by Andrew Baxter and Jerry Jackson
Overview and Introduction
The Dell XPS M1330 is designed for those that want power on the go. If you're also fashion conscious and like to standout in a crowd, the looks of the XPS M1330 will help you in that area too. Sleek design coupled with a portable form factor and powerful components come together to make for a compelling notebook.
Build and Design
Our pre-production XPS M1330 as equipped:
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The design of the XPS M1330 really sets it apart. The design is, in a word, striking. The sloping look and stunning lid, available in three different colors, are immediately attention grabbing. The slope is akin to a fast car tear drop look. And while the XPS M1330 isn't designed to go fast in the physical sense, it looks like it could if you just put wheels on it.
Once opened the M1330 provides more eye candy in terms of design. The buttons along the top edge are touch sensitive and light up with a soft glow when pressed. They look very stylish. The LED buttons are a bright blue and also eye-catching in their appearance. The silver colored keyboard and brushed aluminum casing on the inside give a slightly industrial look that would tell you there's some muscle to this machine.
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The hinge on the M1330 is quite unique, it's very rounded in its look and rotates to bring the screen about even with the keyboard for a slightly lower overall profile. The LED backlit screen is super thin, which keeps weight down and again contributes to the looks. An integrated web camera sits at the top of the screen, it's well hidden but noticeable.
Overall we have to say that the M1330 is one of the best looking notebooks on the market today.
When configuring the XPS M1330 you have two options for the screen -- a backlit 13.3" LED display that's thin and light or regular cathode backlit display that's slightly thicker and not as bright and evenly lit as the LED backlit display. We were lucky enough to have the LED backlit display, and while it costs $150 more than the standard display, it's a worthwhile upgrade. The picture and brightness you get is just amazing! It offers 330 nits of brightness and is simply gorgeous to look at. It's glossy in nature so you'll get some reflection, but the rich and bold colors that come with having this type of screen finish is worth it.
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The only downside to the LED backlit display is the fact that you can only get a VGA webcam. If you get the regular WXGA display you can configure a 2MP web camera. We think VGA resolution is enough for things such as video chat applications, but if you really feel the need for a higher resolution web camera and want to save a bit of money too, then go with the regular WXGA screen option.
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The speakers for the M1330 are located at the top of the keyboard area. There's not much to write home about the speakers, they get loud enough that's for sure, but the sound is slightly tinny as is the case with nearly all laptop speakers. The volume audio controls are touch sensitive buttons along the top right side of the keyboard. It's a little hard to use these buttons if you have big fingers, and there's no on screen feedback to tell you you've actually pressed the button. Overall the volume control buttons are tough to use, though they look nice, an old fashioned volume dial control is easier to use.
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If you prefer to use headphones to the built-in, you're set. There are two headphone ports to capture audio from, both are located on the front of the notebook. If you're trying to attach external speakers this isn't as handy, but since this is an on the go notebook it's probably not an issue.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the XPS M1330 is fairly similar to the older XPS M1210, though it does feel more spread out with larger keys so overall the keyboard is better. One thing that's definitely better with M1330 is that the keyboard is more firm. On the M1210 there was some sink on the right side of the keyboard, but with the M1330 it's firm and solid all over. The XPS M1330 is really quite a pleasure to type on. The only complaint I have for the keyboard is that if your fingernails are slightly long they might get caught under the keys, this shouldn't be a problem for most males though.
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One thing to mention is that with the 9-cell battery in you get an overall greater slope to the keyboard, we actually like this for ergonomics, it feels more comfortable for typing.
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The touchpad works well enough, though it's on the small side. The Apple MacBook is a 13.3" screen notebook and the touchpad is probably twice the size of what you get on the M1330. The mouse buttons are fine, though Andrew would prefer they had a little more travel to them. The good news with the touchpad is that it's responsive, has dedicated scroll areas and the textured feel is good.
Performance and Benchmarks
The M1330 is a remarkably capable performer in its price range thanks to the Intel Santa Rosa processor platform and the Nvidia GeForce Go 8400M GS video card with 128MB of dedicated graphics memory. While there are better performing gaming systems on the market in the $1,500 to $2,000 price range with 256MB of dedicated memory, the M1330 provides more than enough power for casual gaming ... even with some of the newest games.
That said, we experienced some problems getting 3DMark05 and 3DMark06 to run smoothly on the pre-production M1330 straight out of the box thanks to some Vista driver issues. After spending a few hours running Windows Update and hunting for drivers online Jerry was able to get both 3DMark05 and 3DMark06 to run consistently and managed to improve some of the benchmark numbers from our first look review.
Hopefully any driver issues will be sorted out when Dell ships actual production units of the M1330 to customers. However, the driver issue we experienced shouldn't deter anyone from this genuinely impressive system.
