The XPS line from Dell has been a mainstay in my family for desktops since I can remember. It was 4 years ago that I purchased with my dad's credit card an XPS 400 and a 20 inch Widescreen LCD, and despite 3 heavy computer users, including my sister who has the computer touch-of-death, the computer still runs as quickly when I got, and thanks to the 256MB 7800GT, it runs games smoothly.
4 years ago I got a laptop for college and it turned out to be one of if not the best computers I will ever get, a Toshiba Satellite M50. It's still sitting 3 feet away from me, but my girlfriend has since inherited it because her laptop's MoBo fried her hard drive and LCD. I wasn't considering getting an XPS laptop if they existed back then, because they only came in 17inch flavor and didn't really have the performance-mobility trade-off I wanted.
I went looking for a laptop about 3 weeks ago and I came across these Dells. They had gotten great reviews, they looked great, and they had certain upgrades that made them even more tantalizing. Not to mention the 25% coupon after 1700$ made this laptop a steal. With the money I was saving while staying on budget, I outfitted this lappy, an XPS M1530, with an LED screen and a 256GB SSD. As far as the other components in this computer, they're nothing to write home about. They're more powerful then what you could get 4 years ago, but they're not much different. The LED and the SSD however are things which really for me make this laptop stand out from my old one.
Now for the hands on after I've bored you all to death:
What I'm looking at right now:
This laptop, because of the brushed aluminum, really brings to mind a fancy regridgerator like the ones that sit inside the wall and not outside it. As opposed to the refridgerator in my house, which is forty years old, my grandparents have a fridge that oozes design and sophistication. The laptop's brushed aluminum is fun to look at, fun to touch, and tough. It helps keep the laptop cool as well. Open your window if you live in a cold climate, and in seconds the laptop's aluminum handrest will feel like a ski-lift chair.
As for the keyboard, it may be a little loud but it gets the job done and that's all I really care about. The media keys above the keyboard are touch sensitive and do a good if not passing job. I would've preferred moving keys, but I think the design of the laptop is better off with a solid black bar separating the keyboard from the LCD.
As a whole, and for comparison's sake, I'm sure some of you know a thing or to about beautiful women. Women can have many great things going for them, but when it all adds up sometimes it just doesn't work. The same I'm sure goes for guys. This laptop and its design simply works. It's possibly the most design conscious Dell ever made, and like its little brother, it triggers that little tech-fetish voice in your head that says touch me.
This section will cover what the computer does, which includes the LCD, speakers, boot-on/boot-off times, gaming performance (in short), Windows performance (in short), and anything else that might help you decide whether this laptop is too much or too little for your needs.
The LCD is gorgeous. In fact its so bright it makes everything else look a little darker. I have done a side-by-side for this laptop with my old Toshiba, and the difference is like putting a Bravia next to a Trinitron. Brightness can be controlled via an FN key, and its has 8 settings I think (for some reason as of right now I can't change the brightness, but whatev...). Text is very crisp and I have no qualms for this LCD. While gaming, I have played better than ever on this laptop. Honestly I'm not normally someone who thinks the machine makes the gamer better, but I don't know what else it is, I'm not superstitious so it must be the LCD. Smoke looks great on this screen, explosions are lifelike, blood looks like blood only bloodier... For movies, the screen is great as well. I've watched Revolver and Slumdog Millionaires on this laptop so far, and I've also seen and heard my brother fart on his webcam from this laptop and I saw the wind... I DID. Slumdog Millionaires was great but I'll have to try out an older movie like Alien or Terminator to see if this screen can really make movies explode onto the screen.
This review won't look at benchmarks, only real-world performance, as at the moment I just don't have the time to post 3DMark scores on this system, though I suspect they will be in the upper 4,000 to maybe 5,000 range. Other M1530s with slower CPUs have gotten around 4,500 to 4,600, but I think the processor bump could increase the score just a little. The lappy gets a not too shabby 5.1 from the Windows Experience thingy. The lowest score comes from the memory, but in all honesty I'm not going to put 4GB of ram out of home for a slight performance increase. Zune software opens up in anywhere from 1 to 2 seconds, as opposed to my old lappy where it took about 10 seconds. Booting takes about 25 to 30 seconds, I suppose this is largely due to the SSD, which requires no spin-up and simply reads faster than most if not all HDDs. In Counterstrike, with 2xAA, 1440x900, all high, and Trilinear... thingy, I get 60fps that lowers to 55 when the going gets tough. In DoD: Source things are a little more detailey but I stay above 45 fps on the same settings as Counter-Strike: Source. Playing the Dawn of War II Beta, things looked a little slow in my native resolution, so I toned the settings down to Medium and gameplay returned to normalcy (I suppose you might be wondering how I had the time to play games but not do a benchmark here and there; my brother, he loves to play with me).
The Hard Drive makes the system noticeably faster. Even though I heard of some issues with write speeds onto these kinds of disks, I haven't noticed anything yet. I wrote about 100GB of my media, music, movies, docs etc... in about 20 minutes onto this laptop's SSD from an external 320GB hard drive. I suppose programs load quickly because the hard drive is a speedy bastard. It received a 5.9 from the Windows Experience thingy.
Thus far, no program has really even scraped the surface of this laptop's performance abilities, but I suppose 3DMark 06 will bring it to its knees like most.
With heat, the top left corner gets a little hot when I'm playing those games I mentioned above, but in comparison, my Toshiba would sizzle after just sitting there. My top temp measured in the Toshiba was 161 degrees Fahrenheit while converting an AVI to WMA for my Zune. On the Dell, it hasn't gone above 105 degrees fahrenheit.
Update: 105 is simply impossible. Sorry if any eyebrows were raised. I'm not sure how I got that measurement, but now I have two programs telling me the computer is idle at about 42C on average, and when I'm gaming or running a stress test it peaks at about 62C. These temps are with RMClock running. B4 RMClock, the temps would hit 75-76 IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!
The speakers suck, but on the plus side there are two audio-out jacks up front, so you can keep your headphones and speakers plugged in and never have to switch one for the other.
This laptop was a steal (did I mention I got three years of McAfee, a four year warranty, accident damage protection for 4 years, and LoJack [for four years]) at just 1,850$. I buy laptops nearly maxed out because I expect them to be my workhorse for four-plus years. My favorite thus far has been the LED screen, which as it turns out can now alter its brightness... Windows. I would suggest this laptop very highly.
Update: Ok guys and girls and guyls, I've just had a run-in with RMClock, and this program just really improved my battery life about 40 minutes. As for the undervolting #'s I'm currently at something like 9.750 for 12x multiplier, and the rest are locked 9.50 (for the time being). I recently found a regedit 4 step thingy to change a value in the registry to change my voltage to as low as 7.125. I haven't tried anything that crazy, but I will test those waters when I'm not writing a paper/application to Graduate school.
Currently, I was just testing out the SuperLFM feature, which reduces the bus speed, essentially underclocking but ALSO undervolting your CPU even further when the CPU is idle, so if ur on battery and ur simply typing away with one browser window open, you may see something like this in the bottom right corner of your screen:
Low clock speed, low temp, no fan usage unless it gets up to about 48 (the heatsink/pipes are not long, dont have the capacity to absorb much heat on their own... as the CPU/GPU arrangement is close to the top left corner)... and the best part: around 3:30 of plain old Office and Browser usage. I keep thinking that's not much considering that I have the LED display on as low as it can go, Wi-Fi, and a couple dinky processes like IE and Word. Still though, it helps.
So: More info on how low the processor's voltage can go until I get a Bamboo Stick of Death. Oh, HAHAHAHA, I meant Blue Screen of Death.