by Laura Rushing
The Dell XPS M1210 is the smallest notebook in Dell’s high-performance XPS line. With the discontinuation of the 710M, the M1210 is also the only 12.1” consumer notebook that Dell offers. The M1210 is a compact multimedia machine with remarkable power for its small size. Of course, the price reflects this above-average performance.
Specs and Cost of Reviewed System
Dell XPS M1210 (view large image)
The final cost for this system as configured was $1,956.76 (including tax and free overnight shipping). This is an expensive notebook, but I believe the cost is justified by the performance capabilities. I placed the order originally on Dell’s website, but due to a last name change my order was sent to fraud investigations. After a relatively painless phone call, the order was finalized and I was given a free shipping upgrade for my trouble. I placed the order on December 23rd and received my system on December 29th. I was impressed with the speed of the delivery, especially during the holiday season.
Reasons for Buying
I had been using a Dell 700M for a couple of years and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was starting to show signs of wear. I had also recently lost access to the desktop I had been using for gaming, so I was looking for a notebook that would incorporate the convenience of my 700M and the gaming capabilities of the older desktop. I looked at Dell’s E1505 and glanced at a few models HP offers, but in the end the M1210 was the only computer that offered the graphics capabilities I wanted in the size I wanted. However, it was also the most expensive option I considered.
Dell XPS M1210 next to Dell Inspiron 15.4" e1505 (view large image)
Build and Design
The M1210 is attractive without being overdone like the M1710 or the M2010. The overall appearance is clean and elegant. Some people have expressed concern over the thickness of the M1210 in comparison to other notebooks in its class, but in my opinion the extra thickness (necessary to house the more powerful components of the M1210) is hardly noticeable. The M1210 is arguably more of a thin and light than an ultraportable due to the weight (it can reach nearly five pounds with the 9-cell battery), but at 11.70”x8.70”x1.20” it is still very compact. Unfortunately the 9-cell battery extends a bit from the computer, breaking up the neat silhouette of the notebook.
The M1210 feels very solidly constructed. The magnesium-alloy case has no obvious weak points; even the digital camera feels secure in its surround at the top of the LCD. I am a fairly light typist, and the full-sized keyboard feels great to me. I can type easily with a gentle touch. The lid of the M1210 does not latch shut, but the hinges feel very secure and it stays shut when it is closed.
Included with the A/V package is a 1.3 megapixel Logitech QuickCam with an integrated microphone. The sound and picture quality are very good for integrated components, although the camera does not perform as well in low light conditions. The camera rotates so you can capture video of yourself or what is in front of you.
Right view of Dell XPS M1210 (view large image)
The screen, a 1280x800 resolution widescreen, was another area of concern for me as I have read various reports of the quality of the LCD not being as good as with older models of a similar size, such as the 700M. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. The image is crisp and clear, and the contrast is good. Vertical viewing angles are nice, and light leakage is minimal. I find that this resolution is still very comfortable for long-term viewing, which is another area of concern for users new to the sub-15” laptop. The glossy screen can make viewing difficult in direct sunlight, and even in lower light conditions you may notice reflections.
The sound is fairly typical for a laptop -- slightly tinny through the standard speakers, but decent through headphones or external speakers. I like the earbuds that were included with the A/V package. The location of the speakers, below the screen instead of in front of the palm rests like on an E1505, is convenient and provides for better sound because you are not blocking them with your wrists. One of the unique features of the M1210 is the inclusion of not one, but two headphone jacks so two people can plug in simultaneously. Dell offers an Audigy sound upgrade, but note that this is software, not hardware. You still get the same Sigmatel card.
Processor and Performance
Coming from a Pentium M, I can really appreciate the speed of the Core 2 Duo. I am a habitual multi-tasker, and this processor allows me to have several applications open at once. I can perform a virus scan, check my e-mail, play music, and load a web page all at the same time without noticing any sluggishness. XP loads smoothly and quickly.
While not technically a gaming machine, the M1210 still boasts the best GPU currently available for a laptop of this size. I have not done any serious gaming yet, but I did load Neverwinter Nights 2 and was able to get decent performance by lowering some settings. Slightly older games run flawlessly on max settings.
