The XPS M1530 takes 15-inch Dell notebooks upscale. (February 8th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Dell
Price: $1299 (1.8GHz C2D, Vista Ultimate, 9-cell)
- Relatively stylish, intelligent design.
- Strong choices of CPU, graphics for the price.
- Free of nagging trialware.
- Good keyboard and expansion ports.
- 1GB RAM far too little for games, HD video, Vista.
- Downward-facing fan makes notebook uncomfortably hot in heavy use.
- Trackpad on the review unit is partly unresponsive after waking up.
- 9-cell battery doesn't add enough longevity to be worthwhile for most users.
display quality and expansion
Like most PC makers, Dell regrettably uses a glossy LCD to boost colors and subjects the M1530's 15.4-inch screen to the same flaws as most others: in dark areas or rooms with bright lights, reflections can sometimes overwhelm the image. Even so, the picture is bright and seems to resist color-shifting fairly well, at least with the 1280x800 panel used in our system. Serious users, however, will definitely want to investigate the sharper 1440x900 and 1680x1050 screens available in the custom-order process; while the default is perfectly usable for basic work and most gaming, the resolution is small for those used to a full-fledged desktop.
Few can complain about the expansion offered on the XPS M1530. While the three USB ports and one four-pin FireWire port are nothing special, most everything else is helpful and thoughtfully placed. I especially appreciated the front-mounted 8-in-1 card reader, the audio jacks, and the positioning of the ExpressCard slot near the front; some companies push these far to the sides, making them harder to use, or else limit their format support for the sake of size (such as the ExpressCard/34 slots on the MacBook Pro, or Sony's Memory Stick/SD slot).
Perhaps unsurprisingly for its role as a near-desktop replacement system, the M1530's video options are its strongest assets and may even border on overkill for Dell's target audience of gamers. HDMI out is an appreciated touch for HDTVs (especially for models with Blu-ray drives) but is also accompanied by VGA and S-video jacks. No doubt these are to appeal to students and workers who may need to link the XPS to a projector for a presentation, but it's difficult not to see these three separate ports and believe that Dell may have wasted space that could have been used by an extra USB port. The lack of any adapter cables (especially for DVI) is also somewhat puzzling.
Last year, Dell reacted to customer complaints about an increasing amount of trial software by pulling most of it from the XPS line. While I would prefer that it give customers of less expensive systems similar attention, the change has at least had a positive impact for premium systems like the M1530. Other than a Norton Antivirus registration and a few Dell utilities -- the Dell Support Center being the most intrusive of the bunch with its notices -- our review unit wasn't saddled with any of the noticeable overhead or pop-up requests that creep up on some large manufacturers' Windows PCs.
Having said this, most of Dell's current software lineup on the XPS M1530 (and in many cases, other notebooks) seems a bit redundant. While not everyone likes Microsoft's built-in apps, Dell's MediaDirect front end (which appears to blend in elements of Apple's Front Row) largely mimics Windows Media Center; while the latter doesn't have access to Office presentations, it offers more media choices in a sleeker interface. The question also remains whether gamers will really spend much time with either shell or the bundled (if convenient) remote.
This particular computer also came bundled with Windows Vista Ultimate, which itself is somewhat redundant for its audience; few gamers or entertainment-minded users need the business networking and DreamScene features, especially for the added cost of the software.