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.
wrapping up and recommendations
As a design exercise, the XPS M1530 is a genuine accomplishment for Dell. If a bit ungainly and less comfortable on the lap than premium notebooks from Apple and others, it's arguably Dell's most appealing 15-inch notebook ever. The design is surprisingly attractive and comes with a healthy range of features that are well thought out compared to the mish-mash that sometimes creeps up with other notebooks.
Dell's component picks at the low end are mostly well chosen, too. Even if shipping a performance notebook with 1GB of RAM is borderline unacceptable, the NVIDIA chipset, CPU, and webcam all work well. I didn't have an opportunity to test a fully-loaded system, but there's little doubt that the M1530 could serve as a capable (though not extreme) desktop replacement with graphics and processor upgrades.
Other than under-specifying memory, Dell's only true mistake is with the M1530's fan design. Gamers using the system at a desk (no doubt a large segment of the target market) will never notice, but without the bulky and somewhat limited extended battery pack, the system can be uncomfortably hot anywhere else.
With a solid design, then, the true question is whether the configured system and its $1,299 price (as of press time) are worthwhile. In my estimation, the primary issue is Vista Ultimate: the $150 needed for the extra features is better spent on 2GB of memory and accessories, such as a carrying case. Anyone who keeps their notebooks tethered to the wall can also feel free to scrap the 9-cell battery, which frees up $50 for even more upgrades; the extra hour or so of likely battery is not enough to appease all-day workers but will add too much of a burden in most other circumstances.
Configuring a system this way would provide a solid, entry-level gaming notebook. After testing, I suspect most users should still upgrade the system beyond just the memory, especially when considering the GeForce 8600M GT option. While the CPU doesn't need to be upgraded past the mid-range point in most cases -- few will immediately notice the difference - the $100 for the enhanced graphics will make a world of difference for gaming, even if few changes have been made. I would also consider adding relatively trivial upgrades such as the 1440x900 screen ($50) or 802.11n Wi-Fi ($35) for serious use.
As long as the XPS M1530 remains this flexible, it's easy to recommend the system for most Windows users looking for a fast but still well-crafted portable. It won't lure Mac users or the ultraportable crowd, but it's hard to top for mainstream performance.