Product: Dell XPS M1330 13.3" HD Widescreen Laptop
Manufacturer: Dell
MSRP: $999 (Varies by configuration)
Lowest Historical Price: $999 [History]

The recently introduced XPS M1330 Laptop marks a distinct change for Dell, going from bland generic do-all design to a more radical and stylish approach. In this review we take a look at a fairly loaded XPS M1330. If you've been wanting to take a closer look at this little laptop, read on for our full review.

The packing is nothing to write home about, but everything is very secure so there is little chance of damage even if the FedEx or UPS guy is clumsy with your box. The only accessories included (besides the reinstall software) are an ExpressCard remote control, a small case for your new M1330, and some Creative Earbud Headphones. The M1330 itself is quite impressive looking if it's your first time seeing it.

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 (2.4GHz/800Mhz FSB/3MB cache)
  • 3GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz
  • Seagate Momentus 7200.2 SATA 3.0Gb/s 200-GB 7200RPM Laptop Hard Drive
  • Standard 13.3" 1280x800 LED Backlit Display with VGA Webcam
  • Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN 802.11a/g/n
  • CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW Drive)
  • 128MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS
  • 56Whr Lithium Ion Battery (6 cell)
  • Biometric Fingerprint Reader
  • Bluetooth 2.0 EDR

    Credit goes to Dell's designers, as the XPS M1330 Laptop is one of the cleanest designs I've seen to date. The first thing you'll notice is of course the wedge shape, which gives it a dynamic look and feel compared to traditional rectangular designs. The screen hinge is very nicely done, with a beefy feel that will surely withstand the rigors of everyday use. When you open the screen, the base of the M1330 is heavy enough so that it stays planted without rocking backwards with the screen.

    With the screen open, you're presented with a clean layout of all of the critical control points for operating the laptop. Sitting directly above the keyboard, you have buttons for Media Direct and Main Power, and then a series of printed (non-tactile) buttons for multimedia control. These buttons light up when pressed so that you know you're not pounding sand. The keyboard has an excellent feel, and the palm rest is made out of a magnesium-alloy according to Dell. The biometric fingerprint sensor works, and you can even see a picture of your fingerprint using the configuration utility.

    On the connectivity & peripherals side of things, there are definitely some tradeoffs for the 13.3" form factor. First of all, there are only two USB 2.0 ports which will be taken up almost immediately if you use a mouse & a flash drive. The USB ports are also on opposite sides (left and right) and not grouped together, which would be the more sensible design choice. Most of the action will be concentrated on the left side of the laptop, with your power connection, VGA, Ethernet, 1 USB, HDMI, and IEEE 1394 ports all making an appearance. On the right side of the M1330 you have 1 USB port, the slot-load DVD+-RW drive, an ExpressCard expansion port, the WiFi on/off switch, and the WiFi Catcher switch.

    According to Dell, the LED display makes the total thickness 0.87 inches, vs the standard display at 0.97 inches, a total savings of 10%. The weight is also reduced from 4.28 lbs to 3.97 lbs if you go with the LED display, a savings of 7% on weight. I must say that I'm impressed with the LED-backlit screen. Colors are rich and vibrant, and the contrast ratio is excellent. Blacks are deep enough that when the screen saver came on (black, blank screen) I had a hard time telling if the display was awake or asleep (it was awake).

    All of the audio inputs and outputs are on the front lip of the laptop. A nice touch is that there are two audio outputs, great for sharing the audio output from a DVD while on a flight. As far as I can tell, there's no integrated way to separately adjust the volume to the two jacks, so you'll want to have either identical headphones or at least one pair with an in-line volume control. There is a very slight background noise, which is quickly drowned out if you play any sort of music through the headphone port. The background hiss is definitely lower than any other notebook I've encountered.

    For a compact laptop, the particular configuration we have for this review is pretty well loaded. The 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo CPU handled everything without so much as a whimper. The 128MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS video card, while not fast by today's gaming standards, handily beats out the integrated graphics solutions included in many notebooks. I was able to play some older 3D games (UT 2004) at full settings without any slowdown. Load times were not an issue with the 7200RPM hard drive spewing data forth to be processed.

    The XPS M1330 represents Dell's first foray into laptops aimed at the style-minded crowd. It was a bold move, but I feel that it has paid off with the M1330 which exudes quality on many different levels. The slim wedge chassis and cutting edge features such as an optional LED backlit screen and slot-load DVD drive all speak to the attention to detail that has gone into making this unit. Unlike some other manufacturers' offerings (*cough* Apple *cough*) , you get full connectivity options such as HDMI, as well as access to CPUs that far exceed the 1.8GHz "barrier" of the Air. For those looking for a portable, yet powerful computing solution, the XPS M1330 should be at the top of your shopping list.

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