My New XPS M1530 Laptop

My 13" MacBook has been on the fritz lately and the warranty is almost up so I ordered a new laptop in preparation for sending the MacBook in for service.  From what I’ve heard, service from Apple can be like a black hole and I need my laptop for work.  Unfortunately my 3.5 year old tablet PC is not up to the tasks I’m doing right now (lots of virtual machine work in the coming weeks).  So…

I ordered a Dell XPS M1530.  I must say it is a good-looking piece of equipment.  I went with the Tuxedo Black shell (just using stock images from Dell here).

xpsnb_m1530_overview1 xpsnb_m1530_design3

xpsnb_m1530_overview2

This thing looks and feels like a quality machine.  The unboxing experience was mildly exciting (in fact, I ran upstairs to show Sebas pretty much right away).  The laptop was shipped inside a nice laptop sleeve with an invisible magnetic fastener.  It should help pad the laptop inside my new camel leather satchel bag (if it ever stops smelling like a barn, but that’s a different story).

Here are a few initial impressions after a day of use:

Pros

  • 1680×1050 resolution is a joy after a year using 1280×800
  • Keyboard is very nice (good weight, not too loud, no bouncy area over optical drive).  In my opinion, the keyboard is not quite as nice as the MacBook but nicer than the MacBook Pro.
  • Slot load DVD drive (so much nicer than pop-out trays)
  • Physical switch for disabling wifi and Bluetooth (for power saving)
  • Not much heavier than my 13" MacBook
  • Solid chassis (does not creak or bend when you lift it)
  • Brushed aluminum palm rest
  • Dual headphone jacks – should be great for watching a movie with my wife on the plane this spring.  Not sure when else I’d really use this feature.
  • Battery level indicator on the battery pack
  • Good graphics card (256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT) that runs the Vista Aero Glass interface on the notebook plus an external 1920×1200 monitor
  • VGA, S-Video, and HDMI outputs
  • Integrated Bluetooth (a new requirement for me after getting used to a BT mouse and no dongle)
  • Eye-catching design with barrel hinge and sloped profile
  • Small touch sensitive media and volume controls (no more Fn+F4)
  • Fingerprint scanner, which takes a bit of practice but I’m finding to be incredibly convenient.

Cons

  • Ships with crapware installed
  • Pre-installed anti-virus software crashes (seems to be when using new Vista Sleep feature)
  • Vista does not Sleep or Hibernate properly as installed at the factory.  It appears to be a problem with the pre-installed Trend Micro Internet Security (PC-cillin) software.  There’s a patch I need to try, but it sucks that it shipped with software that seems to have serious problems.
  • Have had some trouble getting the 802.11n wireless card to come back to life after using physical wifi switch.  Again, it sucks that it shipped with this kind of problem.
  • It’s a bit big for my liking (I spent 2.5 years on a 12 inch tablet and a year on a 13 inch MacBook).  I think a 14" screen at 1440×900 would have been ideal.
  • It’s too thick.  Although slimmer than pretty much everything except the MacBook Pro, I expected it to feel thinner.  It’s still a comfortable typing height (unlike the Alienware m5550).
  • Dell logo  :(  I know that’s superficial, but the glowing Apple was a conversation starter.  A cool backlit XPS logo in place of the tired Dell logo would have been a nice touch.  I may just cover it up with a sticker…  Any suggestions?
  • No backlit keyboard (my MacBook didn’t have this either, but it was one feature that almost pulled me to a MacBook Pro)
  • Colors other than black look a bit lame (tri-colored laptops… blah).  The two-tone silver-on-black look is nice
  • Trackpad is too small – it should be about 30% bigger.
  • Volume controls are a bit hard to find in low light.
  • Looks like battery life is going to be disappointing. 
  • Power adapter is a bit noisy and not nearly as awesome as the magnetic MacBook adapter.

I’m usually picky about keyboards (I’ve ditched Toshiba and Alienware models in the past because I didn’t like the keyboards).  The keyboard on the M1530 is quite good.  Naturally I’m still in the adjustment phase.  I do love the MacBook keys…  What continues to baffle me, though, is why laptop designers screw around with right Ctrl key.  LEAVE IT BESIDE THE BLOODY ARROW KEYS.  Please!

