Dell XPS M1530 review
A superb laptop, combining excellent ergonomics and slick looks with a good dollop of power.
Dell's XPS branding was once synonymous with futuristically tailored, high-performance gaming systems. But with the acquisition of Alienware back in 2006, Dell sought to steer the branding away from its specialist heritage and usher in a new, luxurious, design-led range.
The first herald of that transformation came in the guise of a radical, briefcase-sized desktop replacement, the Dell XPS M2010. We gave that a favourable review in 2006. Since then, Dell has added the 13.3in XPS M1330 and 17in XPS M1730 to the range, and, now, the XPS M1530 has arrived to fill the gaping 15.4in-sized hole in the line-up.
While the XPS M2010 was a truly remarkable beast, it wasn't until the arrival of the XPS M1330 last year that the XPS range found its true identity. The M1330 was, and still is, the finest looking laptop Dell has ever produced, and so it's no disappointment to find that the M1530 shares its fine sense of style.
Slip the Dell from its packaging and its good looks are immediately apparent. In a refreshing departure from the norm, Dell, unlike many laptop manufacturers, hasn't made recourse to the glossy black cliché. Instead, the lid is adorned with a single block of colour, interrupted only by chrome-effect Dell and XPS logos, and flanked neatly in grey.
Our review model was finished in an attractively subtle, muted shade, dubbed Midnight Blue, but depending on your tastes, there's the choice of Crimson red and Tuxedo black. Whichever you choose, the Micro Satin paint that Dell uses makes sure that the M1530 feels as good as it looks, with a wonderfully tactile, silky-smooth finish.
It isn't often that practicality and fine design meet in the middle, but you only need spend a little time with the M1530 to be assured that its creators thought long and hard about every facet of its design. Tilt the lid back on its strong, pleasingly stiff hinges and the Dell's interior continues to impress.
The wide expanse of brushed-aluminium wrist rest both looks and feels outstandingly luxurious; and it provides a supremely comfortable typing position. Even the omission of lid catches is forgivable- those strong hinges won't allow the lid to flop open in a bag.
Once you've finished gawping at the striking looks, simply turning on the M1530 is enough to elicit another shiver of excitement. Depress the silver on button and the row of touch-sensitive buttons to its right strobe into life with a gentle blue glow. They look lovely and work well too: all it takes is a light press of the finger to mute the volume, or pause a track, each button illuminating and then gently fading away.
The M1530's sterling build quality is equally impressive. Its sheer solidity makes it feel heavier than it truly is, but at 2.62kg, it's far from overweight when compared with other 15.4in laptops.
It's just superbly solid, and no matter how hard we tried, the M1530's base failed to exhibit the slightest hint of flex. It's little surprise that the 15.4in display is more pliant, but again we had to really prod and poke with excessive force before we noticed any distortion on the displayed image.
The resilient build quality pays dividends when it comes to usability too. The wide chassis gives the keyboard plenty of room to breathe, and apart from the slightly compressed shift keys, the layout is eminently sensible.
In use, each of the full-sized keys gives a crisp, positive action that helps make light of long stretches of typing. The trackpad is equally praiseworthy, despite its small dimensions, and its responsiveness is complemented by the light action of the accompanying buttons.