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Product: Dell XPS M1530 15.4" HD Widescreen Laptop
Manufacturer: Dell
MSRP: $999 (Varies by configuration)

Introduction
The 15.4" screen size is the bread-and-butter size for most laptop manufacturers, and Dell is no exception. This fact is made even more true when you consider the premium line of notebooks that is the XPS brand. In past years, Dell simply re-branded their consumer notebook line to fill separate niches (as is the case with the Vostro). I'm glad they didn't take this approach with their first foray into the XPS notebooks. The resulting line of notebooks includes the XPS M1530, a radical departure in design & style from their heretofore vanilla notebooks.



Unboxing
This system was ordered from this deal, which was particularly appealing to me because of the relatively loaded specs at a price point close to 1k. We ended up ordering 8 of these systems as you can see from the pictures.

The packaging is standard stuff, with the notebook safely encased in the M1530 soft shell case surrounded by foam. Accessories include Creative EP-630 Earbud Headphones and the mini remote that tucks neatly into the ExpressCard slot. The included folder lets you keep all of the bundled CD/DVD media organized should you need it in the future.



Specifications
  • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T9300 (2.5GHz/800MHzFSB, 6M L2 Cache)
  • 4GB, DDR2, 667MHz 2 Dimm, for XPS M1530
  • 15.4 inch Full Hi Definition Wide Screen WUXGA TrueLife + Webcam
  • 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT
  • 320GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • 56Whr Lithium Ion Battery (6 cell)
  • Integrated Sound Blaster Audigy
  • Intel 4965AGN Wireless-N Mini-card
  • Biometric Fingerprint Reader
  • Bluetooth 2.0 EDR
  • Vista Home Premium

    It would have been nice if Dell matched the memory to the CPU, however we had to settle for 667MHz memory mismatched with the 800MHz FSB CPU.

    Design
    The design cues are very much the same as the XPS m1330 which we previously reviewed. There's basically no difference except for the size of the laptop itself. The capacitive multimedia keys present nicely above the keyboard at the base of the screen, and all of the access ports are on the sides or front of the m1530.





    Being that this is Dell's "high-style" laptop offering, one might be concerned that Dell offers a sure method to sabotage the great style of this laptop. They have recently been offering a free 9-cell battery upgrade as an option. In fact, when we opted for the standard 6-cell battery our order got delayed by about 2 weeks compared to the 9-cell option. The problem is that the 9-cell battery protrudes significantly (about 3/4") from the bottom of the laptop. The advantage of the 9-cell battery is that it offers 4+ hours runtime vs about 2-1/2 to 3 hours for the 6-cell (in power saver mode). Here's a heated debate on the issue.



    The m1530 has three USB 2.0 ports, which is one more than the little brother m1330. Because of the slim profile, the USB ports are a tight fit for even a bare USB connector, so any fat USB peripherals may interfere with using the adjacent ports (USB, power, CD/DVD slot).

    Fingerprint Reader
    In theory, you're supposed to be able to use the fingerprint reader to login to Windows as well as to manage password protected sites. In practice, I found the realization of this biometric security vision to be difficult. The fingerprint reader simply does not function reliably enough to be anything more than a novelty to me. If your hands are dry and free of oils/moisture, such as is the case after washing them, the sensor will not reliably detect your fingerprint, thus forcing you to manually type in your password. Not to mention the ever-present threat of using your severed finger to gain access to your critical files.



    Performance
    The Dell XPS m1530 has been out for the better part of a year now, and even earlier versions of this laptop got impressive scores from the dedicated review sites. This particular configuration has the Core 2 Duo T9300 2.5GHz CPU with 6MB L2 Cache, a significantly superior CPU to the early models reviewed above. It also sports a seriously high resolution display at 1920x1200, allowing for more taxing pixel loads. The GeForce 8600M GT is (after over a year on the market) still a top of the line mobile video chipset, however mobile video chipsets have not advanced nearly as much as desktop graphics cards have in the past year.



    On the Super Pi benchmark, the m1530 was able to calculate 1M digits of Pi in 18 seconds, which is really top notch for a notebook. In fact, my desktop scored 23 seconds on the same calculation, making me sad.



    Battery Life
    From a fully charged battery (6-cell, 56 WHr) the maximum battery life was reported by Windows to be 3 hours and 54 minutes. This is with minimal loaded programs and at the lowest brightness setting. You should not expect to get this battery life if you are actually using the laptop during this time.

    Under moderate usage at a usable screen brightness setting, you should expect the battery to last between 2 hours and 2 and a half hours. That's enough to view most DVDs if you're on a flight, but it leaves little time left over. If you plan on working away from an outlet for longer periods of time, consider the 9 cell option which will give significantly longer runtimes (while adding almost 0.75" to the overall thickness of your machine).

    To get an idea about the power saver mode and its effect on performance, we ran the Super PI benchmark during power saver mode. The benchmark took 39s in power saver, versus a much faster 18s in full power mode. Power saver mode reduces the benchmark by about half.



