Design and Build Quality
Upon first glance, you'll probably be taken aback at how large the machine is. It's certainly one of the thicker units we've seen, but still on the slim side for a "business laptop." The color choices are also pleasing to the eye, with a brushed metal, dark grey and silver scheme going on. It's understated with a pinch of "edgy." Along the front edge, you'll notice an SD card reader. Looking along the left side, you'll notice a USB 3.0 port, an eSATA / USB combo port, and a full-size HDMI port. Along the back, there's a Gigabit Ethernet port, the external bulge of the 9-cell slice battery and another USB socket. There's also a Kensington lock port for added security, which is pretty standard equipment these days.
The right edge is home to a VGA port, which is only acceptable due to the fact that is a business machine which will no doubt run into its fair share of old-school VGA projectors. Beside that, there's a USB 3.0 port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Along the bottom, there's a docking station port.
Popping the LCD lid open, you're greeted with a 15.6" anti-glare display, which is legitimately matte (hooray!). This is fantastic for use under heavy indoor lighting, and it remains fairly visible outdoors as well. The hinge design is such that enables the screen to open completely flat. The front base is super clean and dapper. With only two palm rest stickers, it's amongst the classiest interiors to date. Dell found room for a full-size numerical pad to the right of the full-size keyboard, and the whole thing is backlit and resistant to spills. But here's the rub: this number pad forces the keyboard (and the trackpad below it) to be off-center. It took us a few hours to adjust and stop making typos, and even then we weren't entirely comfortable with its position.
The good news is that the keys have an incredibly tactile response, and the keystroke travel is dead-on perfect. There's even a tracking nub (akin to that on a ThinkPad) in the center. The trackpad supports multi-finger scrolling gestures right out of the box, and actually worked quite well. Typically, PC trackpads are fickle and frustrating compared to Mac trackpads, but this one holds up nicely in comparison. The split pair of trackpad buttons are equally pleasing to touch. All around, Dell did an impressive job with the control mechanisms. And fit and finish surpasses that of many consumer targeted machines in a lot of ways.
We were, however, confused a bit about the button layout. The audio controls are physical buttons atop the row of function keys, while the screen brightness, backlight for keyboard (on/off), Sleep shortcut and a few others are assigned as alternative Fn keys at various places on the keyboard. There's no continuity in here; these shortcuts feel a bit scattered.
The display itself is mercifully of the matte variety. The viewing angles are great, but we'll confess that the color sharpness seems a bit lacking. The colors just felt a tad bit muted, but honestly, it probably won't matter much to the crowd that's looking at this machine. It's just not engineered to be a multimedia rig. The tray-loading DVD writer can be swapped out for other bay accessories, but we appreciated the fact that our review unit had one. Physical media may be on the way out, but it's not there yet -- particularly in small business and the enterprise.
We can't leave this section without touching quickly again on the weight. There's no way around it; if you get a 15.6" E6530, you'll feel it. At around six pounds with the optional 9-cell slice battery, you'll probably want a backpack instead of a briefcase. The weight is nicely distributed, but it's still hefty.