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The Dell XPS M1530 Experience

April 15, 2008 by · 30 Comments 

My first big purchase online was in 2000 when I purchased the Acer TravelMate 508T laptop for RM5000+. Having a laptop with a 12.1 TFT screen with a 500 MHz processor was kind of exciting back then.

For a while the laptop served me well but it wasn’t long before problems started to crop up. I had to repair the hinges twice; which cost me around RM300 each time. While the laptop is still working today, I’ve stopped using it a couple of years back when the hinges broke again for the third time.

It’s also obvious that at 500 MHz, the processor won’t be able keep up with the demand of today’s CPU hungry software.

Since then every time I travel, I would leave my work behind which was good because I could concentrate on having a break instead of thinking about work.

Fast forward 8 years later, the demand of work requires me to be online more frequently, and so I decided it’s time to get a new laptop – yes it took me that long to buy another laptop lol. I am not really a fan of working from a cyber café due to security reasons. Who knows what people have installed or rather, have not installed on the public terminals that could prevent others from spying your online activities.

I had no choice but to go online if I wanted to get the latest hardware at an affordable price. So I headed to my favorite online computer store at Dell.com.my and waited a few weeks for any deals that tickles my fancy.

When it comes to purchasing computer hardware, the best time to buy is now. However I was hoping to get a laptop equipped with Intel’s first five 45 nanometer (nm) processors, codenamed “Penryn” and that’s what the waiting was for.

Intel’s press release says “All of these new chips include the company’s new transistor formula and 45nm manufacturing process that boost a PC’s speed, reduces power requirements, saves on battery life, helps the environment and comes in smaller packages for more fashionable and compact computer designs”. That’s the marketing department talking. But it’s still good to get the latest processor nonetheless.

Soon enough the dual core 2.5GHz T9300 and 2.6GHz T9500 featuring 6MB of L2 cache were rolled out of Dell Malaysia assembly line. When it comes to choosing a processor, I usually settle for the “second fastest” processor which I think is good enough for my long term needs as the 2.6GHz would have cost me an arm and a leg.

There’s an option to add a Blu-ray drive but since I don’t usually watch movies on my laptop I chose not to add one. In addition it’ll add an extra RM2000 to the laptop price. The option to add a 64GB solid state hard drive was enticing but I figured the performance gain won’t justify the extra RM3000 price tag as well as its small storage capacity.

After doing some research, I settled for the Dell XPS M1530 laptop. Personally I think it is one of the sexiest laptops I have ever seen. Sure some people may argue that the Apple MacBook Air wins hand down in the design department.

 

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While the Dell’s laptop can’t beat the MacBook Air ultrathin form factor, with the same price tag I am paying for my Dell laptop, I would had got a 13 inch screen, 80GB hard drive with a 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor MacBook Air. I know some people don’t mind paying for a lower specs system just to enjoy the status symbol but I guess for me practicality wins 🙂

Besides, as a Windows software developer, there’s no much point using Mac OS X as my OS environment.

So here’s my laptop specs

  • Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo Processor T9300, 2.5GHz, 6MB Cache, 800 MHz FSB
  • Genuine Windows Vista(R) Ultimate 32 bit (English)
  • 15.4" Widescreen WXGA+ (1440×900) TFT Display with TrueLife(TM)
  • Midnight Blue LCD display with Integrated 2.0 mega pixel web cam
  • 3GB (1X1GB+1X2GB) 667MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM
  • 250GB SATA Hard Drive
  • Internal 8X DVD+/-RW Combination Drive with dual layer write capabilities
  • 256MB NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) 8600M GT
  • Palmrest with Fingerprint Reader
  • Intel(R) 4965AGN Wireless-N Mini-Card
  • 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
  • Dell(TM) Bluetooth Travel Mouse

The total cost inclusive of delivery to East Malaysia is RM7218.00. The price includes Office 2007 Professional OEM which adds RM1015 to the base price.

Instead of opting for the 4GB RAM, I opted for 3GB RAM forgoing the ability to run the memory at dual channel which may improve performance. I’ve read somewhere that having a dual channel, matched 2 x 1GB pairing will be faster but then again the gain would depend on your other hardware as well.

Hardcore gamers and those primarily running CPU intensive applications would likely benefit from a dual channel setup. Then again the performance increase by having more RAM (eg. 3GB at 1x1GB + 1x2GB) would probably outweigh a lesser amount but faster RAM (eg. 2GB at 2x1GB ).

You can learn more about dual channel memory here.

Anyway, just for fun check out my Windows Experience Index. Obviously the slower 3.2GHz processor limits my desktop’s base score. However I could hardly tell the difference in performance when doing normal tasks as both systems are as fast as they could be.

 

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Here are some pictures of the Dell XPS M1530.

 

Shipment took less than a week to arrive at my address once the manufacturing build was completed. The online price has dropped RM300 a few days ago which kind of irritating for me but that’s how things are. There’s always a better and cheaper system around the corner.

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What’s in the box? From left: Belkin Home Series MasterCube with 25,000 Max Spike Amperage; manuals, software and accessories; Belkin Sling Bag; and the laptop itself.

