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I have to admit from the start that while I'm no technophobe, I'm no computer expert either. My previous laptop was a very old Sony Vaio that was dying a slow death and failing to keep up with the modern world - I needed a computer to edit my photos on, preferably one that could connect to the internet on the same day I logged on!
My reasons for choosing the XPS M1530 weren't great - I initially planned to buy a much cheaper laptop but had heard that this was top-range, and figured it wouldn't date too quickly. I also needed a computer capable of handling Vista without going into meltdown. It's not the cheapest machine on the market - the Dell 1520/1525/1720 range are cheaper but don't look quite as good - though I'm sure they would have done a pretty good job too!
The main attractions of the M1530:
Fast processor - mine has the T5450 (1.66GHz) but better are available 2GB of RAM as standard 250GB storage - very handy but sure that won't seem like much in a couple of years! Very nice screen - high resolution Good graphics card (NVidia GeForce 8600M GT) Good battery life - see below Decent sized keyboard Relatively low weight for its specs Fingerprint reader - bit of a gimmick possibly, but makes logging on easy
I opted for one of the standard black matt covers - I'd read that these attracted fingerprints but for some reason didn't believe it - THEY DO. On the other hand, if you're not too fussy about appearances, after a few months the marks don't appear too obvious (I suspect because they merge together).
The laptop worked straight out of the box. Start-up is relatively quick. One big plus is the nice screen - the reason I hung onto my old Vaio for ages is they do have great screens with vivid colours, however I can't see a huge difference with this and in some respects it's better - certainly having the wide screen makes a massive difference to how cluttered the desktop feels.
There's a number of pre-installed desktop backgrounds - some of them very nice and a cut above what you usually get. I must say Vista doesn't always run super-quick (I've not installed SP1 yet as I've heard it's a bit buggy - but I think it does speed up certain functions). Downloading was certainly very fast, 1-2GB of data taking max 5 minutes.
The battery life is apparently 3 and a half hours - but I found the screen intolerably dim when on standard settings. It's basically on reduced brightness as soon as it goes to battery - then becomes progressively dimmer. My eyes aren't great (short-sighted) and after a while I got sick of it and changes it to "high performance". Depending on what I'm doing, it can last up to an hour and I'm usually happy with that.
It took me a couple of moments to find the DVD drive - I was looking for an old-style disc drive, whereas this just slides into a drive built into the machine. I was worried it might prove too flimsy at first - seems ok so far. There's also a 2MP webcam, but I haven't got round to using that yet so can't comment on it.
As for the fingerprint reader - can't make my mind up. I still feel it's a bit of a gimmick - not really necessary, and I wouldn't go out of my way to pay more for it. But it certainly makes logging on quicker (if you keep your computer password-protected). In terms of the registration for various websites, it seems very hit-and-miss as to whether this works.
When typing I noticed that the keys sometimes don't register - this is getting better but still a slight problem - I think some of this is partly due to a different size of keyboard, but the keys seem to need a reasonable amount of pressure. The touchpad is fairly good. On feature is a strip at the right and the base which you can slide your finger along to scroll down or across - useful but can be annoying if you forget, as what you're doing shoots off the screen!
Overall I've noticed a huge difference in how quickly I can get things done - especially for watching video clips or downloading/ uploading large amount sof data, this has made my life much easier. I'd highly recommnd this laptop to anyone wanting something more than a bargain machine - I think I have yet to make the most of all its features.