After doing your research, you've decided that you're getting a Dell (congrats!), but which one, exactly? Is it going to be a jack-of-all-trades Inspiron, a more powerful and premium XPS or a business-focused Latitude?
We're here to help you decide which Dell is right for you. Below, we explain the differences between the company's laptop lines and point out the most important systems in each.
The Numbers Game
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But before we get down to the wild and wonderful world of Dell naming conventions, let's talk about series numbers. While Dell has several brands under its belt, some — like the Inspiron and Latitude — are also broken down by series numbers such as 3000, 5000 and 7000. Systems in the 3000 series are typically entry-level devices with lower-end components and a price tag to match, while 5000-series laptops cover mid-tier configurations. Consumers who are in search of a high-end system will want to check out notebooks with 7000-series stamps, since they typically offer premium build materials as well as top-of-the line specs.
XPS: Best Overall (If Budget Allows)
The crème de la crème of Dell's consumer laptops, the XPS line is all about high-end looks, with specs and pricing to match. Targeting power users and creative professionals alike, the XPS is Dell's answer to Apple's MacBook Pro, offering high-resolution displays and speedy performance — capabilities that are perfect for video or photo editing (check out our tips for getting the most usage and value out of your XPS 13). The following are the best Dell XPS laptops:
- XPS 13 9370 (Buy): Our favorite consumer laptop overall, this 2.7-pound beauty offers powerful performance, a stunning display with almost no bezel and over 12 hours of battery life. An advanced cooling system allows the 9370 to provide better sustained performance over time while an optional 4K screen panel is simply eye popping. Pay $50 extra to get it in the gorgeous white and rose gold color scheme.
- XPS 13 9360 (Buy): This slightly older model of the XPS 13 is still for sale and has a few advantages over the 9370. Its larger battery allows it to last a couple of hours longer on a charge while USB Type-A ports make it easier to connect to a wide variety of peripherals. It also tends to cost less while still offering the latest, Intel 8th Gen Core CPUs.
- XPS 13 2-in-1 (Buy): The 2-in-1 version of the XPS 13 has the same stunning screen, but flips around for use as a tablet. It starts at $979, but has a less powerful Y-series Intel CPU as opposed to the U-series processor found in the regular XPS 13.
- XPS 15 (Buy): The $999 XPS 15 is a high-end 15-inch laptop that offers 10 hours of battery life, strong performance, solid build and good looks. It delivers serious productivity as well the graphic oomph that serious artists need.
Inspiron: Good for Mainstream Consumers on a Budget
Inspirons are the wide-ranging brand for Dell's general-purpose consumer laptops, and they come in a variety of sizes, designs and price ranges. These laptops are definitely not made for business, nor do they have the premium features of the pricier XPS line. Here are some of the best Inspirons:
- Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 (Buy): One of the largest 2-in-1s on the market, this bend-back behemoth is great for home users who want a huge screen for movie viewing. Considering its size, the
- Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 (Buy): This lightweight, flexible 2-in-1 has a bright display, a premium aluminum chassis and strong performance.
- Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (Buy): An attractive gaming PC that costs a lot less than the company's Alienware laptops, the Inspiron 15 7000 is great for gamers who are on a budget. Starting at just $799, it also has good battery life for a gaming rig.
MORE: Best Dell Laptops
Alienware: Good for Gamers
Featuring flashy customizable light shows, powerful specs and gorgeous displays, Alienware laptops are the gold standard for gaming. These systems are available in three main sizes that can be configured to your specific gaming needs. The best models are:
- Alienware 13 R3 OLED (Buy): The world's smallest VR-ready laptop, the Alienware 13 is just as powerful as its bigger brethren, and it has a show-stopping OLED display to boot.
- Alienware 15 R3 (Buy): Slimmer, lighter and VR ready, the Alienware 15 hits the gaming sweet spot, offering decent portability with mid-tier gaming and multitasking performance.
- Alienware 17 R4 (Buy): Need desktop-level power, but don't have the space? This 17-inch monster can deliver all the power you need and then some, especially with the optional graphics amplifier.
Latitude: Good for Business
A true business line, Latitudes are available in different designs, sizes and price ranges. They are built to withstand the rigors of work, and most have some degree of rugged certification and a number of security features that include TPM, vPro and optional fingerprint readers. As with the Inspiron line, Latitudes are divided up into 3000, 5000 and 7000 series models with 3000 series being the cheapest and 7000 offering the most premium designs. Some of the best Latitudes are:
- Dell Latitude 7390 (Buy): This compact clamshell has an extremely vidid touch screen, great 8th Gen Core performance and over 10 hours of battery life.
- Dell Latitude 5490 (Buy): Available for a starting price of $799, this relatively affordable 14-inch laptop has long battery life and a comfortable keyboard.
- Dell Latitude 7390 2-in-1 (Buy): If you're looking for a business convertible, the 7390 2-in-1 is Dell's best offering, thanks to its colorful display.
Precision: Good for Engineers, Architects and Designers
Outfitted with high-end components like Nvidia Quadro graphics and Intel Xeon CPUs, these pricey mobile workstations can handle the rigors of mechanical design, engineering simulations or animations without breaking a sweat. Some of the best Precisions are:
- Precision 5520 (Buy): Remarkably svelte for a workstation, this premium notebook offers stellar performance with an optional 4K display.
- Precision 3520 (Buy): A strong desktop replacement that's ideal for designers, architects and engineers, this laptop is a powerful, capable workstation with battery life that will last through the workday.
- Precision 7520 (Buy): Highly customizable, this premium laptop is great for banging out massive spreadsheets or running AutoCAD.
Chromebook: Good for Students
Despite being limited to using Google's Chrome OS, Chromebooks have found great success in classrooms and boardrooms because of their affordability, portability and ease of use. Dell's best offerings are designed for kids.
- Chromebook 3180 (Buy) : This system is MIL-STD-810G-tested to withstand drops and shocks, and it's about as kid-proof as you can get. Thanks to over 8 hours of battery life, the laptop will last through the school day.
- Chromebook 3189 Education 2-in-1 (Buy): This 11.6-inch convertible has a touch screen that’s perfect for interacting with Android apps. Its spill-proof keyboard and rubberized edges should keep it from getting too beat up at school.
Now that you know which Dell you want to buy, do you know the right time to purchase it? Research has revealed that PC manufacturers release new laptops at three specific times of the year including the upcoming back-to-school season.
But before you press the buy button on that shiny new Dell, be sure to check out our deals page to get discounts on everything from the XPS 13 to the Alienware 15.
Dell Laptop Guide
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Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.