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Dell’s two most popular laptop lines are the Inspiron and the XPS, and given the range of prices and configurations, it can often be difficult to determine the model you want.
The Inspiron starts at very affordable prices (under $200), making it a clear choice if you’re looking for a web-browsing laptop that doesn’t cost more than a tablet. But at the top end, it offers competent office-level performance. The XPS line, by comparison, is higher end, appealing to those with graphic processing needs or even a little entry-level gaming. Its top-of-the-line models have just received a refresh, with brand-new Intel processors available just in time for the holiday shopping season.
For solid business performance, you’ll also want to look at the Dell Latitude or Inspiron lines; for even higher-end graphics performance, you’ll want to check out the company’s G-Series or Alienware gaming models.
In the Inspiron line, you’ll choose from one of three series: 3000, 5000 or 7000. I’ve selected a laptop from each series below for comparison. In the XPS line, you’ll choose solely based on screen size and whether you want 2-in-1 capability (where the laptop touch screen converts into a tablet.)
I’ve chosen two representative models from the XPS series, but note that several XPS models are being refreshed now through the end of October, so if you can wait, it’s worth buying—or at least double-checking prices—in the fall.
Dell Inspiron 11 3180
This is a bare-bones laptop for home use. It has enough firepower to run basic applications (web browsing, document editing) and the small size and low price tag makes it a good on-the-couch companion.
If you want to upgrade from the base configuration, opt for a larger hard drive. The base model has just 32 gigabytes of solid state storage—doubling that only costs about $20 more.For the money, you get a 7th Generation AMD A6-9220e Processor with Radeon R4 Graphics, Windows 10, 4GB of RAM and that small hard drive.
Dell Inspiron 15 5584
Inspiron 5000 series laptops are available in 14-inch and 15-inch models; this new 15-inch represents a substantial step up over previous models. It includes an 8th Generation Intel Core i3-8145U processor, integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 graphics processing, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB M.2 PCIe NVMe solid state hard drive (for about $70 more, you can double that) and Windows 10. If you spring an extra $40, this model is available with touchscreen.
The middle-of-the-road configuration and size make this a good basic home computer. It’s more fully-featured (and less likely to immediately run out of room) than the Inspiron 11 above. But you’re also not paying for high-end features you’re unlikely to use, if all you want is a competent web-browsing, office-software-running machine.
Dell Inspiron 15 7590
The 7000 series are the best consumer laptops in the Dll Inspiron line. They’re all 2-in-1 machines, which means the touchscreens flip to the back of the laptop to create a tablet with a smart pencil (stored inside the laptop).
There are less expensive models in the line, but I chose this one because it has the most-current lineup of components and the 15-inch size makes it more comfortable for high-resolution tablet use (like watching Netflix or taking notes in a meeting) than other models.
This new model has an 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8565U processor, NVIDIA GeForce MX250 graphics card with 2GB of graphics processing RAM, 16GB of computing RAM, and an Intel Optane Memory H10 32GB solid state storage with an additional 512GB solid state drive (a nice combination intended to speed access to your data).
New Dell XPS 15 7590
This workhorse 15-inch model in the Dell XPS line doesn’t flip into a tablet, but it includes a solid setup even at base configuration: a 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H processor, Windows 10, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State drive.
This is the “I’m sending my kid to college and I just want this laptop to get them through four years of classwork (and not gaming)” model, featuring good performance in most office and entry-level graphics applications, enough hard drive space that they can safely store all their Instagram photos and Powerpoint presentations for class, and a luggable 4-pound weight. It also makes an entirely respectable home laptop. A new version of this laptop offers the option—at a $900 upcharge—of a very attractive OLED display.
New Dell XPS 13 7390 2-in-1
This new model includes Intel’s new 10th-generation i5-1035G1 processor chip for the first time (though not the faster RAM that chip can support.) Its integrated graphics processing means that, despite the high price tag, this is not a gaming-friendly machine for more than basic titles. In thw base configuration, it also includes 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe NVMe x4 Solid State drive, and Windows 10.
At just 2.9 pounds, this is an excellent choice for travel. While not as svelte as some other laptops, it’s small enough to carry between meetings and still have it act as a desktop replacement back at your office or home office. Or couch.