capsule review

Dell Latitude X300

At a Glance
  • Dell Latitude X300

Dell Latitude X300
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

The Dell Latitude X300 hasn't changed much from the last version we reviewed, about a year ago. That's good news, because it's one of the best 3-pound laptops around. But it's slightly bad news, too, as the laptop still lacks an integrated optical drive.

First, the minor changes. The X300 now comes equipped with a 1.4-GHz Pentium M Low Voltage 738 chip, which helped it earn a WorldBench 5 score of 73 in our speed tests. That's a good score that puts it in the top 50 percent in our notebook universe. The latest incarnation also has slightly better battery life. This time its rear-mounted three-cell battery lasted 2.5 hours in our tests, about 24 minutes longer than the battery in the unit we tested a year ago. The $129 extended-life eight-cell battery will double that, according to Dell (we didn't test it).

What's the same? Though its connections are basic, this 1.1-inch-tall laptop boasts some nice features. One is the touchpad-equipped keyboard, one of the best we've seen on a 3-pound laptop. Well laid out and roomy, it allows fast touch typing. The mouse buttons have a nice nonskid texture. Another plus is the external power gauge that lets you check on remaining battery life without turning on the unit. A FireWire port and an SD Card slot are included.

In the negative column: You can't access the hard drive (if it fails you'll have to send the entire laptop in for servicing), and there's no built-in optical drive. You get a CD-ROM drive at no extra charge in Dell's D/Bay External Media Bay, which is housed in a lightweight case on a short cable that plugs into the laptop's left-side USB port. You can pay extra for various options, ranging up to $229 for a D/Bay with an 8X DVD+RW burner.

The other way to add an optical drive is via the excellent, snap-on, 1.9-pound MediaBase, which not only provides a place to insert an optical drive or a secondary hard drive up to 40GB, but also adds a full set of legacy ports, a subwoofer, and an extra battery bay. With a secondary battery in the MediaBase and the extended battery attached to the back of the laptop, you can work for up to 10 hours untethered, according to Dell (we did not test this assertion). Outfitted with a DVD D/Bay for travel and the MediaBase for the desktop, the X300 becomes far more versatile than other 3-pound laptops.

Our unit, with the MediaBase and an 8X DVD+RW drive, costs $2425. The price without the MediaBase is $1956. You can get the X300 with a DVD+RW D/Bay for $2155.

Since our review a year ago, the Dell Latitude X300 has been surpassed in some respects by other ultraportables. For example, Fujitsu's LifeBook P7010D is even more lightweight at just 3 pounds, it boasts an integrated optical drive, and it lasts more than 5 hours on one battery charge. However, in speed and expandability the X300 is superior.

The lightweight Dell Latitude X300 is relatively fast, and its MediaBase docking station makes it incredibly versatile for home and travel.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • Dell Latitude X300

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