Dell has been known for a lot of things over the years, some not very positive, and most having to do with providing good value for a price. A few years back, they came out with the XPS line. While it added some color, you wouldn’t really call the product sexy, and the folks most likely to want to carry them were gamers with very large biceps.
That just changed, and with their latest announcement, Dell is declaring war on the Sony/Toshiba/Apple class of cool-looking notebooks. Their first shot appears to be as good as the best.
Take That, Apple
Remember when Apple did colors? Apple largely pioneered colors in PCs, but now, with them, you can get any color you want — as long as it is white or black. Wow, that is innovative…
Now, a legion of Apple defenders will likely argue that all you really need is white or black and that anything else is just silly. They probably only wear white or black clothes, drive white or black cars, and live in black or white houses, while they watch their black and white TVs.
The problem with color is stocking the colors people want, but if you largely sell direct like Dell does, you can provide color choices without driving inventory costs through the roof, something that is very difficult in retail. This favors Dell’s direct model; though Apple could do it direct as well, it would be difficult for them to have adequate stock in their stores.
Interestingly enough, Sony has been selling notebooks in custom colors for some time, and they, too, are retail-based, which suggests it can be done. Suddenly, those new Apple notebooks (along with all of the other “black and white only” products) are looking like old Ford Model Ts.
Whether you like Dell or not, given a move to color does benefit their model, you have to admit this is the vendor method of taking names and kicking butt.
The Flagship: M1330
The coolest of the new lines is the XPS M1330. This thing looks like it was designed by Sony and has an elegance that you don’t generally see outside of a PowerMac or flagship Sony offering. Sleek, light (under four pounds), and sexy, with a magnesium shell and brushed aluminum accents, this product truly showcases the Lexus-like promise the XPS product line was always supposed to have.
It only comes in three colors: Tuxedo Black, Pearl White, and Crimson Red (you know you want the red one), and with a starting price of a reasonable $1,299 (I’d suggest the $1,744 version with NVIDIA Graphics, LED backlit display, and bigger battery) this thing looks as hot as it likely is. You can even get one of the first solid state hard drives in this product, but I’d hold off until the 64 GB version is available in a few months (the one offered is $600 more and only 32GB). By the way, currently, the built-in video camera is a free upgrade and easy to miss, so if you order one, don’t miss it. Free is free, even if you don’t plan to use it.
The new Inspirons come in three sizes: the 14.1” 1420 , the 15.4” 1520/21 (the 21 is AMD based) , and the honking big 17” Arnold Schwarzenegger memorial edition 1720/21 (the 21 is AMD based) . If you buy the 17-inch model, you can probably count it as gym equipment and buy it for health reasons, because at eight pounds, lifting it will do wonders for your upper arms (though, if you think about it, eight pounds isn’t that bad for a 17” laptop; 17” monitors generally weigh more than that by themselves).
These come in eight colors: Jet Black, Alpine White, Espresso Brown, Ruby Red, Midnight Blue, Spring Green, Flamingo Pink, and Sunshine Yellow. If you are in school, I’d suggest avoiding the Sunshine Yellow as it basically puts a huge beacon on your desk. My personal favorite is the Midnight Blue, which catches the eye but is unlikely to seem blinding first thing in the morning.
Prices all start out under a thousand dollars — $819 for the 14”, $769 for the 15.4”, and $919 for the big 17” — but you can option the heck out of these things, so watch yourselves. While these aren’t as sexy in design as the stunning XPS previously discussed, they do provide good value and color choices with the latest Intel and AMD technology. Arguably, Dell is providing the greatest choice in the segment.
Neither Sony nor Apple were able to drive color into the laptop or desktop segment, and Apple kind of gave up. Dell, as the close number two player, does have the size and stature to do this and we may be seeing a massive drive to more customization then we have ever seen, not only in terms of configuration, but in terms of color.
In many ways, Dell is targeting HP and their personal campaign and implying they can do what HP can’t: truly make the PC personal. I doubt HP will allow this to go unanswered; the company will likely respond with a vengeance. This competition between these two players could go a long way to making PCs more personal for all of us, more interesting as a product type, and a hell of a lot more fun.
Of course, I wonder partially if this didn’t all come about because of Steve Jobs’ jabs at Michael Dell — maybe this is Dell’s way of jabbing back. Who knows? But it does add a little needed excitement to the summer, doesn’t it?
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.