Specs

Here is what I actually ordered:

  • Intel T7500 CPU (2.2GHz)
  • 3GB RAM
  • 56WHr 6-cell battery + extra 85WHr 9-cell battery
  • 8x slot-load DVD burner
  • 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics card
  • 15.4" WSXGA+ LCD (1680×1050)
  • 2MP Webcam
  • 200GB Hard Drive (7200rpm)
  • Intel 4965AGN Wireless-N card
  • Internal Bluetooth
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • 3-year next business day onsite warranty with CompleteCare

The whole package, including the CompleteCare warranty, came in at $150 less than a 2.2GHz MacBook Pro with 2GB RAM, 120GB hard drive, 128MB video card, and 1440×900 screen.

Other Contenders

If I could have gotten a 13" MacBook with 1440×900 resolution, that would have been my next machine.  Or if the 15" MacBook Pro had been refreshed with the same keyboard as the MacBook and MacBook Air, I would have paid the extra quid for an MBP.

I had great warranty service with my Toshiba tablet PC.  I took it in a couple times to a local depot and was never without it for more than a day.  This experience with the MacBook has bumped warranty service higher up on my priority list.  For good local warranty service, my choices are HP, Toshiba, and Dell (and probably Lenovo, but I’ve never liked IBM/Lenovo notebooks).

Personally I find the business class machines from Toshiba and HP are just plain boring.  Some people think that’s a silly factor when picking out a computer for work, but I like my laptop to have at least a little bit of personality.  I considered buying another Toshiba tablet PC but there’s quite a steep price premium and I rarely used the tablet functionality on my old one.

I briefly considered a 14" Latitude 630.  They are solid machines and can be upgraded to 1440×900.  But frankly Latitudes are just so commonplace that they lack personality.  They do have a superb keyboard and I find they look quite nice when open.

And finally I strongly considered the 13" version of the XPS (M1330).  It is only available with a 1280×800 screen resolution and more screen real estate was a priority for me this time around.  If it came with a 1440×900 option, it would be a fantastic machine.

Final Thoughts

Overall I think the XPS M1530 is a great choice.  If you don’t find the 15.4" size too big, the pros far outweigh the cons.  It is a great machine.

Personally I like a smaller laptop and I will continue to hope for stylish 13" models with higher screen resolutions.  In the meantime, I think I’m going to like my new toy, uh, work computer.

  20 comments for “My New XPS M1530 Laptop

  1. February 15, 2008 at 1:07 am

    Derek – glad to hear your first implession of the XPS M1530 was postive! I’m going to pass along you comments on the hibernate / sleep PC-Cillin issues. Also, I’m surprised the system included crapware. When you configure an XPS, all of the 3rd party SW defaults to opt out. We do include a 15-month AV subscription with the XPS however. Thanks again for the postive comments!

  2. Derek Hatchard
    February 17, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Anne, thanks for noticing the post. I didn’t have a choice about opting out of a productivity suite (MS Works… blech), security software, or the online backup software. It’s certainly better than in days gone by, but I don’t want any of that stuff. I already own Office, I prefer the integrated Windows Firewall and AVG, and I use Mozy for online backup. Perhaps it’s not crapware so much as unwanted-ware. Definitely not as bad as all the trial software that Dell used to put on new machines.

  3. Nir
    March 5, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    hey, i am about to buy a laptop in the coming month as well, i am trying to decide between XPS 1530 and a MacBook. Now, I am not a mac user not a windows user which means that my neat machine will determine that for me. It seems impossible to decide. Giving your experience with both systems, what would you recommend?

  4. March 11, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Hi, i’m also in the market for a new laptop and i’m trying to decide between the m1530 and a macbook pro. Indeed, it’s an almost impossible choice. Yesterday i was feeling very Dell, but today i’m rather feeling Macbook Pro. πŸ˜‰

    My thoughts:

    Personally, besides the obvious office tasks, i’m looking for a quality machine to edit photos (i’m an amateur photographer), so that’s why Macbook Pro came to mind -> i’m looking for the best screen available! And i don’t think there’s any windows pc offering that quality and that resolution with a LED screen?

