The Dell XPS M1330's near-perfect combination of powerful performance, stylish design, and go-anywhere mobility elevated it to one of our favorite notebooks of 2007. Now Dell follows up that gem with the XPS M1530, which packs in everything that we liked about the M1330 (mobile broadband, discrete graphics) and adds a larger display and a Blu-ray drive. In short, the XPS M1530 one-ups its excellent little brother, giving Dell yet another killer machine in its stable.
Featuring an attractive Tuxedo Black soft-touch finish (also available in Alpine White and Crimson Red), the Dell XPS M1530 is stylish enough to show off in your local coffee shop but not too flashy for the boardroom. Flipping the lid of this 6.2-pound system, you'll encounter an absolutely gorgeous 15.4-inch (1440 x 900-pixel resolution) display that looked marvelous whether we were surfing the Web, checking e-mail, or watching The Warriors: Ultimate Director's Cut disc using the slot-loading Blu-ray drive (a $500 add-on).
XPS M1530 Webcam
A 2-megapixel webcam above the screen offered decent colors and a nice array of visual effects, using face-tracking technology to add fun masks, backgrounds, and environments to videoconferencing. However, choppy visuals during Web chats brought our impressions down a notch.
Keyboard and Trackpad
We're keen on the spacious, comfortable keyboard that offered good tactile feedback. We liked the responsive trackpad and mouse buttons, as well as the horizontal and vertical scroll areas. The security-conscious will appreciate the included fingerprint reader.
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Ports and Extras
Arrayed about the perimeter of the system are three USB 2.0, ExpressCard/54, FireWire, S-Video, VGA, Ethernet, an 8-in-1 memory card reader, Dell Wi-Fi Catcher, dual headphone jacks, and HDMI for exporting video and audio to a big screen. Dell also includes a remote control that allowed us to control our media from up to 10 feet away effortlessly and a pair of earbuds that delivered crisp audio. Should you wish to wish to forgo the earbuds, the stereo speakers offer loud but tinny sound.
XPS M1530 Performance
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Much like the Dell XPS M1330, the M1530 packs a lot of horsepower. A 2.2-GHz Intel Next Generation Core 2 Duo processor, working in tandem with 2GB of RAM (expandable to 4GB) and a 160GB 5,400-rpm hard drive, produced an outstanding PCMark05 score of 5,437--only the Lenovo T61p's 5,693 score surpassed it. The Dell XPS M1530 handled all our day-to-day productivity tasks (checking e-mail, surfing the Web, editing some photos) with aplomb.
Nvidia's GeForce 8600M GT graphics card (with 256MB of video memory) notched a very good 3DMark03 score of 7261--nearly 3,000 points higher than the average mainstream notebook. The Dell XPS M1530 churned out a decent F.E.A.R. score of 45 frames per second on autodetect mode, which dropped to 23 frames per second with the settings maxed out. The discrete graphics were more than capable of handling Vista Home Premium's transparencies and Windows Flip 3D, and should be suitable for all but the most demanding gamers.
Battery Life and Wireless
Despite the powerful graphics card, the system's 9-cell battery held its charge for 3 hours and 24 minutes on a DVD rundown test--a full hour longer than average. (The standard 6-cell battery managed only 2 hours and 2 minutes, and costs $50 less at the time of purchase.)
The Dell XPS M1530's Wi-Fi strength was on a par with other mainstream machines; the 802.11a/b/g/n radio pushed data at a rate of 17.6 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point, and 14.3 Mbps at 50 feet. We also saw very nice speeds from the integrated Sprint EV-DO Rev. A mobile broadband connection (a $150 add-on) registered 928 Kbps on the downlink and 279 Kbps on the uplink.
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The system comes preinstalled with Adobe Photoshop Elements, Microsoft Works 8, Dell Media Direct 3.3, the Dell Connect remote diagnostic and repair service, 10GB of Dell DataSafe online backup, and Absolute Software's CompuTrace Lojack Theft Protection (free for one year) for tracking down the notebook should it be lost or stolen.
XPS M1530 Verdict
Priced at $2,219, the Dell XPS M1530 isn't cheap, but packs in just about everything you'd want for work and play. If you don't need a Blu-ray drive or mobile broadband, you'll still get a great notebook for a little more than $1,500.
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