The Dell XPS M1530 aims to combine power and mobility at an affordable price.

With its impressive specification, great usability and strong performance, it ably succeeds. The stylish silver and black chassis weighs 2.7kg. It can be carried on journeys, but proves too heavy for all day travel.

The screen panel can be customised from a choice of four colours at the time of purchase to add a touch of style. All ports are located on the left and right-hand sides of the chassis and are easily accessible. The optical drive is slot-loading, which adds style and reduces the risk of damage.

Stunning screen

The large keyboard is one of the best we've used and comfortable for long-term use. A panel of touch-sensitive media keys above the keyboard can also be used for fast access to music and video files.

Extra features are impressive. The integrated camera lets you stay in touch with friends and family using online video messaging software, while the built-in fingerprint scanner can be used to easily protect important files.

The 15.4-inch screen is stunning. Brightness, colour and contrast are all strong, and bring photos and movies to life. The screen panel also folds far back on its hinge, so it's easy to move it to an optimal viewing angle.

High-end models feature support for Blu-ray discs. To this end, an HDMI port is also fitted. This is useful even for models with no Blu-ray support, as HD video can be played directly from the hard drive.

Vast price difference

With so many stand-out features, the Dell XPS M1530 is one of the best consumer laptops you can buy. Both its high-end and entry-level models excel in their own right, and both first-time buyers and professionals are sure to be happy with what it has to offer.

This XPS M1530 costs £950 more than its entry-level rival, so we expected it to deliver in performance and specification. Luckily, it succeeds in both areas. Improving on an already strong foundation, this upgrade is well worth the money.

The Intel 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo processor uses a more efficient design than the CPU seen in the entry-level model. System memory is doubled to 4096MB, resulting in some of the best performance we've seen in any laptop.

Even the most demanding home and office applications run effortlessly. We were able to edit video, play music, check our emails and browse the internet without the system slowing down.

The graphics card is also upgraded. The nVidia GeForce 8600M GT card is a mid-range GPU, but more than doubles performance of the entry-level Dell. Multimedia applications run quickly, and even the latest games can be played, albeit using basic 3D settings.

High-definition

A key selling point is the Blu-ray optical drive. It uses a slot-loading mechanism and lets you watch the latest high-definition (HD) movie releases for the best possible image and audio quality.

The screen is also improved over the entry-level model. The 1920 x 1200-pixel resolution is pin-sharp and allows full HD playback of Blu-ray movies and downloaded HD video files.

The extra power and features of the high-end XPS M1530 justify the large price increase and add a great deal to the overall package. Building on the already excellent entry-level model, this is one of the best consumer laptops you can currently buy.