Are you into rubber? It’s not that we want to know what type of parties you go to on a Saturday night, but you have to be a fan of the soft stuff if you’re thinking of picking up one of Dell’s latest deviant XPS series.

This preference could be all that stands between you and what, on paper, is the best all-round notebook in the world. The M1530 is thin, not too heavy, has a decent battery life and is really, really well built.

The price is right

This all makes its price (between £700 and £1000, depending on your taste for expensive spec lists), all the more amazing. You’ll struggle to find another laptop this good looking and capable for the price.

Pull up the lid and you’ll find a metal surround for one of the best notebook keyboards we've played with. The sharp edged, narrow chassis feels incredibly solid too.

Going a little bit deeper into the shell and there’s a GeForce 8600 graphics card, which good is enough to get the latest games running on the 15in screen. Hook it up to the TV via the built-in DVI out and it'll serve couch potatoes well too.

The screen itself is pretty much the only slightly disappointing thing about the M1530. At just 1280x800, text is just a little too soft for our taste. There's a higher res 1440x900 upgrade, but there are quite a few 15-inchers with 1680x1050 panels these days, and that's what we'd have liked to have seen here.

Aside from pixel count, though, there's little to complain about. It's bright and colourful, with decent contrast ratios that make video playback a pleasure, although you'll want to use external speakers because the built in ones are as bad as any laptop.

Touch me

Although they're far from a novelty, the touch sensitive media controls are good to see here for quick access to common playback and volume settings. More unexpected from a major brand like Dell is the relative lack of bloatware that comes preinstalled, which saves lots of time having to tear it out.

Which brings us back to the original question. Are you the kind of person who enjoys a tactile relationship with their technology, or does the touch of latex bring on feelings of mild revulsion? If it's the former, then the M1530 is an outstanding choice of laptop. If it’s the latter, go and play with an aluminium-skinned Sony Vaio.


Stuff says... 

Dell XPS M1530 review

Great looking, built like a tank and very well specced for the price. The only possible turn off is the rubber finish