Dell XPS M1330

The XPS M1330 is the second Dell laptop I’ve owned. The Inspiron 9400 put me off buying another Dell – for the wrong reasons really. I didn’t want another high end laptop with poor battery life, and at just over £1000, the XPS M1330 seemed like a good choice. At 13.3″ it’s portable and packed with features.

XPS M1330

Specification

  • Core 2 Duo T7300 2.00GHz
  • 13.3″ WXGA White-LED display (1280×800)
  • 128Mb NVIDIA® GeForce Go 8400M GS
  • 2Gb (2x1Gb) 667MHz DDR2
  • 160GB 5400rpm SATA hard drive
  • 8xDVD+/-RW Slot-Load DVD drive
  • 0.3 megapixel camera
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Intel 4965 AGN Wireless-N Mini-PCI card
  • Internal Bluetooth 2.0
  • Vista Home Premium

Also in the box

  • 2 x 9 cell 85WHr Li-Ion batteries
  • AC adaptor
  • Recovery CDs
  • XPS sleeve
  • In-ear headphones
  • Expresscard sized remote control

Impressions

The first thing I noticed about the M1330 was how thin it is. It’s about 1.5cm thick at the back, and tapers down towards the front. The keyboard’s a standard laptop keyboard and there’s plenty of room to rest your palms while you type.

The display is clear and vibrant. I opted for the better screen which meant I only got a 0.3MP webcam, but a screen’s used a lot more than a webcam – so it was worth it. It’s much use at brightness levels lower than 6/8, but the resolution is good for it’s size. There’s an inbuilt GeForce Go 8400, which is more than enough for light gaming, but don’t expect to run FEAR at maximum detail.

Battery life is very good. With the screen brightness to 3/4 and WiFi on, doing web browsing and word processing the battery lasted for 5 hours 24 minutes, which could be extended by reducing the screen brightness.

The keyboard and touchpad are as expected, there’s plenty of room to rest your palms while you type. The media buttons are a very nice feature. Whereas on the Inspiron 9400 they were physical buttons infront of the touchpad, on the M1330 they’ve been moved to the top edge between the speakers and the power button. The physical buttons have been replaced by touch sensitive keys which glow when you press them.

Connectivity on the M1330 is impresive. There are two USB ports – enough for an external mouse and hard drive, aswell as Firewire, VGA and HDMI out. Dell also included a multi-format card reader. 10/100Mbps ethernet is included, but surprisingly Dell left out a modem (does anyone even use 56k anymore?). The M1330 comes with an Intel AGN Mini PCI card, Bluetooth 2.0 and an infra-red receiver for use the the remote control, which slots into the ExpressCard slot. The remote control sounded like a gimmick at first but it’s actually pretty useful. If you’re watching a video and lying down, you can can navigate around and control the volume.

I was stung by Dell’s MediaDirect feature on the 9400. It was dark, I pushed the MediaDirect button instead of the power button. Instead of giving the user any kind of confirmation or checking whether you’ve juggled your partitions from the factory default, MediaDirect just de-allocates the drive letters from all partitions except C:\, then creates a second partition at the end of your drive and installs a stripped down version of XP which Dell calls MediaDirect. I had to spend an hour recovering my partitions. My advice is to delete all partitions on the hard drive, then re-create them as you want. That way, there’s no danger of starting MediaDirect by accident. It doesn’t do anything Windows Media Centre can’t do anyway, it’s just a Dell branded version.

The webcam is better than I expected. For the occasional conference on Skype or MSN 0.3MP is an ample resolution. There’s an LED which glows blue when the webcam is in use, so there’s no danger of anyone watching you pick your nose without your knowledge.

Dell went through a phase a while ago when they stopped including recovery CDs, but instead copied an image of the default installation to a hidden partition of the hard drive. While this made it easy for novices to restore to factory settings, it also took up a considerable chunk of the hard drive. Included with the M1330 were recovery CDs for all of the pre-installed software. The wait time for the M1330 was much longer than Dell quoted when I ordered. When I ordered the Inspiron 9400 it arrived five days after I placed my order. Due to apparent problems with Dell’s production line, the M1330 took 69 days to arrive. To compensate for the long delay, Dell offered me a £100 refund which made up for the wait.

Benchmarks

The XPS M1330 achieved 1267 in 3DMark06 and 4611 in PCMark05. It calculated 1 million digits of Pi in 27 seconds, and also played FEAR quite well at 1024×768 with no anti-aliasing or anisotrophic filtering. Quite impressive for a mobile GPU.

FEAR on the M1330

Pictures

Click any of the pictures below for full size versions.

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Links

Notebookforums.com
Extreme Overclocking forums
Notebookreview forums

Conclusion

The XPS M1330 is light, good looking and has great battery life. The build quality is exceptional and despite the wait time, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a portable, yet powerful notebook. If you need a case, the 14″ Be-ez La Robe case designed for the Apple iBook fits like a glove with the 9-cell battery.