Dell Laptop Decoder Ring: Notebook Naming Demystified

With few exceptions, the way that laptop makers name their products can be highly confusing. What do all those letters and numbers mean? Look no further.

Dell has recently reorganized its classification system to make it easier for consumers to know at a glance what a particular notebook has to offer. As such, Dell’s consumer offerings are pretty easy to decipher, though you can’t deduce, say, the processor type just by looking at the name. Typically, it’s the model name, followed by the screen size number (5 = 15-inch, 4 = 14-inch, etc).

Here's a quick breakdown of Dell's sub-brands and a few tips that will help take the guesswork out of the shopping experience.

Dell Consumer Notebooks:

Inspiron: Dell’s budget computing line provides mainstream performance and specs at a low price. You can usually tell the screen size by the model number. For example, the Inspiron 15R has a 15.6-inch display. The exception is the Inspiron M101z, which has an 11.6-inch display.

XPS: Dell’s premium line offers snazzier designs and better multimedia capabilities. Like the Inspiron line, the model name indicates the screen size. The 15.6-inch Dell XPS 15, for example, has some the best speakers we've heard.

Alienware: Dell’s gaming sub-brand, which features wicked-cool design and high-performance parts. As with the others, the name indicates the screen size. The 11.6-inch Alienware M11x offers the best combination of gaming performance and portability, while the 17-inch Alienware M17x is the fastest laptop we’ve ever tested.

Dell Business Notebooks:

Vostro: Dell’s small business line offers more resources for companies that don’t have an IT staff.  In this line, the first number refers to the series generation, the second number refers to the display size, and the third number indicates the processor generation. So, a 13-inch Vostro with a Sandy Bridge processor is the 3350. The lone exception is the V130, which has a 13-inch display.

Latitude: Dell’s corporate business line. “E” stands for the Latitude family; the second number refers to the series. The third number indicates the screen size (5 for 15-inch, etc.), and the last two numbers denote the generation of the family. For example, the powerful Latitude E6420 is a 14-inch notebook with an Intel 2nd generation Core series CPU.

Precision: Dell’s workstation notebooks. The letter M indicates it’s a mobile workstation, and the first number indicates the screen size. Unlike all the other laptops here, a 4 means 15 inches and 6 means 17 inches.

Extra Credit: Among Dell’s “specialty” laptops, ATG means semi-rugged, XFR means fully rugged, and XT indicates a convertible tablet.

LAPTOP Reviews Editor