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New Dell XPS laptops ready to take on HP Envy

HDMI 1.4, HD Webcams, high-end audio, and impressive specs round out Dell's new line of surprisingly affordable high-end notebooks.

Dell XPS: the Adamo we've been waiting for?
Dell XPS: the Adamo we've been waiting for? Dell

Amid a week featuring the debut of a fashionably small laptop, Dell has announced a line of products that move firmly in the opposite direction. The new XPS line of laptops are a high-end-targeted set of media-featured notebooks aimed squarely at the HP Envy and MacBook Pro crowds. The design, from a backlit keyboard to lots of anodized and brushed aluminum, feels like an upscale fusion of the Studio and Adamo lines. They aren't flashy, but they seem quite sleek, and Dell offers its arsenal of Design Studio tweaks for anyone looking to pop these XPS models up a notch.

The 14-, 15-, and 17-inch Dell XPS laptops start at $899, $849, and $949 respectively, with decent specs even at those configurations: an Intel Core i5 460M CPU, Nvidia GeForce 420M graphics with Optimus, 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive, and 4GB of RAM. Processors range up to a Core i7 840m quad-core, and GPU options top off at an Nvidia GeForce GT 445M with 3GB of memory.

The internal specs grace the higher end on both performance and media, focusing on a number of bells and whistles. An integrated HD Webcam (2 megapixel) offers 1,280x720 Skype-compatible webchat--according to Dell this is the first HD streaming webcam in a laptop.

Speakers co-developed by JBL and Waves promise audio quality equal to HP Beats-edition Envys. A USB 3.0 port accompanies the assortment of USB 2.0 ports, one with eSATA. HDMI 1.4 is also included, which enables 3DTV-compatible output of games, Blu-ray content, or other videos via Nvidia 3DTV Play software. We don't know how many people connect their laptops to 3DTVs, but those that do will be pleasantly surprised.

Other connectivity options include Intel Wireless Display, WiMax, Bluetooth 3.0, and an integrated internal TV tuner.

Weighing in at 5.35 pounds for the 14-inch up to a hefty 7.57 pounds for the 17-inch, these XPS laptops aren't svelte, but they do look like very competitive and intriguing high-end options from Dell. An XPS is already on its way to CNET, and we'll be following up soon with hands-on impressions of what could be an excellent holiday laptop to consider.