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.
design, heat, and noise
Dell has come a long way from its earlier days, when many of its notebook designs were more likely to be rebadged generic designs than custom hardware.
While the M1530 is less of a shock than it might have been otherwise -- the 13.3-inch XPS M1330 stole much of its larger sibling's thunder -- the reality remains that the new system is a far sleeker and more attractive design than just about any large Dell portable to date. The outer shell is refreshingly minimal for Dell and even makes use of aluminum on the edges. It's a refreshing break from an industry still dominated by plastic or low-cost metal bodies. That said, the colored part of the shell is prone to showing palm prints and may occasionally need a wipe-down to remain pristine.
Inside, the situation is thankfully much the same as on the outside. The aluminum extends to the entire palm rest and gives the XPS a quality feel: there's no creaking or other signs of a weak frame. The hinge is extremely sturdy and doesn't wobble the display even with frequent typing. Dell keeps the use of bright blue LEDs (often a problem with gaming notebooks) to a minimum and, like Apple, tucks the two-megapixel webcam neatly away at the top of the lid.
All the same, the design isn't as slim as it could be. In 15-inch form, the new-look XPS is big -- almost too big. The weight is reasonable (5.9 pounds), but at 14 inches wide and as thick as 1.4 inches, the system isn't nearly as totable as the MacBook Pro or some other systems with a similar-size screen. It does, however, bring a slot-load optical drive; this is a rare treat in an industry which often relies on flimsy and often unsightly tray loaders.
The keyboard and trackpad are, for the most part, surprisingly capable. While the keys are made of plastic, all of them are genuinely comfortable and a pleasure to type on for extended periods. The trackpad is not quite so ideal: while the scroll strips are comfortable enough to use and the pad has a nice feel, the surface area is unusually small for a 15-inch system and (at least in our review unit) sometimes suffers from short-term unresponsiveness after boot-up or coming out of sleep mode.
In actual operation, the M1530 is largely silent, even in very performance-intensive tasks. The loudest noise is more often than not the optical drive rather than any internal case fans. This may, however, come at the cost of users' laps: in an odd decision, Dell has a downward-facing fan that blasts hot air directly underneath the case. This is less of an issue for owners relying on the extended 9-cell battery pack (which lifts the fan away from the user), but for everyone else the heat can be enough to be genuinely uncomfortable for more than several minutes of demanding use.