Dell is among the largest laptop manufacturers in the world, and for a time Dell laptops were among the best. They fell into the typical trap which many large companies lead themselves into – they expanded so aggressively that they lost their identity. Dells came to be known for uninspired design, low quality and poor customer service.
In 2006 Dell lost it’s lead as the world’s largest PC manufacturer to Hewlitt-Packard, a black eye which seems to have woken Dell back up. Dell has re-styled its products to offer consumers with a broader range of options, better prices and better quality. Still, navigating Dell’s product lineup can be a bit confusing. This guide highlights the three best Dell laptops currently sold. These are the best place to start when looking at Dell’s laptops.
The Dell Mini 10 has never been a critical darling. Which I find odd, because Dell’s netbooks have always had some very unique options and reasonable pricing and are some of the best Dell laptops money can buy.
While the Mini 10 is technically a single product, it covers a larger range of capabilities and prices than most netbooks. The least expensive Mini 10, which costs $249 dollars, ships with Windows XP, a 1.33Ghz Atom processor, 1GB or Ram, a 160GB hard drive and a three cell battery. It doesn’t last very long on battery, and it isn’t very quick, but it is very inexpensive and it is on par with the competition in terms of the keyboard, trackpad and display.
At the high end of the lineup with have the Mini 1012. The Mini 1012 offers a 1.66Ghz Atom processor, 1GB of Ram, a 250GB hard drive and a large six-cell battery. More interesting is the display, which has a resolution of 1366×768 and is driven by the Broadcom Crystal HD media accelerator which can provide smooth playback of high resolution video. Even this model, which is among the most powerful and full-featured netbooks today, only costs $409.99. Dell also offers some unique upgrades such as integrated GPS with turn-by-turn navigation, an integrated TV tuner, and mobile broadband. Overall the Dell Mini 10 is the best Dell laptop for those who are looking for a mobile computer.
One of Dell’s best and most modern designs, the Studio 14z is a sleek, slim 14 inch laptop which makes some bold design choices. The boldest of these is the lack of an optical drive. On the one hand, this may turn of those off you who have lots of older software on optical drives which you need to install. However, losing the optical drive means that the Studio 14z is less than an inch thick and weighs just a tad over 4 pounds. That means this full-sized 14 inch laptop is slimmer than most netbooks and only a pound to a pound and a half heavier.
Performance is provided by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. As of this writing (4/18/2010) Core i3 or i5 upgrades were not available. Even so, the stock 2.2Ghz T6600 processor is more than adequate for day-to-day use. It is backed up by Nvidia’s 9400M graphics, which give the Dell 14z the ability to play basic games (such as World of Warcraft or Team Fortress 2) and high-definition video without issue. The setup is also power efficient, as well, allowing the Dell Studio 14z to provide about five hours of battery life.
The most impressive part of this package, however, is the price – $599. That is very low considering the power the Dell 14z provides and the laptop’s slim frame. The Dell Studio 14z is easily the best Dell laptop for students, but should also be considered by all mainstream users. Remember – you can always buy an external optical drive.
Targeted towards mainstream users looking for a powerful premium laptop, the Dell Studio XPS 16 is among the best large laptops available today. Inside the guts of the Dell Studip XPS 16 you’ll find a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and ATI Mobility Radeon 4760 graphics. This all adds up to a package that provides impressive performance, and that is only the beginning. Optional Core i7 processors are also available, and while they obviously increase the price they also result in an extremely powerful laptop.
The design of the Studio XPS 16 is very attractive. Aluminum strips and even leather are used as trim, giving the laptop a distinctly premium feel. The display is also very nice. The base display has a resolution of 1600 x 900 and can be upgraded to a 1920 x 1080 resolution if desired. There is also an optional RGBLED display which, while expensive, is among the best laptop displays available today.
Being a larger, premium laptop, the battery life of the Dell Studio XPS 16 is only about two and a half hours. An optional nine cell battery can extend this to four. This is easily the biggest weakness of the Studio XPS 16, but it is offset by a reasonable starting price of $1,199. That is a lot of money, but not for a system this powerful. Anyone who is looking for a desktop replacement will find this to be the best Dell laptop for their needs.