    Conclusion
    At first look, I was fairly impressed by the design and form factor of the XPS m1530. When picking it up, it is significantly lighter than most other notebooks in its class. Through several weeks of use & testing, no major problems arose and the XPS m1530 proved itself to be a genuine joy to use. The combination of pleasing design, good portability, and superb usability have left me impressed. I'll be using this specific notebook as my own personal notebook for at least a year or two. Consider that to be my highest recommendation.

    Image Gallery


    • Was this useful?
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      Vic_Romano Ben's cred: 79
      Posted 2:19 pm PDT 07/17/08

      I'm first, I win! Oh wait, this isn't a giveaway. Ben, what's with the lack of pictures in your review? I need to know what it looks like on shag carpeting and bearskin rugs.

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      hieuhef Ben's cred: 45
      Posted 2:28 pm PDT 07/17/08

      wait, 8600gt is top of the line? since when?

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      goldenboyfx Ben's cred: 164
      Posted 2:28 pm PDT 07/17/08

      Giveaway or not, I want it now.

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      jweavis Ben's cred: 9
      Posted 2:33 pm PDT 07/17/08

      I've had my M1530 for about 5 months now. Overall, I really have been happy with it.

      Things I love:
      - 1920 x 1200 is great for HD movies and DameWare connections to home and work.
      - 8600GT M is a nice card for casual gaming. Best I've seen in a sub $1100 notebook (when I bought mine).
      - Proc is very fast. I've yet to really throw anything at it though.

      Things I've noticed that I don't like.
      - Major issue - No pads to prevent the LCD screen and the keyboard for touching had scratched the face of my LCD. I'll be contacting Dell shortly on this issue.
      - When plugged in, the power plug hits my legs when sitting with my legs crossed on our couch. Minor annoyance.
      - Vista 32-bit only drivers. No options for XP or 64-bit.

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      ThatVong Ben's cred: 1
      Posted 2:34 pm PDT 07/17/08

      Is this giveaway or sell it. I want to buy one of these too.

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      sethook Ben's cred: 169
      Posted 2:48 pm PDT 07/17/08

      In for one.

    • Was this useful?
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      BenBargains Ben's cred: 89
      Posted 3:27 pm PDT 07/17/08

      The point Ben makes about the 800 mhz FSB and 667 mhz RAM isn't the only issue. DELL will cripple your BIOS so that you can't even utilize the 800 mhz even if you upgrade the RAM and match the FSB. I read you can flash your BIOS and remove the 677 mhz limit but why make the consumer do that in the first place?

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      jeonej Ben's cred: 1
      Posted 3:29 pm PDT 07/17/08

      Giveaway or not, I want it now

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      plays2win Ben's cred: 75
      Posted 3:33 pm PDT 07/17/08

      Blah, Blah Blah! Who cares.

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      Tsetse Ben's cred: 33
      Posted 3:46 pm PDT 07/17/08

      Ben, how can you make this configuration close to 1K? You got some special discount from Dell that we don't know???

      Editor's Note: For some reason they were clearing them out that week, I think it was $1200 + $100 for the CPU upgrade.

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      Sman Ben's cred: 21
      Posted 3:48 pm PDT 07/17/08

      very nice review. i have a loaded dell inspiron 1520 (loaded) and am happy with it.wish i could get that t9300 processor from you

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      Tsetse Ben's cred: 33
      Posted 3:50 pm PDT 07/17/08

      I just try the configuration that you have, it shows 2.2K. I wonder how you can say close to 1K.????

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      Oio Ben's cred: 139
      Posted 3:50 pm PDT 07/17/08

      It's still a dell

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      adboll Ben's cred: 1
      Posted 5:39 pm PDT 07/17/08

      Ben,

      May I get one of these from you???

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      Riuski Ben's cred: 11
      Posted 5:42 pm PDT 07/17/08

      Ben is obviously a reseller as well... 8 units at a time?!

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      EuriskoXP Ben's cred: 4
      Posted 6:43 pm PDT 07/17/08

      i keep hearing about 8800m cards but ive yet to see any- even my favorite laptop -toshiba- goes 8400-8500-8600-8600x2(sli)... but no 8800... which company does that?

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      Tsetse Ben's cred: 33
      Posted 6:54 pm PDT 07/17/08

      8800, Gateway has it but with low end CPU.

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      hieuhef Ben's cred: 45
      Posted 7:26 pm PDT 07/17/08

      #17, they have it on their highend laptop as well. do your hw.

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      braindamage Ben's cred: 4
      Posted 7:37 pm PDT 07/17/08

      Nice review... I'd still go with the workstation.

    • Was this useful?
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      douglas18 Ben's cred: 25
      Posted 7:54 pm PDT 07/17/08

      #7, can you tell me how to flash the BIOS to utilize the 800MHz ram? Or point me to an article?

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