Dell Latitude X1 Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (46,773)

by Hilary, USA

Overview

Dell Latitude X1 with optional D-Bay optical drive (view larger image)

I am a college student and for the past two years I have been the owner of the Dell Inspiron 8500.  Even after two years, the computer is in great condition and still performs well, so I knew that I wanted to get a new Dell.  My only complaint was the weight and size of the Inspiron.  When the computer was in its sleeve, it would only fit in my large backpack and would be very uncomfortable to carry to the library with other books.  So, in an attempt to lighten my load, I went for the complete opposite of the 8500 and bought the extremely light Dell Latitude X1.  This laptop is classified as an ultraportable business notebook, but it had many of the characteristics that I was looking for.

The specifications I chose:

  • Intel Pentium M Processor 733 (1.10GHz ULV) 12.1in WXGA Display
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional, SP2, with media
  • D-Bay plus 8X max DVD+/-RW Combination Drive
  • Additional 6 Cell Primary Battery
  • 1.28GB DDR2 400MHz SDRAM, (256MB Integrated) 2 DIMMs
  • 60GB Hard Drive, 8MM, 4200RPM
  • Dell Wireless Bluetooth Enabled
  • 3 Year On-site Business Standard Plan

Reasons for Buying

My number one reason for buying this laptop was to purchase a computer that could travel everywhere easily with me.  For that reason, the weight and internal wireless card were the most important.  As stated earlier, I only looked at Dell.  I also considered the Inspiron 700m, but I was drawn to the extremely light profile of the X1.

Form and Design

Latitude X1 closed above view (view larger image)

The laptop is very thin, and I think the computer is stylish despite complaints that Dell is a boring company.  The cover is very plain with just a round silver dell logo.  The interior is a darker gray.  There is very little room wasted, as you would expect on a computer of this size.  There is only a small frame of plastic around the screen and the keyboard.  This is very different to my old Inpiron 8500 where there was a much thicker frame around the keyboard and screen.  The hinges attaching the screen to the keyboard seem secure and the screen does not wobble when it is lightly touched.  I have two complaints in regard to the design.  The area from the edge of the keyboard to the edge of the laptop (where the touchpad is located) is very narrow.  It is only made for people with small hands to rest their wrists.  Although I have very small hands, this is still a tight fit, and my hands occasionally are uncomfortable.  My other complaint is that there is no latch holding the screen in place.  I am not worried about things slipping through the gap, but there is no grip to open the laptop easily with one hand.  This is a minor point, but it is annoying.  The power button is on the right edge of the computer.  I find that the laptop is comfortable in my lap even though it is small.  Once it is on your lap, it is very easy to adjust the screen to a comfortable viewing angle.

Screen

Dell Latitude X1 screen and front profile view (view larger image)

The screen is a 12.1″ widescreen display.  This definitely took time to get used to because not only is the screen much smaller than the Inspiron 8500 (15.4″) but it is also widescreen which means less vertical information is going to be visible on an average website.  For this reason, I have gotten used to using the Page up and down buttons.  When the screen is on full brightness, it is very bright and clear. I used a website to test for dead pixels and I am pretty sure that there are none. 

Speakers

The X1 only has one speaker which is on the front lower right underneath of the computer.  It is not very loud, but it is just fine for listening to music for the user alone.  The quality is not great, and I would not recommend this speaker for large groups of people.  When I set the laptop on my desk, however, I always use external speakers, so I am not worried about this feature.  For travel, I purchased Philips Travel Speakers (Philips Travel Speakers at Target.com).  They clip onto the sides of the laptop and then have a very small subwoofer.  They provide great sound if you are worried about low quality and volume sound.  I also have larger more permanent speakers, but these are great for travel.   

Dell Inspiron X1 with external speakers attached (view larger image)

Processor and Performance

My main tasks are Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, itunes, Picasa, and AOL Instant Messenger.  I do not feel as if any of these processes are delayed.  I have also watched DVDs using the external disk drive, and the video plays smoothly.  I did not buy this computer for gaming, and therefore, I cannot rate the performance for games that require a lot of speed. Usually, I put the computer in hibernate for the night and it restarts very quickly.  If I am leaving the computer for a few hours, I put the computer in standby and again it reacts very quickly.  Standby and Hibernate modes can be set by using the Fn button and Esc (standby) or F1 (hibernate).

Benchmarks

We use the program Super Pi to get a benchmark of processor speed.  The Super Pi program simply forces the processor to calculate Pi to a selected number of digits of accuracy.  Calculating to 2 million digits is our benchmark.  Below is a comparison chart of how the Latitude X1 with it’s 1.1 GHz processor stacked up to other notebooks when running this calculation:

 Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits

Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz ULV Pentium M)

2m 39s
IBM ThinkPad X41 (1.50 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 2m 02s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 45s
Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 48s
IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 23s
Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz) 3m 3s
Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 10s
Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 28s

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard is comfortable, and I like the keys that you can use with the Fn button such as Contrast Control, Volume Control, Stand by, and Hibernate.  It is annoying that the Volume controls are on the lower right (Page Up and Down) but the mute control is on the upper right (End) of the keyboard.  The arrow buttons are small.  I sometimes hit the Page Down button when I mean to hit the right arrow because of the tight positioning of the keys.  There is a dedicated Windows key.

