Top positive review
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Excellent laptop. Better than the Dell XPS 15.
on December 6, 2012
It would be hard to say more than the other extensive reviews already here, so I won't try; they're there if you want to read them. Here are some salient points, specifically comparing this machine to the Dell XPS 15. If you happen to be comparing the two, maybe you'll find this useful. (TL;DR warning. There is a summary at the bottom if you prefer)
I first bought a Dell XPS 15 (highest-end model, with 1 TB + 128GB SSD drive), for $800 more than this laptop. I didn't like it, and here's why:
- Dell XPS: Bad trackpad. Vizio: Good trackpad.
- The Dell has a delay on every action. A lot of false detections of gesture. Can't possible configure it to accept a double-tap as a right click (only a double-full-click). I can't stand the Mac-inspired "press the whole trackpad as if it were a mouse button". Conversely: the Vizio has an excellent trackpad, on par with the MacBook Pro, and handles double-tap and every other gesture I care to use without any trouble. Also, the Dell's trackpad seems to have higher friction than the Vizio. Both use basically the same finish for the trackpad as the body; the Dell's matte rubber body would seem to require a "stickier" finish on the trackpad.
- Dell XPS: Excessive fan noise. Vizio: little to no fan noise.
- I bought the XPS (and Vizio) because I want to at least occasionally play games. I'm not super hard-core, I don't need an AlienWare, but I at least wanted something on par with my 6-year-old MacBook Pro; these days, it seems like 99% of all laptops have no discrete graphics. The Dell XPS 15 has the same chip as this machine. The performance in Skyrim (full HD resolution, high graphics), while not stellar, is playable in both. However, the Dell needs to spin the fan at max RPM constantly, generating a racket well in excess of a full-size room-cooling tower fan right next to it. Meanwhile, the Vizio, running the same game at the same performance, only sometimes needs the fan, and the volume is much lower. The actual heat of the laptop (to the touch) is far less, as well. I credit the metal casing, as opposed to rubber (seriously? rubber? in a heat-sensitive device?), and likely superior cooling for the GPU.
- Dell XPS: Heavy. Vizio: light.
- I didn't expect this, and I'm not sure the official specs can back me up, but I'll be damned if the Vizio isn't at least 1/3 lighter than the XPS. It's the lightest 15" I've ever handled...lighter than a MacBook Pro. Not sure what the deal is. Maybe better heft? Something about build quality? It's light. Really light for a 15" that can play 3d games like a boss.
- Dell XPS: Backlight chiclet keyboard (good!). Vizio: Non-backlit traditional keyboard (less good).
- The Dell wins here. I liked that keyboard. The backlighting I can understand--the Vizio is 40% cheaper at nearly the same internal specs. The flat style vs chiclet? I think that's a matter of personal preference. I don't like the Vizio's arrow keys--there are two different sizes to force the bundle into a solid rectangle--but it's hardly a deal-breaker.
- Dell XPS: Normal Dell charger (ugh). Vizio: nifty new charger (yay!)
- Coming from a MacBook world, I was dismayed to see the sad state of PC laptop chargers. I feel like I just stepped back in time by a decade. That being said, Dell chargers are hard to come by without buying direct, in some cases paying 3 digits. What? Seriously, wtf? Even Apple charges 50-60 bucks for a charger...and they're APPLE. And apparently Dell computers detect if the charger is "genuine" and won't charge if it isn't. Okay Dell, get off your high horse. You're Dell, not Apple. I will give them this though: if you already have Dell laptops, your existing chargers will likely work.
- The Vizio charger isn't a MagSafe (damn patents), but it's perhaps the next best thing. Less bulky than the Dell charger pin, with a colored LED to let you know if it's charging or not, it was a welcome change. Unfortunately, I cannot find a replacement charger anywhere on the internet (at this time, Vizio is "out of stock" with expectations of having more stock soon). Ding vs Vizio. Still, if they get more stock soon, all is forgiven. They're smaller than Dell or Apple, I can understand.
- Dell XPS: Windows 8. Vizio: Windows 8. Result: draw.
