The most popular laptops in the US in terms of sales are 15.6-inch desktop replacements. These notebooks aren’t the most portable PCs on the market but you get a lot of bang for your bucks. We selected two of the most popular models from HP and Dell and put them head-to-head!
No Need for Desktops!
The two notebooks in our comparison today are desktop replacements – that means they have enough computing power to function as one’s do-it-all computer. The HP Pavilion dv6t Quad Edition and Dell XPS 15 are designed primarily for multimedia work such as Adobe Photoshop CS5 but also work well for playing the latest 3D games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
Dell and HP sell similarly-sized notebooks for $500-700, so why, besides the extra power, does it make sense to spend more money for a higher-end notebook? Compared to Dell’s budget Insprion 15R and HP’s g6x, the XPS 15 and dv6t QE offer:
- Enhanced designs; this includes more premium materials such as a metal exterior
- Higher-resolution screens; both notebooks in our comparison include 1920×1080 full HD screens, which are not available on low-end notebooks
- Branded speakers; the dv6t Quad includes Beats audio and the XPS 15 uses JBL speakers, which provide a more enjoyable listening experience
- Advanced ports; the notebooks in our comparison include new ports such as USB 3.0, which can greatly speed up external hard drive and USB flash drive backups
- More storage; 1TB hard drives are included in both notebooks
- Blu-ray; these drives aren’t available on budget notebooks
Here are the specifications of the notebooks in our comparison:
|HP Pavilion dv6t Quad Edition||Dell XPS 15|
|Screen||15.6” Full HD, anti-glare||15.6” Full HD, glossy|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-2670QM Quad-Core||Intel Core i7-2670QM Quad-Core|
|Storage||1TB 5400RPM||1TB 5400RPM|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon HD 7690M 2GB||Nvidia GeForce GT 540M 2GB|
|Optical Drive||Blu-ray reader||Blu-ray reader|
|Weight||5.78 pounds||5.96 pounds|
|Thickness||1.23~1.39 inches||1.3~1.5 inches|
|Ports||2x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, media card reader, Beats Audio speakers (4)||2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0/eSATA combo, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet, media card reader, JBL speakers (2) plus subwoofer|
Items highlighted in red indicate which notebook has the advantage – I configured these notebooks as closely as possible for the comparison.
Dell’s XPS line is actually positioned as a step up from HP’s Pavilion line of notebooks but their feature sets are close enough to make an accurate comparison. The HP comes in $205 cheaper with nearly identical specifications.
Neither notebook is going to turn heads but the edge here goes to Dell. It has a more solid feel thanks to a more extensive use of metal alloy. HP uses a brushed aluminum surface whereas Dell sticks to smooth, uninterrupted magnesium-alloy panels (which actually look like plastic from a distance).
Dell gets additional points for not using any glossy plastic – HP (annoyingly) continues to use it around the screen bezel; it attracts dust and fingerprints too easily.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The dv6t QE makes use of a “chiclet” or island-style keyboard with extra spacing between the keys while the XPS 15 has a traditional keyboard (though with completely flat keys). Both notebooks provide a satisfactory typing experience but the Dell again gets the edge here – it’s the only one of the two that includes keyboard backlighting.
Top-shelf components are expected in a desktop replacement notebook. In our case, these two notebooks are available (and equipped) with Intel Core i7 quad-core processors, the fastest on the market. 8GB of RAM means that many applications can be run at once without worry of slow-downs (4GB is standard on both; the 8GB upgrade is usually $100 or less). Lastly, both notebooks also include a large 1TB hard drive (although not particularly fast ones at only 5400RPM). Overall performance is adequate for nearly all usages.
Gaming is a different story. The XPS 15’s Nvidia GT 540M graphics card doesn’t hold a candle to the AMD Radeon HD 7690M, which is much faster and the easy choice for 3D gamers. Not that the GT 540M can’t play the latest games – it can, but not as smoothly or at as nice of visual settings as the HD 7690M in the HP.
Dollar for dollar you get a better gaming experience from the HP Pavilion dv6t with the Radeon HD 7690M.
A 1920×1080 full HD screen is (thankfully) available on the XPS 15 and the dv6t QE. All that resolution means minimal scrolling and being able to easily use two windows side-by-side. And don’t forget it means you can watch Blu-rays in the resolution they were designed for. You won’t find these on budget notebooks.
Despite the similarities the XPS 15 actually has a higher-quality panel; it’s more colorful because of improved contrast and saturation compared to the HP. The HP has another card up its sleeve though; it has an optional anti-glare surface which is preferable for working in well-lit or outdoor situations. The XPS 15’s glossy display surface can be distracting since it acts like a mirror. We’re calling this one a tie – the best choice for screen depends on what matters most to you.
The Dell and HP don’t hold a noteworthy edge over one another except in the areas mentioned. Battery life for both is between 5-6 hours of continuous use on the standard 6-cell batteries. Extended warranties with accidental damage protection are offered on both.
For the extra money the Dell XPS 15 offers a better quality display (albeit glossy), improved speakers, and a backlit keyboard but significantly worse graphics card performance. It’s hard to justify an extra $200 for these differences; therefore trophy goes to the HP Pavilion dv6t Quad Edition because it’s a better value. Except for the aforementioned areas, the Pavilion dv6t QE matches the XPS 15 step for step.
Keep in mind that both notebook makers frequently offer coupons, so you can get it for less than the list price. The dv6t QE is almost always cheaper, even with coupons. It’s tough to go wrong with either notebook at the end of the day.