Alienware, XPS, Inspiron, Latitude, and Precision are all names you'll come across when you're choosing a new laptop from Dell. Generally speaking, the first three are the consumer brands, Latitude is for the business crowd and the Precision lineup is for the mobile professional, designers or programmers for example, with high-end workstation components.
While the last two listed have a very definite target audience, there's a little crossover between the rest. Alienware is traditionally for gamers, XPS is for the prosumer and the premium ultrabook market and Inspiron is generally the more affordable laptops. But you can get XPS laptops capable of gaming, likewise from the Inspiron range, and not every Alienware laptop is a good buy for gamers.
So let's try and help you make the right decision by breaking down who each different range is for.
All the best Dell laptops in one place
The outright best laptop isn't always the best one for you, and when you make as many as Dell, there's something out there for everyone.
If you're curious to see what the absolute best of the best are, our roundup will tell you everything you need to know.
XPS 13 and XPS 15 — Best of the best
When comparing the two top of the line XPS laptops there's not really a bad choice to make. The biggest barrier to choosing either of them is the asking price, as you'll be paying $1,000 to get either of them at the entry point for the latest models.
If the budget allows, though, the XPS range is the place to be. The XPS 13 is one of the most well-balanced ultrabooks around, with performance and a gorgeous display packed into a really tiny body.
If you're looking for a bit more grunt, the XPS 15 can now be had with six-core processors from Intel and dedicated graphics from NVIDIA. The XPS 15 is certainly the best choice for photographers and videographers, with the 4K display and added graphics power on hand.
In both cases there is also now a 2-in-1 version of each. You get most of the same great laptop but now with a display that can fold around allowing you to have a better media consumption experience and to use your XPS like a tablet.
Alienware 15 and Inspiron 15 Gaming — For the gamers
Alienware is Dell's dedicated gaming range and of the three current laptops, the Alienware 15 is the one to get. It's in the middle of the pack, but you get more power and a better display than the 13-inch model, while not being nearly as massive as the 17-incher.
Prices for the Alienware 15 start at $1,400 for the quad-core Intel Core i5 model with an overclocked 6GB NVIDIA GTX 1060 graphics card.
This will be pretty hot for all of the latest titles, especially since it's only a 1080p display, but our recommendation would be to spend another $250 to get the model with a six-core Intel Core i7 and 16GB of RAM. Coming in at $1,650 this is the sweet spot in the Alienware 15 lineup.
There is another way, though. A cheaper way. The Inspiron 15 Gaming is the best laptop for gamers on a budget, and even then it'll go toe-to-toe with the Alienware 15.
Prices start at $850, but the best of the bunch is still only $1,100, with a 7th generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ quad-core processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 4GB GTX 1050 Ti graphics card.
If you're OK losing 8GB of RAM and dropping down to a Core i5 processor, you can save $100 and get a 6GB GTX 1060 graphics card instead. It'll be a little better for gaming than the GTX 1050 Ti, but all around, that version is the one to go for.
Dell has a lot to offer gamers, and while you can spend a lot of money and get the highest-end internal and a 4K display, when it comes to gaming on a laptop, these are the ones to choose between. Ultimately if your budget allows, spring for the Alienware 15, but the Inspiron 15 Gaming is very good indeed.
Inspiron — Bang for your buck 2-in-1s
The XPS laptops are more glamorous, but the Inspiron's are the meat of Dell's consumer laptop range. Ultimately what you're getting here is value, whether that's at the super-low price budget laptop end of the spectrum, or the slightly more expensive but still way short of the XPS price point.
What's more important is that the Inspiron range is perfect for folks hunting for a good quality 2-in-1 laptop.
The Inspiron 13 5000 is a great all-rounder. It looks decent, it's tough as nails and it's even a 2-in-1 so you can use it like a tablet just like some of the super-fancy high-end laptops. Better yet it tops out at $779, with a Core i5, 8GB of RAM and SSD storage.
Also available as a 2-in-1 is probably one of only a few recommendation-worthy 17-inch laptops. Sure, this is a big tablet when you fold that display around but the rest of the laptop is very, very good. The latest refresh now brings 8th generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors to the table, albeit quad- not six-core versions, NVIDIA MX150 graphics, 512GB SSDs and up to 16GB of RAM to the table.
Prices for this gargantuan 2-in-1 start at $929.
The Inspiron range also deserves a shout out for those shopping on a super-tight budget.
The Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 comes in a variety of configurations but even at its highest end, it comes in at just $480. It's a highly-portable laptop with just an 11-inch 1366 x 768 resolution display that folds around.
At the low-end, the $300 entry-level model comes with 32GB of eMMC storage and 4GB of RAM. At the high end that becomes 8GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD), and it's worth spending a little more because the HDD models come with an incredibly slow 5400 rpm drive.
All models come with AMD processing power in the form of an APU, combining a 7th Gen AMD processor with Radeon graphics. A gaming machine this is not, but it's perfectly capable and at an attractive price.
All business — Latitude and Precision
Dedicated graphics in laptops aren't just for gamers. NVIDIA's Quadro and some AMD Radeon GPUs are designed for workstations used by folks who need hefty computational power. People such as designers, architects, programmers, even video editors can all benefit from a workstation laptop such as Dell's Precision range.
The latest refresh is the Precision 7730 and 7530. Both include Intel's 8th generation Core and Xeon processors, along with AMD Radeon WX and NVIDIA Quadro graphics options. The 17-inch 7730 includes support for up to a Core i9 processor, along with up to 64GB of RAM, and Quadro P52000 graphics. The 7530 comes in at a smaller 15-inch screen with up to 64GB of RAM and NVIDIA.
There's also even a 2-in-1 version now, perfect for hitting site when you have some CAD drawings you need handy, for example.
The Precision 3530, 5530, 7530, and 7730 will be available from May 22 starting at $1,049, $1,459, $1119, and $1,519 respectively.
Dell's Latitude laptops are for the business crowd, for folks who are looking for enterprise-class hardware and security. Things like fingerprint security, FIPS protected smart card readers, TPM and vPro are just some of the things you'll find on a Latitude laptop.
So, for the average consumer, these are not, but they're a very important part of Dell's laptop portfolio.
We'd recommend the Latitude 5490 as a solid, no-nonsense business laptop that's also reasonably priced, starting at just $799. If you want something a little fancier, the Latitude 7390 which comes as a 2-in-1, so you know, you can use it for a spot of Netflix binging when you're done working for the day.
The addition of a convertible display takes the price closer to a starting point of $1,200, but it still represents good value for a business buyer.