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


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      acumenhokie Ben's cred: 80
      Posted 8:04 pm PDT 07/17/08

      SPAM!

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      gatzj Ben's cred: 99
      Posted 8:26 pm PDT 07/17/08

      did i read somewhere no more xps replaced by alienware?

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      whoster69 Ben's cred: 47
      Posted 9:45 pm PDT 07/17/08

      I just got mine about a week ago. I ordered it in early June. Here's the good news. It is a nicely designed notebook. The bad news? There's a bunch, but it all has to do with handling. First, it took Dell over a month to get it to me. Why? Because they kept running out of parts. Second, once they shipped it they were nice enough to upgrade me to next day shipping, but because they only use DHL, it took 8 days for it to arrive. DHL is run by rodeo cowboy that can't deliver on time. Dell needs more choices for shipping. Next, one day into owning it, the hard drive dies. Dell overnight ships one to me (again by DHL so over night took 4 days -bunch of rodeo cowboy!). The drive arrives and it's a refurb. Not nice. Now 6 weeks after placing my order, I finally have a working notebook. I shouldn't have to work this hard or wait this long to get one that works. Shame on Dell. DHL should go out of business they are so inept.

      One thing I forgot to mention. You can buy a mat (or make one out of an old T-shirt that will protect your keyboard.

      You can get a lot of useful information from: http://forum.notebookreview.com/forumdisplay.php?f=1049

      A forum dedicated to the XPS line of notebooks.

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      Vic_Romano Ben's cred: 79
      Posted 7:02 am PDT 07/18/08

      How is this better deal than the HP dv9700t for $900? http://bensbargains.net/deal/71768/

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      Pei Ben's cred: 50
      Posted 6:54 pm PDT 07/19/08

      #24, for some, 17" is simply too big.

      For $1,000, I think this is a reasonable deal; I was expecting $1,300+ when I read the specs especially the T9300 processor and WUXGA screen. I guess I haven't kept an eye for notebook price for too long.

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      wayway2fetch Ben's cred: 2
      Posted 7:25 am PDT 07/20/08

      This looks nice! I might get one!!

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      Neelie Ben's cred: 6
      Posted 1:21 pm PDT 07/21/08

      I used to like Gateway (being a good product) but I definitely prefer the Dell now!

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      geewhipped Ben's cred: 5
      Posted 6:07 am PDT 07/22/08

      #23 - I couldn't agree more about DHL

      Ben...
      I'm not sure what you are doing wrong with the fingerprint scanners. I have a Dell Precision M6300 and I use the biometric multiple times a day with no problems. I have 3 other Dells and 35 Lenovos in my organization that have fingerprint scanners and everybody uses them with very few problems (I'm pretty sure the biometric hardware is very similar/the same between the Lenovos and Dells).
      I don't have particularly dirty hands, but I don't wash them obsessively, either. I can think of times, however, when my hands WERE rather dirty/greasy (mid-lunch) and I scanned no problem...and most of the Lenovos I'm referring to are in the hands of salesmen who are walking around garages/car dealerships and selling/handling very oily and greasy products (such as oil and grease).
      Make sure you get good enrollment scans... maybe you were swiping a little crooked on the enrollment and now you only hit that sweetspot once in a while. The swiping shouldn't require any concentration or goofy amounts of pressure, etc, should just be a natural motion.
      Now that I'm used to the scanner on my Dell and on my Thinkpad, I hate having to type in my password on other machines.

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      Jgarrett Ben's cred: 1
      Posted 9:48 am PDT 07/25/08

      Your review is very interesting. I generally hate Dells based on my first experience with them, but now that they have merged with Alien ware, maybe they are better. I will look into this, thank you for a great review.

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      meremortal Ben's cred: 33
      Posted 12:13 pm PDT 07/30/08

      Nice looking rig.

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      njb Ben's cred: 283
      Posted 2:29 pm PDT 08/2/08

      where can i see HP business line notebooks?

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      jdelisle1 Ben's cred: 2
      Posted 2:42 pm PDT 08/2/08

      Wish I had the money for it... Great deal.

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      buddy_dough Ben's cred: 2
      Posted 3:07 am PDT 08/4/08

      That is nice, but it is kinda week. 5.4 come on Dell, get it together.

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      segfault Ben's cred: 2
      Posted 12:02 am PDT 08/5/08

      Thanks for the review; I've searched a lot of different review sites, but a lot of times, they lack some of those more important details. Speaking of which, regarding the CPU for this laptop, does anyone know if there's THAT significant a difference in performance between the these two CPUs? (please, no "duh" answers)

      Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor T9300 (2.5GHz/800Mhz FSB, 6MB Cache)
      Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor T8300 (2.4GHz/800Mhz FSB, 3MB Cache)

      Mainly I'm wondering if the 3MB cache really makes a difference, since there's a $125 price tag difference between the two CPUs, but I don't want the cache size to end up bottlenecking my system. Thanks!

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      tiburoncito2000 Ben's cred: 164
      Posted 6:16 am PDT 08/6/08

      great deal, I want it,

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      fantasydc2 Ben's cred: 2
      Posted 5:56 am PDT 08/7/08

      it seems very good

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      scrabbit Ben's cred: 2
      Posted 10:40 am PDT 08/7/08

      looks good to get

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      tgunner Ben's cred: 1
      Posted 8:03 pm PDT 08/9/08

      i want one

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      knbctv Ben's cred: 4
      Posted 11:14 am PDT 08/11/08

      in for one, my old one's slow as hell

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      Necromas Ben's cred: 34
      Posted 1:44 pm PDT 08/22/08

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


      Since the subject was 15" laptops. It's not the tippy top anymore, but you're still not going to be throwing a 9800 in a normal 15" laptop anytime soon.

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