- Windows 8 is terrible. Awful. Abhorrent. Stupid. Folks, I've been using Microsoft operating systems since 1985. I'm not some Johnny-come-lately. I've never been a huge fan of Mac OS, could never seriously embrace Linux full-time, and have never used anything but a DOS/Windows machine as a primary dev/gaming/general use box. I say this in my full capacity as a consumer, a developer, a gamer, and an IT professional: Windows 8 is a usability disaster so bad that I honestly hope Microsoft permanently goes out of business (or at least leave the OS business) forever. As a tablet OS, it's at least a distant 3rd place. As a desktop OS, it is a crime against humanity.
- That being said, both machines ship with it. If you use the new UI, the Vizio is your best bet (see previous issues with trackpad gestures). If you use the Desktop (and Pokki!) like a boss, it doesn't really matter. It's just software. But it's worth mentioning; unless you're 100% cognizant of who is to blame for the awfulness of Windows 8 (hint: neither Dell nor Vizio), you might despise either of these laptops (at least until you learn how to replace the Start menu and stay in Desktop mode).
- Dell XPS: Attractive. Vizio: Very attractive. MBP: Extremely attractive.
- I admit it. My primary laptop for the last 6 years was a MacBook Pro. I like an attractive machine. More importantly, I also like a machine with serious build quality--none of this creaky plastic that slowly loses its paint job and accumulates nast. After more than 6 years of heavy use, without any babying or protective casing, my all-aluminum MBP looks about 90% as good as the day I bought it. I can't say the same of any plastic PC laptop of half that age.
- As any serious laptop buyer knows: most PC laptops are ugly and poorly built. That's changing (slowly (way, way, too slowly)), but there are leagues to go just yet. With either the Dell XPS or the Vizio, you pay a premium for appearance and build quality. Of course, in the Vizio's case, that premium is much, much less.
- The Dell XPS is made primarily of metal (one would think aluminum, but the relative weight has me wondering if it's actually steel...or maybe polonium). The top looks very MBP-like, save for the Dell logo instead of an Apple logo. But the working surface (the one with the keyboard and trackpad) is covered almost entirely in black rubber. Why? I don't know. Just to be different? I'm paying for aluminum. Apparently aluminum costs hundreds of dollars per pound in laptop form (as opposed to ones of dollars per pound in any other use ever). So I shelled out the cash...why coat it in rubber? Rubber is high-friction; that's why tennis shoes have rubber soles. Got a pet? Or hair? Or humans living in your house? Count on hair, lint, and dust clinging to that rubber like Spider-man to a skyscraper wall.
- Meanwhile, the Vizio's exterior is nearly 100% metal; the bottom is rubberized, but that's fine. I don't really care if cat hair sticks to the bottom. The top of the main body, and of course the top of the laptop when closed, are 100% metal, with the usual silver finish. Like that color? You'll like this. It also happens to be much less high-friction (see above), and I suspect far better at conducting heat (see above again).
A few notes about things where neither one wins:
- Both of these machines have the same problem for me: when running 3d applications on an external monitor (via the HDMI port), the screen frequently (3-10 times per minute) flicks off and back on, with 1+ seconds of blackness, rendering it unusuable. This *only* happens in "second monitor only" mode, as opposed to extended desktop mode, or built-in-display-only mode. Because it happens in both machines, I suspect the Nvidia GPU--common to both--is at fault. So far, driver updates haven't fixed it, but I suspect it will be fixable (on either machine) eventually with only software updates.
- Both machines seem to be having WiFi problems, with the connection randomly dropping (interval ranging between 5 minutes and a few hours), requiring manual re-connect. I doubt it's either laptop's fault (I haven't begun to rule out my home network, although it's worth mentioning I have two different routers from two different manufacturers, one of which is a WRT54GL, not exactly known for unreliability, and none of the 14 other WiFi devices on my network are having these problems), but the Dell does have a lot of complaints about WiFi, and it has me wondering if both of these machines are using the same, faulty chip, antenna, or some other such component. In any case, YMMV, but this is certainly the kind of thing either manufacturer should be on the hook for, should it affect you.
Well, there you have it. Didn't mean to ramble so much, but hey: more data > less data, I guess. I'll update if I find a solution to the WiFi or GPU problems.
TL;DR: if you're comparing a Dell XPS 15 to this, buy this. The performance is a virtual match for the high-end Dell XPS 15, but a vast price difference (at the time of purchase: roughly $2000 for the Dell, $1200 for the Vizio), and every single feature of the Vizio is at least as good, if not better, with the exception of a backlit keyboard and subjective appraisals of appearance.