We wondered if Dell was making a passive-aggressive statement when it shipped us its new XPS M1530 in flamingo pink. Perhaps the boys in Austin think the MacBook Pro is a bit effete, so the pink is fitting. Or perhaps someone on the reviews team just finished watching Reservoir Dogs and was channeling Steve Buscemi’s Mr. Pink.
Whatever the reason, the XPS M1530—be it pink, blue, or brown—is a worthy contender to Apple’s vaunted MacBook Pro. Featuring Intel’s 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo T9300, 2GB of DDR2/667, a 250GB Samsung SpinPoint drive, and a GeForce 8600M GT, the XPS M1530 certainly has the specs to compete with the MBP in performance.
A notebook configured for media handling, the XPS sports an SD/Memory Stick reader, S-Video, VGA, and HDMI outputs. There are also two headphones jacks. Why? It’s simple parent math: Two kids + two headphones + one Pixar movie = two hours of rest on the plane.
And there’s no need to worry about the battery run time. Dell included a massive 9-cell battery with this XPS. It makes the notebook a bit bulkier but has the nice side effect of getting the bottom of the machine off the desk, which helps air circulate underneath it and keep the rig cooler. Dell’s glossy LED-backlit screen makes watching movies a real treat.
Other amenities include a slot-fed DVD burner—a first for Dell, we believe—a biometric fingerprint reader, and built-in EVDO. But as we’ve said, this isn’t just about specs, it’s also about usability. In that area, the Dell is a bit lacking. It features a set of touch-sensitive buttons for volume and disc control, but then it falls back on an old-fashioned analog push button for power and the Dell Media Direct Application. We’re also not big fans of the anodized aluminum combined with the black powder-coated magnesium bottom.
We do, however, like the Wi-Fi Catcher button. Push this button on the notebook’s side and the XPS fires up an applet that searches for Wi-Fi access points. Unfortunately, once you decide you want to connect to an access point, functionality reverts to the stock Windows Vista applet instead of something more custom and usable, like the applet Lenovo includes on its notebooks.
Dell has made a conscious effort to keep the vendor trialware and bloat to a minimum on the XPS, but there’s still a crapload of icons on the desktop and Google Desktop is preloaded. As cool as the app is, Google Desktop is a major resource hog; we’d rather install it ourselves if we deem it necessary, thank you very much.
So take a beautiful screen, add Intel’s second-fastest CPU, a pretty-fast GPU, and EVDO coverage, and you’ve got the MacBook Killer, right?