capsule review

Dell XPS M140

At a Glance
  • Dell Inspiron XPS M140

    PCWorld Rating

    This terrific Media Center laptop has a great design, long battery life, and plenty of easy-to-use entertainment apps.

Dell XPS M140
Artwork: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

Dell has finally gotten serious about portable entertainment with its new XPS line of notebooks. Dell's XPS M140, a light and compact 5.8-pound notebook with a 14.1-inch display, is very impressive. The icing on the cake: The battery life rocks and the price is good, a very reasonable $1529 for our tested configuration.

Although Dell has dabbled in Windows XP Media Center Edition notebooks before, they seemed more of a patchwork effort than a serious stab at the genre. With the new XPS series, the TV tuner is still a $130 USB add-on, but that's the only misstep. Compared with past Dell attempts at entertainment notebooks--and compared with many competitors--the XPS M140 smokes.

For one thing, the M140 sounds good, a welcome change for Dell. The front-mounted stereo speakers are clear and strong, eliminating the need for headphones. In addition, entertainment is more flexible, offering you two ways to watch movies, listen to CDs, and play photo slide shows. You can enjoy these diversions via the Media Center OS whenever you want to take a break from work, or you can start them up immediately with the press of a button through the Dell MediaDirect instant-on application, which lets you skip turning on the notebook and waiting for Media Center to launch. This is a big time-saver when all you want to do is show off your latest vacation pictures. The media control buttons, located on the front, work in either mode, which is especially nice. (The instant-play buttons on many other models lose their functionality when the notebook is turned on.) All that's missing is instant-on TV.

A great work notebook, too, the M140 offers Dell's best keyboard. It features a nice touchpad, comfortable mouse buttons, and a well-plotted layout, especially for Ctrl fans who will appreciate this key's prime bottom-left location and extra large size. (Sorry, Fn-key aficionados, but that key is half-size and takes the second-place spot.) Although I prefer the Del key in the top-right corner, the M140's PgUp and PgDn keys are a good substitute there.

The WXGA screen is bright, easy to read, and plenty roomy for mainstream applications. The port layout is pleasing, as well, with the fixed multiformat DVD burner and two of the four USB ports on the right and the power connection on the back. The M140 is the first notebook I've seen to eliminate the old PC Card slot in favor of its replacement, the new, incompatible ExpressCard slot, so beware if you have lots of old cards. For other types of media, the M140 is moderately well equipped, with a three-in-one slot that will take SD Card, Memory Stick, and xD-Picture Card.

Our test unit, equipped with a 1.86-GHz Pentium M 750 chip and 1GB of memory, earned a good WorldBench 5 score of 82. However, the M140 is a tad sluggish in strict comparison with other notebooks: For instance, a Toshiba Qosmio G15-AV501 we evaluated with a 1.8-GHz Pentium M 745 chip and half the RAM also earned a score of 82.

Where the M140 really shines is in battery life. The standard six-cell battery, which we did not test, is rated for about 4.5 hours. With an extended-life battery ($99 extra, but included in our price), the M140 lasted 6.8 hours, one of the best performances we've ever recorded for a notebook. This means you can have your entertainment cake and take it with you, too. Yum.

With a great design, long battery life, and plenty of easy-to-use entertainment applications, Dell's XPS M140 is an excellent Windows Media Center Edition portable.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This terrific Media Center laptop has a great design, long battery life, and plenty of easy-to-use entertainment apps.

    Pros

    • Well-integrated entertainment features

    Cons

    • Sluggish WorldBench performance
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