capsule review

Dell XPS M1330

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At a Glance
  • Dell XPS M1330 Notebook - Customizable

If cutting-edge tech is what you're after, consider the Dell XPS M1330, which performed near the top of its class. Our sub-5-pound test unit came with an extra-cost red lid, an optional LED-backlit display, and integrated mobile broadband. All of those trimmings add up, however: At $2179 (as of 9/12/07), a tricked-out M1330 is expensive.

At a 4.7-pound minimum weight, the M1330 is one of the lightest 13.3-inch laptops I've seen. The design is satisfying overall. This complete overhaul of the 12-inch XPS M1210 has a bigger screen yet weighs less, and it's no taller than its predecessor because of new dropped hinges. One of the nicest features is its edge-to-edge keyboard; though the keys don't depress far, their large size makes typing comfortable. One heads-up: The M1330 lacks a modem port. While such an omission is not surprising on a notebook of this size, it's still something to be aware of.

Our test unit came with the optional, stunningly thin $200 LED-backlit screen. Even with the brightness cranked up, however, the 0.87-inch-thick screen was not as bright as the LED-backlit screens of other notebooks I've tested (such as the Toshiba Portege R400-S4931, Asus U1F, and Fujitsu LifeBook P7230), which enjoy a higher brightness specification (measured in nits).

The M1330, which has an HDMI port and a remote control, delivers a good multimedia experience for such a small notebook. The speakers are loud (though not stellar), and a bevy of buttons add convenience. You can use the Dell Media Direct button to bypass Windows and launch a movie or CD, and then use the backlit touch-sensitive controls to adjust the volume or change tracks. These controls are similar to the touch-sensitive control panel of HP Pavilion notebooks, but they have the added advantage of visual feedback in the form of a blue LED that briefly pulses around each selected area. A TV tuner and remote come in a $125 extra-cost kit. The slot-fed DVD drive, while more convenient than a tray, is as noisy as other slot-feds when accepting discs. Unfortunately, Dell gives no option for a Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD drive to take advantage of the high-definition, wide-screen display.

Performance, though, was superior. Equipped with a 2.2-GHz Core Duo T7500 chip and 2GB of RAM, our review machine produced a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 82, putting it in third place among all-purpose notebooks and on a par with other similarly configured systems. We saw very good results upgrading from the standard four-cell battery to a nine-cell unit. Though it accounts for half a pound of the laptop's weight (and $60 of our configuration's $2179 price), the better battery lasted 7 minutes shy of 5 hours--90 minutes longer than the category average.

The M1330 is available in black for $50 less than the Crimson Red version we tested. But if you want a thin and light notebook that makes a visual impression as strong as its performance, the flashy color will do the trick.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • Weighing less than 5 pounds and jazzed up with a color lid and other features, this is a light and stylish portable.

    Pros

    • Thin, wedge shape
    • Slot-fed optical drive

    Cons

    • A little pricey
    • No modem and only two USB ports
  
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