    But i’m also a geek so i’m afraid i’ll miss the technical playground of Windows. But if i’m correct, i don’t have to miss out on anything because i can boot in XP/Vista whenever i want to? And i believe i can even run Windows tools natively while working in OS/X? I wonder how far that goes?

    Gaming is not important to me because i do that full time on the Playstation 3.

    Apparantly the MBP can become very hot, that could be a little annoying, but.. still it’s better than a noisy notebook to me and i believe the MBP is a silent machine? I’ve heard about the m1530 sometimes to be noisy, especially the dvd drive.

    I also have a NAS at home with gb lan port and that’s something the m1530 doesn’t support (only 10/100 mbit).

    An other thing is that i would really like a 17-inch screen without the weight and i believe MBP is one of the only 17-inch notebooks which is easy to carry in one hand? So i would have a bigger screen than the m1530 but without the weight of some 17-inch notebooks.

    What concerns me though, is the fact that IF i would spent a lot of time in Vista, that the Apple keyboard (and mouse) would be limiting to work fast and comfortable in Windows?

    My ideal situation would be using a MBP with OS/x for the design and multimedia stuff (lightroom, photoshop, iMovie, Aperture, webdesign, etc) and switching (fast) to Vista for the tech tools and other software not available for os/x. I’m not sure what to do with the Office stuff in between (outlook mail, excel stuff, etc)

    -Maybe i’m just dreaming and the reality will be a little less comfortable?

    /Kris

  5. dan
    April 3, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    ahh DON’T BUY ,DELL XPS 1530,it sucks.

    It becomes hot like a heater,cant use it on ur lap-so i dont consider it a laptop
    Very slow performance even with a HDD @ 7200rpm. 2GB RAM
    Comes pre installed with all the useless softwares.

    Customer service- wait for 15 min to get connected.–sucks bigtime

  6. Derek Hatchard
    April 3, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    I returned the Dell and went with another Mac: http://derekh.com/index.php/2008/04/03/returned-the-dell-xps-m1530/.

    @Kris: The LED screen is absolutely beautiful. The MacBook Pro is great hardware. I’m not as keen on OS X. I run Vista pretty much full-time using Bootcamp. If you want to hop back and forth between OS X and Windows apps, you can use Parallels or VMware Fusion, but there is a performance hit. There are no apps for OS X only that I’m passionate enough about to stay in OS X.

  7. JASON JOHNSON
    July 19, 2008 at 3:25 am

    I have had pretty good luck with my XPS 1530 so far I really like it. I have not had any issues with performance and it plays both games and video just fine for me. I have had a problem recently with the Battery indicator that is usually in the system tray has disappeared and the Device Manager reports the A/C and Battery monitor has a code 27 problem and cannot load drivers. I know what happened I plugged in the A/C adapter while the system was still in the middle of booting up. In the Bios it shows the battery is working fine and it shows the level of charge it has correctly. When I have Vista up and running it shows that the device has a problem. Anyone have any ideas?

  8. August 28, 2008 at 6:03 am

    Hi Hi!

    I just found your blog after i got my new Dell m1530.

    My two pence worth is as follows:

    I was really impressed by the default ‘crap’ware configuration… I had to uninstall McAfee, but that was IT. There was nothing else on there! Good going Dell!

    The big drawback for me is the size. I bought the 1530 + the 9 Cell battery. And overall thats just too big for me. Its not Portable enough.

    Other than that I like the laptop… but i would have liked a 14″ option.

  9. Dilip
    November 19, 2008 at 12:11 am

    I have been using xps 1530 for 3 months now. I downgraded the OS from Vista to XP after about 1 month. Since then i had no problems with it. It is great with games. It is awesome to watch HD movies in it. The 17″ screen is just perfect for any gamer/movie buff.

  10. November 22, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    I’m a proud owner of xps m1530, almost 5-6 months until yesterday my laptop cannot be awaken after hibernate mode. I need a serious help asap. For your information, the power logo is glowing but my hdd logo is not. My xps m1530 spec are:

    T9400
    4gb ram
    320gb
    bluray combo
    8600m gt
    wifi-n
    bluetooth
    1680Γƒβ€”1050 but always use 1280Γƒβ€”800
    2.0 mgpxel cam
    thumbprint
    pre-installed with vista business 32bit sp1

    anybody can help me?