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|Dell XPS M1210 (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.00GHz)||1m 02s|
|Dell XPS M1210 (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.00GHz) while running McAfee Virus||1m 06s|
|Dell Latitude D620 (Intel Core Duo T2400 1.83 GHz)||1m 21s|
|Dell Latitude D610 (Intel Pentium M 750 1.83GHz)||1m 41s|
|Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 16s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Asus A8JP (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz)||1m 02s|
|Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
3DMark05 Results and comparison:
3DMark05 tests a PC for graphics capabilities:
|Dell XPS M1210 (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.00GHz, Nvidia Go 7400)||2,082 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1210 (Intel Core 2 Duo 2.00GHz, Nvidia Go 7400) while running McAfee Virus||2,069 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB)||8,524 3DMarks|
|Asus V6J (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7400)||2,918 3DMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800 GTX)||7,078 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, nVidia GeForce Go 7400)||2,013 3DMarks|
Heat and Noise
The M1210 has a lot of powerful components in a small space, but it is extremely quiet and stays relatively cool. The vents on the left side can get quite warm when the graphics card is working hard (as when running the 3DMark05 test above), but the bottom of the computer still stays comfortable for laptop use, even over extended periods of time. However, as with most laptops, you do need to be sure you are holding it in such a way as to allow adequate airflow. The webcam runs very warm, but that does not seem to affect performance in any way.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the M1210 is full-sized and the keys have a good feel to them. The material seems to have a little more friction than that used on the Inspiron series, so I am able to type more accurately. I do find that the reduced size Delete key and arrow keys can be difficult to hit without looking. Some people have reported a little bit of play in the lower right-hand corner of the keyboard; I find that with decent pressure I can see this, but not with regular typing. In my opinion there is just not enough movement to affect the use of the keyboard at all. The touchpad is smaller, but it is large enough for easy use. The built-in scrollbars are convenient and functional. The buttons feel sturdier than those on Inspiron series notebooks.
I chose the Intel Pro/Wireless 3945a/g card and have been satisfied with its performance. The Wi-Fi catcher is a neat feature of the M1210; it is extremely convenient to just switch it on and off while traveling, and you can scan for wireless networks while your notebook is on standby, hibernating, or even turned off.
I opted for the larger battery in this computer. Even though it is less aesthetically pleasing, it is much more practical. I find I can easily get 4 hours with normal settings and I can increase that time significantly by turning off my Wi-Fi and turning down my screen brightness. I have yet to run the battery down completely by normal use, even while traveling. Even when your laptop is turned off, you can check your battery life with the convenient gauge on the battery itself.
Operating System and Software
This notebook came with Windows Media Center 2005 with an option for express upgrade to Windows Vista. As with most Dells, it also boasted a plethora of preinstalled software. However, the XPS line does give you the options of “No Pre-installed Software” and “No ISP Requested” which can help cut down on Add/Remove Programs use after your purchase. All system discs were included, and just in case you misplace them, XPS owners can now request duplicate OS, drivers, and utilities CDs via a simple online form on Dell.com (limited to one duplicate set of CDs per XPS system purchased).
The M1210 has a MediaDirect button that allows you to boot directly into MediaDirect without actually turning on your computer. This can help save you battery life if you are mobile and just want to listen to some music or watch a movie.
The XPS line comes with the standard minimum one year warranty and phone support as well as XPS technical support. You can contact the XPS team by e-mail, phone, or live chat. As I have had no problems with the computer so far I have not really had an opportunity to test the quality of the support. Dell support is traditionally out-sourced so sometimes there can be issues with communicating with the technicians, but they do generally seem to try and please the customer.
This laptop is far and away the current best value for its size and power. It boasts the most powerful GPU and CPU available for the ultraportable family combined with great features like the integrated webcam and microphone, MediaDirect, dual headphone jacks, Wi-Fi Catcher, and more. I am extremely happy with my purchase. However, in the future I would like to see Dell improve the speaker quality and possibly change the material used on the lid so it does not attract quite so many fingerprints.
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