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The sexy Dell XPS M1530 with a built-in 2.0 MP web cam.

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There are three USB ports, 8-in-1 media card reader, a single FireWire port, 1 ExpressCard Slot, an HDMI-out port and other ports you would expect from a high end system.

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View from the back. The metallic finish gives it a solid and distinct feel of quality and luxury. (Ok I started to sound like a salesman here lol)

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The Belkin Sling Bag which I ordered separately includes a handphone compartment in the shoulder strap. It’s sure handy but my Nokia N95 is too big to fit in there.

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Thick inner lining created using soft material protects laptop from scratches. I actually prefer the Belkin Messenger Bag but the only colour available was Dove/Pink which is too girly for me 🙂

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Dell XPS M1530.

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My workspace showing the Dell XPS laptop alongside the Dell Dimension 8400 desktop.

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Check out the full review of the Dell XPS M1530 at Notebookreview.com and PCMag.com.

Windows Vista Could Destroy Your iPod

February 7, 2007 by · 3 Comments 

Apple is warning its iPod users not to upgrade their PCs to the new Microsoft operating system as it could be damaged by it.

A statement on Apple’s website says the songs purchased from iTunes Store may not play when upgrading to Windows Vista and ejecting an iPod from the Windows System Tray using the Safely Remove Hardware feature may corrupt your iPod.

Despite the release of a new software update for Vista users so that they can play iTunes Store songs Apple continues to recommend that users wait to upgrade Windows until after the next release of iTunes which will be available in the next few weeks.

Some may see this advisory from Apple as a little shady. After all, Apple should have been able to test Vista for weeks before it’s being released. Why wait until the last minute after Vista release to issue such advisory?

The $1 million mobile phone

May 22, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Anybody got spare cash for a one million dollar mobile phone? That’s how much a phone by Goldvish will cost you. It’s made of 18K gold and boasting no fewer than 210 carats of diamonds.

As you’d expect, the phone is equipped with a camera with 8x digital zoom, MP3 playback, FM radio, included 2GB memory card and an EDGE connection. Disappointingly, no WiFi, and no 3G option included.

It just goes to say that sometimes you don’t need a perfect product to make money, you just need one that (rich) people would like to have.

Read more: The million dollar cellphone

Hybrid Hard Drive will enable Instant Booting for Vista

May 10, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Samsung and Microsoft will announce a hybrid hard drive that will enable Vista based laptops and desktops PCs boot much faster.

The drive uses a combination of flash memory and standard hard drive technology designed to speed the boot-up process and prolong battery life. The functionality is explicitly supported in Windows Vista.

The drive will be unveiled at Microsoft’s Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), which starts on May 24 in Seattle.

Read more: Instant Booting Comes Close to a Reality

Dual Monitors Increase Productivity by up to 30%

April 22, 2006 by · 2 Comments 

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There’s an article published by The New York Times about the advantage of having a second monitor. According to a study, adding an extra monitor will give your output a considerable boost – 20 percent to 30 percent.

I couldn’t agree more although the exact percentage increase will depend on the individual.

I have two 17 inch LCDs placed side by side like that in the picture. The reason why I thought I needed this setup initially was, as a Visual Basic (VB) programmer, I needed a way to have my reference materials and the Visual Basic IDE (Integrated Development Environment) windows visible and maximised simultaneously.

A single monitor wouldn’t allow me to do that. I could switch between applications with a mouse click but that’s just not convenience and delayed my progress one click at a time. If I were running several applications simultaneously, that delay could add up. My dual monitor setup has made this problem a thing of the past for me.

One might suggest that instead of getting two monitors, why not getting one that’s bigger? Here’s the answer:

Further, a pair of smaller screens will usually cost less than a single big one. While a 24-inch Dell “wide aspect” screen is now about $1,000, a pair of 19-inch Dells could cost as little as $550 — about half that if you already had one 19-inch monitor, and even less if you found one of the many bargains available in displays that size. If you are willing to use a smaller monitor for your second display, you can save even more; 17-inch flat-panel monitors, for example, are often less than $200 each.

On top of that, you actually have more screen real estate with a dual monitor setup. As an example two 17 inch LCDs give you 2 x 1280 x 1024 or 2560 x 1024 resolutions. This will cost you about RM1600.

In contrast, a single 24 windscreen LCD will cost you about RM3500 and you only get 1920 x 1200 maximum resolutions!

I feel that by having two monitors, my applications are easier to manage. As an example, when working with two applications with one monitor, I’ll have to resize each application so that each will occupy half of the screen.

With two monitors, I can simply maximize one application to occupy one monitor while the other app resides on the other monitor. Copy and paste operations become more fun too as you eliminate the intermediate click when switching between two windows.

Anyway if you are using dual monitors, and wanted to do any of the followings, you might want to check out Ultramon. It helps you to:

  • Move windows and maximize windows across the two desktop
  • Extend your taskbar onto the second monitor
  • Extend wallpapers and screen savers
  • Mirror your main monitor to secondary monitors for a presentation

Here’s another article about dual monitor from Microsoft Research if you are interested

Two Screens Are Better Than One

Dual monitors have improved my productivity and I crave for even more now. I’m looking forward to increase my screen real estate by upgrading to dual 19 (perhaps dual 21 inch?) inch LCDs in the near future.

