Dell Latitude X1
At a Glance
Dell Latitude X1 Notebook Computer. Intel Pentium M Processor 733 (1.10GHz ULV) 12.1in WXGA Display. 512MB DDR2 400MHz SDRAM, (256MB Integrated) 2 DIMMs, 60GB Hard Drive, 8MM, 4200RPM.
Lightweight ultraportable offers a sharp 12.1-inch wide screen and has a dedicated CompactFlash slot.
Aimed at inveterate business travelers, the 2.5-pound, silver Dell Latitude X1 is one of the lightest laptops around. Its no-frills ultraportability (there's no integrated optical drive, for example) struck me as seriously insubstantial at first--especially for the $2051 price tag--but a closer look revealed a pretty good design.
The generous 12.1-inch WXGA wide screen lets you do serious work on the go. The keyboard has an extremely short, hard stroke, but the keys' size and layout permitted me to touch-type at a rapid clip. I was pleasantly surprised to find a full set of dedicated arrow, Page Up, and Page Down keys; and my favorite keys, Delete and Ctrl, were conveniently placed in opposite corners. Only the undersize Shift key bothered me at first. My review unit had a slow-to-respond touchpad, but I easily fixed that problem by increasing the tap sensitivity. Interestingly, the touchpad has a coarser feel than most, almost like fine-grade sandpaper. The extra tactile feedback was novel during the short time I used the X1, but I'm not sure how I would adjusted to this touchpad after a few weeks. An external mouse would obviate the problem for people who couldn't get used to the touchpad.
Besides offering basic business connections--network and modem jacks, microphone and headphone mini-jacks, and a VGA port--the X1 features a FireWire port and separate SD and CompactFlash card readers. With built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi circuitry, the X1 can handle short- and long-range wireless communications with equal aplomb. One of the two USB 2.0 ports is powered, for connecting a D-Bay external optical drive. Our test unit included a combination DVD-ROM and CD-RW USB optical drive, a $199 option; for $249 extra, you can get a DVD burner. (An optical drive adds a little over 1 pound to the X1's heft; total carryon weight including the 10-ounce power adapter is about 4 pounds.)
The X1 is fully upgradable, even if the process is not documented in the users' manual (a hard-to-search Acrobat document without hyperlinks). One memory slot and the unit's 4200-rpm hard drive--60GB in our test machine--are within easy reach under the keyboard. Just remove seven small screws on the bottom of the laptop, pop a couple of keyboard latches and extract a few more screws beneath to free the hard drive and a metal plate over the DIMM slot. An inaccessible base 256MB of RAM comes built in.
Although no speedster, the X1 should have no trouble handling mainstream work. Armed with a 1.1-GHz Pentium M Ultra Low Voltage 733 processor and 512MB of RAM, the X1 posted a WorldBench 5 score of 60, which is good for its class. A similarly configured Sony VAIO VGN-T150P earned a score of 56.
But the X1 suffers from one major drawback: poor battery life. Its standard 3-cell battery lasted just 2.6 hours on a charge, dismal for a laptop light enough to take anywhere. A $129 replacement six-cell battery should provide some relief, though we did not test it. The X1's other problem is lack of compatibility with Latitude docking stations--a sticking point for companies standardized on this line. Dell sells several universal USB docking stations.
Spring for the extra-cost battery to add needed life to this otherwise fine and very light traveling companion.