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Dell XPS 15 Laptop PC (2011 Update)

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Dell XPS 15 Laptop Review Sandy Bridge Processor
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Mar 19 2011 - Dell recently updated its XPS line to include the new Intel 2nd Generation Core i processors. This refresh makes the systems faster with an economical starting price of just $799. Depending on your level of gaming, an upgrade to a full HD display and more advanced video card may be worth considering. In summary, the Dell XPS 15 is a great 15-inch notebook due to its portability, excellent audio quality, and overall value.

Pros

  • Budget-Friendly Starting Price
  • Optional Full HD Display
  • Fast Sandy Bridge Processor

Cons

  • Video Card Performance is Average
  • Options Can Drive Price Way Up

Description ($799 Base Configuration)

  • Intel Core i5-2410M Processor (2.30GHz With Turbo Boost 2.0 Up To 2.9GHz)
  • 15.6 in HD WLED TL (1366x768) with Skype-Certified 2.0MP HD Webcam
  • 4GB DDR3 Memory
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1GB Graphics With Optimus
  • 500GB 7200RPM Hard Drive
  • 8X CD/DVD Burner
  • 6 Cell Battery
  • JBL Speakers
  • 15" x 10.4" x 1.3" @ ~5.96 Pounds

If you thought finding a budget-friendly 15.6-inch notebook equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor was virtually impossible - think again. The Dell XPS 15 comes in a variety of configurations with a Core i5-2410 model starting at $799.99 and a Core i7-2620M system beginning at $1,049.99. Considering most folks are on a budget these days, it's nice to have a setup that fits a wide range of budgets. And since the processors are 2ndGeneration Intel Sandy Bridge models, you'll enjoy added speed in a variety of scenarios.

If you choose either the Core i5 or Core i7 base configuration starting at $799 and $1,049 respectively, the system comes with a 15.6-inch WLED display with a max resolution of 1366x768. While this isn't as crisp as the full HD screen that offers 1920x1080 resolution (with a starting price of $1,299), it is adequate for casual gaming especially if you have an additional desktop at home. However, if your budget allows for the upgrade, choosing the full HD display does enhance the overall gaming experience.

The available selection of video cards is also the same in both the base Core i5 and Core i7 models. The NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M with 1GB of dedicated graphics memory is included in the price with the NVIDIA GT 540M available as an upgrade option for $100. The benefits of upgrading to the GT 540M include extra video memory, as the 540M comes with 2GB of GDDR3, as well as a faster processor clock (1344MHz over 1200MHz) and increased texture fill rate (10.8 billion/sec versus 9.8 billion/sec in the GT 525M). Both cards have 96 CUDA cores.

As you can see, the decision to upgrade the graphics card should be based on how you use the laptop. For instance, if you are gaming considerably on the XPS 15 then obviously the upgraded display and video card are worthy options. But if you are simply casually logging into Rift or World of Warcraft and plan on using the notebook as a portable solution, the upgrades may not be worth the additional costs.

The Dell XPS 15 can also be configured as an advanced multimedia machine, especially when you consider purchasing the $1,299 model with the full HD screen and a Blu-ray drive. It's a pleasure to watch movies in high definition on the XPS 15, especially considering every model comes standard with JBL speakers that offer above average audio quality for a laptop.

In terms of memory, 4GB of DDR3 is standard in the base Intel Core i5 and Core i7 configurations. To upgrade to 6GB is an additional $60 or $120 to reach 8GB of memory. Only the $1,299 high-end model comes standard with 6GB. If you do a lot of work in memory-intensive applications, such as Photoshop, you'll definitely want additional RAM. Hard drive space is ample with a 500GB 7200RPM model equipped in the base systems. Upgrading to a 256GB SSD will cost you an extra $600, which is out of reach for most consumers sticking to a budget.

Overall, the Dell XPS 15 shines in situations where you simply want a laptop for gaming that isn't as large or as heavy as a desktop replacement. It is versatile and fast with the new Sandy Bridge processors. And paired with the high resolution HD display and Blu-ray drive, the Dell XPS 15 transforms into an excellent multimedia system as well. It can go from the office to a LAN party with ease.

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