Dual Processor vs Dual Core

March 28, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a computer buff you might find the dual processor vs dual core article an interesting read.

Dual core processors setup has been gathering momentum with the introduction of such processors by Intel and AMD. But you may be wondering which setup is more beneficial, multiple processors or a dual processor and what are the differences between them.

This article will attempt to answer your question. From the article:

A major question for some people getting ready to buy a high-end system is whether they want or need to have two processors available to them. For anyone doing video editing, multi-threaded applications, or a lot of multitasking the answer is a very clear ‘yes’. Then the question becomes whether two separate processors (as in a dual Xeon or Opteron system) is the way to go, or whether a single dual-core CPU (like a Pentium D or Athlon64 X2) will do just as well. Dual CPU vs dual core — which is better?!

$10,000 Dell PC sold out

March 28, 2006 by · 2 Comments 

I wrote about the blazing fast XPS 600 limited edition Dell PC with a $10,000 price tag.

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Apparently it has sold out recently even though the monster rig has lost a bit of its ultimate status due to now wide availably of NVIDIA’s quad-SLI technology and the 5.46 GHz over-clocked machine displayed at CeBIT.

From the article:

Whether Dell plans to make a second offering of XPS 600 limited edition PCs remains unknown. What impact Dell’s acquisition of Alienware will have upon Dell’s interest in ultra-premium PC gaming is also open to speculation, though if the XPS Renegade is a true success, at least in limited quantities, we may begin to see equivalent or better entries coming soon from many manufacturers.

Dell announced USD10,000 consumer PC – XPS 600 Renegade series

March 24, 2006 by · 6 Comments 

Dell has launched XPS 600 Renegade series, the most expensive consumer PC it has offered in several years. It includes all the bells and whistles that you could ever want in a blazingly fast PC.

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The specs alone is enough to make any computer enthusiast drool.

Starting at $9930, the PC has a Pentium Extreme Edition processor that has been overclocked from 3.73 to 4.26 GHz, 2GB DDR2-667 memory, a 160 GB 10,000 RPM WD Raptor as well as a second WD 400 GB 7200 RPM hard drive. XPS 600 also comes with a FOUR GeForce 7900 GTX graphics processors with a total of 2 GB of GDDR3 memory. includes Dell’s 35-pound 30″ LCD, which offers a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixel and a contrast ratio of 700:1.

Since production will be in limited number, anyone, especially hardcore gamers with deep pockets would likely snatch this up. Problem is I think GeForce 7900 is DirectX 9 card and the quad-graphic card setup actually may result in less frame rate performance in some games than a single card system as mentioned in the article.

Like everything else at this price level, this PC won’t be available in Malaysia. I can’t imagine someone here spend RM40K for a single PC unless of course he/she earns like RM100,000 monthly. Besides why would anyone need such powerful system unless they are creating Hollywood grade special effects?

My Dell Dimension 8400 which was purchased in September 2004 looks totally pale in comparison, duh… But it can be considered as a high end ‘average consumer PC’ during that time and was meant to be a long term investment. It still serves me well today.

Pentium 4, 3.2GHz
1 GB DDR2 533Mhz SDRAM Memory
128MB ATI Radeon X800SE
Dual 17″ flat panel Dell 1704FPT & Dell E173FP
250GB hard drive
The rest are DVD/CD ROM drives, wireless keyboard and optical mouse all the whole enchilada.

Samsung SCH-B600: Ten megapixel camera phone anyone?

March 10, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Samsung has released their SCH-B600 ten-megapixel camera phone at the German Cebit electronics convention. The company says the camera does three times optical zoom and is the first one of its kind to offer auto-focus and fill-light flash.

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Samsung unveiled their new 10MP SCH-B600 cameraphone at the 2006 CeBIT convention in Hannover this week.

The SCH-B600 features a 10MP camera with 3x optical zoom, 5x digital zoom, flash, auto-focus, 1/2000 shutter speed, and self-timer. Other features include a 16M color 2.2″ QVGA TFT display, DMB satellite TV reception, music and image playback, voice recognition, Bluetooth, and microMMC memory card storage.

Samsung plans to release the SCH-B600 though SK Telecom during the 2nd quarter of 2006.

Via Samsung HQ

Microsoft’s ‘Origami’ finally unveiled

March 10, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

The much hyped ultra portable PC from Microsoft was finally launched on Thursday. Origami is a paperback size portable computer, with is hybrid between a laptop PC and mobile devices.

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From the article:

The new machines will connect wirelessly to the Internet and carry full-sized hard drives, but they are not intended to replace current PCs.

Microsoft’s track record in promoting an alternative PC has produced mixed results. The tablet PC has not yet gained broad appeal despite strong backing from founder Bill Gates.

The device seems overpriced at over US1000. Several people speculate that the device will find troubles finding its market. People will have higher expectation, they’ll demand more features and better battery life when paying such a high price item.

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