Super Pi comparison results:
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||0m 58s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||1m 01s|
|Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||0m 59s|
|HP dv2500t (1.80GHz Intel 7100)||1m 09s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300)||0m 59s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200)||1m 03s|
|Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300)||1m 24s|
|Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 34s|
|HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52)||2m 05s|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400)||0m 59s|
|Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
PCMark05 comparison results:
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)||4,591 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||4,153 PCMarks|
|Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||3,987 PCMarks|
|Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB)||4,189 PCMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||4,234 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)||5,597 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400)||3,646 PCMarks|
3DMark05 comparison results:
|Notebook||3D Mark 05 Results|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||3,116 3DMarks|
|HP Compaq 6510b (2.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, Intel X3100)||916 3DMarks|
|HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270)||871 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||2,013 3D Marks|
|Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||1,791 3D Marks|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||4,236 3DMarks|
|Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB)||7,078 3D Marks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)||2,092 3D Marks|
|Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB)||2,530 3D Marks|
|Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)||2,273 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB)||2,090 3D Marks|
3DMark06 comparison results:
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||1,408 3DMarks|
|Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU)||1,069 3DMarks|
|Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB)||2,344 3DMarks|
|Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB||2,183 3DMarks|
|Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB)||2,144 3DMarks|
|Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB)||1,831 3DMarks|
|Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)||1,819 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||827 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||794 3DMarks|
|Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU)||476 3DMarks|
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Heat and Noise
The system fan and heatsinks in the M1330 do a great job managing heat when the system is under load ... as we discovered when we ran multiple benchmarks back to back. The CPU temperature peaked at only 58 degrees Celsius during multiple 3DMark05 and 3DMark06 tests. The fan moved a significant amount of hot air but the noise was reasonably low and wasn't noticeable over background noise unless the room was perfectly quiet.
One thing to mention is that we kept the 9-cell extended life battery attached to the M1330 during these benchmarks. The extended life battery lifts the system off the desk and allows air to move under the notebook case ... helping to cool the system. When we performed the same benchmarks with the standard 4-cell battery (with the case resting flush against the desk) the CPU temperatures peaked at 64 degrees Celsius.
The attractive brushed aluminum surface of the palm rests did heat up during benchmarking, but the temperatures remained at comfortable levels. The left palm rest was slightly warmer than the right. If you are particularly sensitive to temperatures you might find the warmth uncomfortable, but most users will be unlikely to complain about this.
The hard drive in our pre-production unit was virtually silent and made no audible squeals or scratching noises. The overall lack of noise coming from the fan and hard drive on the M1330 should be a welcome surprise for people with sensitive hearing ... particularly for those who owned the M1210. In fact, the only noticeable amount of unwelcome noise coming from the M1330 is from the slot-loading drive when it loads or ejects a disk.
Input and Output Ports
The port selection of the M1330 is remarkably good for a notebook of this size. Here's a quick rundown of what you get:
The top of the M1330 (left) with a sexy red paintjob trimmed in aluminum. The M1210 is on the right. (view large image)
The bottom of the M1330 with memory expansion access, vents, and battery. (view large image)
Compared to the M1210 (right) the front of the M1330 (left) has dual headphone ports, microphone port, and multi-card reader. (view large image)
Compared to the M1210 (right) the M1330 (left) the right side has an ExpressCard slot (Media Center remote), wireless on/off, slot-loading optical drive, USB port, and security lock slot. (view large image)
Again, compared to the M1210 (right) the left side of the M1330 has a power jack, VGA port, USB port, HDMI port, and Firewire port. (view large image)
There's nothing to see on the back of the M1330 (left) except the fan vent. (view large image)
OS and Software
Dell was gracious enough to install a minimal amount of bloatware on the pre-production M1330 we received. While most experienced users will likely spend the first 30 to 60 minutes uninstalling some bloatware from the system, the many less technically minded owners will find the included applications quite useful.
Of course, Microsoft Vista is a bit of a mixed bag for users as of this writing. There will continue to be minor headaches with drivers, updates, and application patches until Vista becomes a more seasoned and widespread OS. That said, anyone already familiar with Vista should have no trouble with the M1330 and less experienced users should only need a few weeks to feel perfectly comfortable with the interface.
As previously mentioned, the M1330 comes with either a VGA web camera (with the LED backlight display) or a two-megapixel web camera with the standard display. Even with the lower resolution VGA camera in our test unit we can safely say the M1330 is a capable performer for teleconference or online gaming. Brightness, color and contrast are all near perfect, and the face tracking feature lets you keep your face front and center during video conferences. If you can manage to keep your face "somewhere" near the front of the computer the camera's face tracking feature will frame your mug nicely.
The 9-cell battery is the way to go if you're doing any traveling, which you likely will be if you decide to purchase this notebook. With the screen set to 3/8 brightness, wireless on, and idling without doing any work the XPS M1330 squeezed out 4 hours and 45 minutes of battery life. If you're watching a DVD on this notebook you'll get somewhere just over 3 hours of battery life with the 9-cell. If you go for the smaller 4-cell battery the run life will be more than cut in half, but you'll have a lighter overall notebook. It's always a tough decision when deciding between a lighter weight battery that costs less and gives you less life or a larger battery that weighs more and costs more. You'll just have to decide which battery better fits your needs. If money is no object, get both batteries and use whichever one suits you best for the occasion!
With a design that is second to none in its price range and excellent performance the Dell XPS M1330 is sure to be one of the most popular notebooks of 2007. As of this writing the M1330 First Look Review is already the most popular article in our forums based on views and replies.
While issues like warm palm rests, awkward media buttons, a noisy slot-loading drive, and somewhat heavy weight with the 9-cell battery will make some demanding buyers look elsewhere, most consumers looking for a 13.3-inch notebook will be hard pressed to find a better notebook in the same price range.
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