Dell XPS M1530 Review

When I think of notebooks I always recall my first GDC visit. I guess it was in 2005, I went there with another programmer from CDPR. One thing we both noticed after 2 days was that we seemed like the only people there without notebooks. A little bit like poor relatives at the family dinner. It was funny at times, like watching a table with 5 Japanese folks, all typing furiously, not paying any attention to each other. Nowadays, prices of laptops in Poland are finally reasonable. When the time has come to replace my desktop I knew it’s a day to get something more portable.

Here are the most important characteristics I was looking for:

  • reasonable performance. I pretend to be a game developer after all. That means a Core Duo CPU, fast graphics card (8600GT or at least HD2600), 2GB RAM+ and so on. I dont intend to run Crysis at high details, but it should at least run some of the latest games (…it was BEFORE they published requirements for Assassin’s Creed PC).

  • weight under 3kg. It didnt have to be ultraportable, but I intended to carry it with me from time to time and if I wanted to excercise I could go to gym. In fact it shouldnt also be too small, especially the screen (at least 13”).

  • reliable. As I said - I’m a “notebook newbie”, I wanted something that lasted, couldnt be bothered with fixing it every month.

As far as manufacturers go I really only considered Dell, IBM/Lenovo, Sony and HP. I know there are others, but really wanted to play it safe for the first time (dont send your personal awful experiences with laptops from those companies, please, I know - sh*t happens). For short moment I was even thinking about Mac Book Pro, but decided I’m not that posh (yet). After some heavy investigation I opted for Dell XPS M1530. I’d probably go with M1330, but there’s no version with 8600 graphics card (shame really, as other than that it’s totally sweet, especially with the LED display and SSD). The only problem was that Poland is treated a little bit like a third world country by Dell. Officially, you can get a laptop from them only if you run a company and prices are much higher than in the USA. For example, you can get reasonably configured XPS probably for ~1300$ in States, in Poland it’ll most probably be over 2000$. After overcoming obstacles and waiting 3 weeks, it’s finally here.

One controversial part of my configuration is display. I went with a 1280x800 one. Dell recently introduced displays with higher resolutions, but I still decided to go with WXGA, for two reasons:

  • higher resolution displays from Dell had bad reputation, they tended to suffer from graininess. It started with Vostro, but people reported it’s the case with XPS as well. Depends on the display manufacturer and is pretty much random, but I’m not the luckiest man in the world.

  • graphics card isnt really powerful enough to run stuff in higher resolutions anyway.

The other option was to wait for LED display, but it’s not certain when they’ll be on the market. 1440x900 could have been a better choice here, but so far I cant really complain. My desktop in the office works in 1680x1050, but it doesnt really feel that much more space. Screen quality isnt the best out there (my sister’s MBP is much better, I must admit), but it’s OK. There’s some unwanted crap + weird drivers + weird programs installed (like fingerprint reader, come on…), but nothing that cant be removed in 5 minutes. After first reboot Vista directory occupied about 8GB and Program Files 1.3GB. Windows Experience index is 4.9, limited by RAM speed. Havent tried to overclock graphics card yet, dont even have 3D Mark installed, gonna run some tests on Monday. Keyboard is surprisingly good as for the laptop. It took me literally 5 minutes to get used to it and now I type almost as fast as using my full sized G15. It’s worse with touchpad, I still prefer to simply connect mouse if I can. It’s not that bad, perhaps I just need some more time to get more comfortable with it. It also seems that I am a bit lucky after all, as my model doesnt support from common problems people report: DVD drive is really quiet and all the latches are assembled properly.

All in all, I may still change my mind of course, I’ve been using it for only two days, but so far I’m pretty satisfied. It fulfills all my initial requirements, weights only ~2.6 kg and is so quiet that I sometimes wonder if it works. The only real complaint you can care about is the screen, but it’ll be obsolete as soon as they release LED version.

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