Dell Latitude X1 keyboard and touchpad area (view larger image)

The touchpad is small, approximately 1.5″ tall and 2″ wide.  The buttons are equally small and thin (1″ wide and less than .5″ thick).  This takes time getting used to, but I do not even notice the restricted size anymore.

Input and Output Ports

Dell Latitude X1 left side view (view larger image)

Left (Back to front):  There is the power port, the VGA monitor in/out port, the double USB drive (one USB drive and then the double drive for the external CD drive), microphone in, and headphones out.

Latitude X1 front view (view larger image)

Front: There is an SD slot, which is very convenient because I have a camera that holds SD cards.  It works very easily, but comes with a plastic mock SD card to protect the slot if you do not plan to use it.

Latitude X1 right side view (view larger image)

Right (Back to front): There is the power button, modem and ethernet jacks, another USB, and a slot for CompactFlash cards.

Latitude X1 back (view larger image)

Back:  Since the battery fills the back of the laptop, the only thing on the back of the laptop is a slot for a laptop lock.

Wireless

The laptop comes with a built-in wireless card and Bluetooth.  The wireless is easy to use, and I have yet to use the Bluetooth.  But the Bluetooth can be disabled when it is not in use.  The wireless can be disabled through the keyboard by pressing “Fn-F2”.

Battery

I ordered the 6-cell extended battery, and I personally think it is a must for the X1.  When it is fully charged, it says that it lasts for 3.5 hours.  I have not tested this, but it seems as if the power meter on this laptop is more accurate than what I am used to.  On my old Inspiron 8500, the power would drop drastically.  The battery does charge very quickly, because the laptop is built for “Express-Charge” which claims to charge the battery to 80% in an hour.  Also, the power cord is long, and the brick is very small.  All of these features are made for the business traveler.  The 6-cell battery sticks out of the back approximately 1 inch.

Operating System and Software

I ordered my X1 with Windows XP Pro, but you can also select the Home Edition.  There was very minimal software installed, which I liked.  I am used to deleting different versions of AOL, Comcast, and other free software, and this was not the case with the X1.  The software it came with was:  PowerDVD to watch DVDs with the external drive, Sonic RecordNow Plus for the external DVD/CD-RW, Bluetooth Software, and then the normal programs that come with Windows such as Windows Media Player and Windows Movie Maker.

Customer Support

I have not used the customer support yet, but I have had great experiences with Dell Customer Support in the past.  For my Inspiron 8500, Dell came to both my house and my college apartment to fix various things such as a broken key.  They are always responsive by telephone or e-mail support.

Noise and Heat

The Latitude X1 is fanless, so the computer is completely silent.  This is a great feature, because I am used to having to raise the volume of my music when the fan turns on.  However, this means that the computer will not be cooled down by a fan.  I do not find the heat unbearable, and the only time I notice the heat is when I am wearing shorts and the computer is on my lap.  I am not bothered by any heat on the keyboard or the touchpad.  I do however notice noise when I use the DVD drive.  I find that drive to be very loud and annoying, especially when I am listening to music or watching a movie. 

Necessary Accessories

As stated earlier, external speakers are a must for those hoping to use this laptop to play music.  Another thing that is necessary is a case.  I wanted a sleeve, but I had trouble finding one that would fit the Latitude X1 perfectly.  The laptop is extremely thin, and also widescreen, which is unlike any other model.  Waterfield Designs (www.sfbags.com) makes sleeves fit for individual laptops.  They have great customer service, and they are currently developing a sleeve for the Latitude X1.  They sent me a prototype and it was a perfect fit with great protection.  If you have such a tiny laptop, you aren’t going to want to purchase a regular laptop bag, because the computer will not have a snug fit.

Complaints

My biggest complaints are minimal issues with the computer.  Although some people will miss having an internal disk drive, I do not find this to be a problem.  When I am traveling with this computer, the only thing I would need a disk drive for would be to watch movies, and I can always plug in the external drive and tuck it into the pouch on the seat in front of me.  The only big complaint is the lack of a PCMCIA slot.  On my old laptop I used this for my wireless card, but since wireless is built-in I do not see this as a major issue.  My small complaint is that it is difficult to open the laptop with one hand.  Also, the loud external disk drive can be annoying.  This computer also doesn’t come with a docking station which can be a hassle, although they make universal docks.

Praises

I love the size and the portability.  It is very convenient to have the ability to take your computer with you everywhere you go.  I am also a fan of the SD slot, because now I have one less USB cord to bring with me when I travel for my camera.  It is a fast machine that is made for travelers or those who want an above-average computer with the portability of a PDA. 

Conclusion

This computer is great for business travelers and students who want features and portability.  However, if you are looking for a large screen or an internal DVD drive, this is not the computer for you.  You will be amazed by the size and the amount of features that have been packed into a tiny laptop.

Other Dell Latitude X1 Reviews:

Pricing and Availability


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