One week with my brand new Dell XPS L702X – Review Part 2, the software

My previous post was about the laptop’s hardware. In this post I will write about the preloaded software that comes with it, drivers and the possible updates someone can install.

So, the laptop comes with the all-known Windows 7 Home Premium Edition in its 64-bit version. I ‘ve searched more than enough for finding a machine with no pre-loaded OS, so that I can install something I choose. I want to have Linux installed in the machine, why not give me choice? Is it so difficult to have a mechanism with a choice on the machine’s first run presenting the user which OS he/she could choose? They can do it, but its not profitable! We cannot be the ones who broke an agreement with M$, right? Now the machine is worth at least 100 USD more, just because of this f*** Windows licence!

Flame mode off…

What else does it come with it? It has Microsoft Office Starter, Roxio Media Creator Starter, PowerDVD by Cyberlink, Dell Webcam Central, Dell Backup, Dell Stage Remote, Dell Support Center and finally AccelerometerP11, a free fall protection of some kind, i don’t know yet how it actually works. Further information bellow.

Microsoft Office 10 Starter is a stripped down free version of the popular office suite by Microsoft. Being a stripped down version means you don’t get the full capabilities of their expensive suite and it has, you guessed it, ads!

Roxio Media Creator Starter is for burning various optical media and PowerDVD is for wathing Blu-Ray and DVD movies. I ‘ve tested PowerDVD so far with a Blu-Ray movie and I liked how it worked. No noticeable lag between disc layers whatsoever.

Dell also provides some other tools like Backup, Stage Remote and the support center. The backup software is after what its name says, it back’s up data. This tool has a backend from Nero. I uninstalled it, because I use Dropbox for the most important files and manual backup for other things. I also use Acronis and Clonezilla for Windows and Linux backups respectivelly. Stage Remote is a strange utility. It allows remote control of the laptop via bluetooth from an Android based device. Haven’t used it yet, and disabled automatic run with ccleaner. Finally, the Support Center is an important utility. It is responsible for managing the back-ups made with the Back-up tool, plus, thanks to PC Doctor, it provides extensive information for the hardware and runs tests both quick and thorough to assess the condition of the various hardware components. If you are looking for the machine’s service tag, this is the tool that provides it. Also, do not forget to register your machine with Dell’s registration tool.

Now for the drivers part. Thanks to Dell’s excellent support center and web site, finding updated drivers is very easy. So, go to the Dell’s support center, I have already chosen the appropriate models for you.

The most important driver updates are for BIOS, USB 3.0 controller and the nVidia graphics card.

BIOS:

The latest version as of February 6th, 2012 is A16:

http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/usgen1/DriverDetails/DriverFileFormats?DriverId=J9M3M&FileId=2851908595

Changelog:

  1. Update BIOS and EC to fix AC adapter can’t be detected with probability.
    – Add re-try mechanism between EC and adapter PSID.(Re-try 3 times every 500ms to extend detection time for Adapter plug-in)
  2. Disable Div2 spread spectrum for error or failed to copy files from external USB 3.0 devices.

I ‘ve applied this update and I also noticed an improvement in the usb emulation issues. I ‘m talking about these slow POST boot-ups when several usb devices and hubs are connected.

The usb 3.0 controller driver is also buggy. In the beginning I noticed some usb 2.0 devices when connected in the USB 3.0 ports where not recognized. I applied this driver and now I have no issues at all:

http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/usgen1/DriverDetails/DriverFileFormats?DriverId=R317222&FileId=2731121777

Its called Renesas driver and it also provides a diagnostic tool.

Now for the nVidia drivers:

For the moment, I ‘ve installed the official drivers. In the future I might try unofficial, enhanced ones. Go to the nvidia’s official support site, I found for you the appropriate link here. You don’t have to download separate driver for either 3D Vision and Optimus.

Further performance improvement can be done with a very nifty free tool called TweakNow Powerpack 2011. I found it over at Softpedia. It has several tweak options and cleanups, etc. If something is done by mistake, fear not, all changes are backed up. What I first did is disabling many autostart programs and services, resulting in a much shorter startup. Go to the “Windows Cleaner” tab -> Startup Manager.

I disabled:

  • Intel (R) Turbo Boost Technology. It is only a monitoring tool not the driver itself. I replaced it with Core Temp. Be aware that this tool has adware, meaning that the tool itself doesn’t have but the installer does, so be careful when installing the tool to decline any programs you might not want.
  • All of the Adobe startup programs. I don’t need quickstart, its a memory hog.
  • BDregion,  Desktop Disc Tool, NeroLauncher, PDVD9LanguageShortcut, RemoteControl9, RoxWatchTray, SunJavaUpdateSched. All safe to disable.
  • IntelTBRunOnce, also safe to disable
  • Stage Remote. Safe to disable. You can start it on demand by choosing it from the menu. Is there anyone who likes to autostart it? Be my guest.

You can also disable some other tools, like Intel PAN (this is for managing Intel’s SoftAP) and Bluetooth Tray Agent if you don’t need them, but I left them on.

About the AccelerometerP11. In order to protect the PC and the data, Dell has installed a sensor which measures acceleration. If the machine fall down, the sensor is activated and triggers through the software to move the HDD heads to a safe position and guard itself from an impact. Quite important if you ask me.

For protection, I installed Microsoft Security Essentials. TBH I haven’t used any antivirus software in years, but now that my machine has a lot of memory and processing power, its not a big deal. After all MSE is very transparent and lightweight, as it uses many libraries already provided by Windows itself.

That’s it! Now enjoy your new Dell XPS machine.