, I will re-install Windows 7.

      From my personal experience, Dell machines are reasonably reliable. I’ve had a handful of memory and one hard disk failure over the machine’s five years of service. Because I was able to fix those on short order, they weren’t enough of an impediment for me to count them as strikes against Dell. I would continue recommending Dell, but my usage patterns means paying more of a premium for a machine that matches my requirements; as such, I have opted to go for a custom build. If this experience is a positive one, I will probably fall into the “once you go custom, there’s no going back” camp.


      • ninetybeats May 3, 2013 at 13:53

        I am not against the concept of windows 8, I believe it will work like a charm on tablet devices. Only it seems rather forced on desktop pc’s.
        When I try to make my own custom pc, I end up with a way overpriced machine when picking components. So I stick with the ready mades and just replace them every now and then when it is necessary. I’m also not such a tech savvy guy to make like a durable machine:p


        • infinitezenith May 4, 2013 at 10:01

          Admittedly, Windows 8 does take some getting used to. As for custom PCs, the trick is to be savvy and know exactly what parts you’re looking for 😉 The sales people may oftentimes try to convince you to buy the more expensive parts for better performance, but in practise, the more expensive parts usually only yield a 5-10 percent difference.

          Your approach is the one that’s commonly used: it is I who are aberrant. Ready-made PCs generally suffice for everything except gaming and as such, are sufficient for most users 🙂


          • ninetybeats May 4, 2013 at 10:22

            I use my pc for Photoshop and daily tasks. I have an HP, the quad core and 8GB memory work great for me. Shame the powersupply died on me within a year, luckily I still got warranty. Luckily this pc has windows 7. I have my ps3 to game:p


            • infinitezenith May 4, 2013 at 10:33

              I got warranty for all the mission critical parts on my rig (read “everything except the case”) 😉

              I’ll probably post about what kind of gaming I expect to do later: I was able to capitalise on a promotion and get myself a free copy of Metro: Last Light. I saw the trailer and I admit, watch spiders walk across my helmet/screen is going to be an interesting experience.


              • ninetybeats May 4, 2013 at 10:48

                There’s some pretty impressive stuff coming up with the new batch of consoles. Some games will probably be ported to a pc I believe. But I mostly play Call of Duty nowadays, I haven’t bought a lot of games recently. A lot is coming out, but I’m not like running to the shop to buy it. I follow it, but more from a technological interest point of view I think.


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