  11. Ken
    January 22, 2009 at 2:39 am

    My Dell XPS M1530 refuses to hibernate or sleep, as you mentioned above. This is really a pain because I have to close all apps and do a shutdown.

  12. Sandi
    March 11, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Ken,
    I have the same problem with mine.

  13. Liz
    March 13, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    I purchased a dell xps m1530 a little over a year ago. I haven’t had to many problems just one major with my att wireless connector. (it does not seem to operate well with my drivers) It is too big for everyday use and am looking to purchase the m1330. Any suggestions?

  14. Jay Mojnidar
    March 15, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    We purchased Dell XPS M1530. It does not hibernate at all. All the time the fan would be running. The laptop gets heated up very easily. If I take the power card off, the battery will drain in a few minutes. The screen saver I use is “blank”.

    I am regretting I bought this.

  15. Arisu
    April 14, 2009 at 5:24 am

    I purchased Dell XPS M1530 over a year ago. The laptop get heat up easily and finally now the laptop cannot turn on at all. I had make a call to the Dell service center and they suspect is the motherboard problem. Because of the laptop warranty had expired and they asking me to extend the warranty which will cost RM1250 per year. πŸ™ any better suggestion?

    Spend RM4K to bought this laptop…after a year told me motherboard damaged and need to spend another RM1k plus to extend the warranty…Do u feel valuable to this laptop? and Remember…once your warranty had expired they won’t entertain u when u call to the service center unless u extend the warranty!!

    So disappionted…

  16. Jibicho
    May 6, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I am going to buy laptop but I really get confussed to choose between xps m1530 and studio 1555. which one do you think the best specially with respect to durability and speed of processor?

  17. Derek Hatchard
    May 6, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    @Jibicho, I suggest you look at the Latitude series rather than the XPS or Studio lines. If you want something that looks less “corporate”, stick some artwork on it: http://www.gelaskins.com/catalog.php?Device=7&Category=12&p=1

  18. AG Jenkins
    August 5, 2009 at 1:35 am

    I’ve had an xps m1530 for a year and 2 months now and it has been nothing but trouble since day one. I’ve had a laundry list of problems including 2 motherboard replacements 2 hard drive replacements, hours of time on the phone with tech support, various software issues including an internal clock issue that caused perpetual crashing. my nvidia geforce graphics would be sweet if the drivers didn’t continually fail and then recover only to cause a crash dump. I would avoid this and all dell products but especially this laptop. My experience has been particularly terrible. Since dell considers the problems all unrelated, though, they refuse to replace it under lemon clauses in the hardware warranty. Seriously though, my computer hasn’t been able to function at 100% capacity (considering all of the functions of which it is supposedly capable) for more than one month at a time…oh did I mention I’ve sent it to the repair depot in Houston only to have it returned sans hard drive? ridiculous computer.

  19. Cathy Fordham
    August 13, 2009 at 5:43 am

    I have had An M1530 for sixteen months. The clock has never functioned properly from day one, but thought “Hey, it’s only a clock, not really important”. How little did I know????? It wouldnt start the other day and sited “Time Of Day Clock Stopped”………. Read instruction book, realised it could be the CMOS battery and had to have someone fit it. I am now up and running, but clock still not behaving. Am NOT IMPRESSED. Had I known importance of clock, Dell would have had machine back within warranty.

  20. John
    February 26, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    I’ve had my m1530 for about 2.5 years now. I’ve never had a problem until only recently when I obtained my first virus (..I know many loop holes in avoiding having to install anti virus software). Performance has been great and I’ve used it through most of my college career. The only things I can comment on being negative are the heating issues mentioned above (I have a cooling pad for playing crisis). Also using the Vista system I’ve noticed it can be very difficult to obtain WiFi signals.

    However, the two faults mentioned above are voided when using my linux software for productivity on dual boot. I wish I could find some suitable XP drivers .. I have my old copy of XP corporate SP3 sitting right here next to me.

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