Dell XPS M1330 First Look Review (Video)

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by Jerry Jackson

Dell recently announced the XPS M1330 a 13.3" widescreen ultraportable and ultra sexy notebook that uses the Intel Santa Rosa platform. Equipped with an available dedicated Nvidia 8400m graphics, slot loading optical drive, LED backlit display with 300-nit brightness, and integrated web-camera, the M1330 is less than 1” thin at the front and weighs in at 4lbs. The following is a quick first take on the Dell M1330.


Dell XPS M1330 13.3" screen ultraportable notebook (view large image)

Build and Design

The Dell XPS M1330 (starting at $1,299) features what can only be described as one of the “sexiest” designs we’ve seen on a Dell notebook. A sleek combination of aluminum and plastic with a colorful paintjob on the back of the screen, this notebook is an ultraportable with style. Measuring as thin as 0.87-inches and weighing 4 pounds, the M1330 is a little heavier than some competing ultrportables but is still remarkably thin and light for a Santa Rosa- equipped notebook.

Our pre-production XPS M1330 as equipped:

  • 13.3-inch WXGA screen with LED backlight
  • "Crimson" red paint (also available in "Tuxedo" black or "Pearl" white)
  • 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 processor, Santa Rosa chipset (up to 2.4GHz available)
  • 2GB DDR2-667 SDRAM (up to 4GB DDR2 SDRAM available)
  • 160GB 5400 RPM SATA HDD (32GB SSD drive available)
  • Slot-loading dual-layer DVD RW drive
  • 128MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS
  • WWAN option for Verizon
  • Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n (Intel 4965), Bluetooth option
  • Integrated VGA webcam
  • HDMI, VGA, 1394, two USB 2.0 ports, integrated media reader (MS, SD, xD), fingerprint reader
  • Media Center remote located in ExpressCard slot
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Dimensions 12.5" x 9.4" x 0.87" – 1.33"
  • Weight starts at 4 pounds with 6-cell battery


The full sized keyboard of the M1330 (view large image)

The build of the case exterior is mostly strong plastic with no noticeable case flex. The interior/keyboard surface as well as the LCD sides and hinges are made of brushed aluminum which provides amazing rigidity. While the glossy widescreen 13.3” LCD is thin and somewhat flexible, there are no noticeable ripples even when pressing firmly or flexing the screen. There is minimal light leakage at the top and bottom of the screen and both horizontal and vertical viewing angles provide an excellent viewing experience. The glossy screen is quite reflective, but this isn’t a problem if the LED backlight is on at higher settings. The M1330 doesn’t use any type of latch to close the lid, just a firm hinge closing mechanism that works well.


The screen of the M1330 (left) compared to the M1210 (view large image)

The keyboard is full sized and very nice with cushioned keys and almost no flex. One surprise was a set of dedicated media keys directly above the keyboard, a nice feature not found on many ultraportable notebooks. What makes these media keys all the more impressive is the fact that they are LED backlit, flush-mount keys that are heat sensitive to touch. Press the keys with a pen and nothing happens … but glide your fingertip over a media key and the key will light up and respond to your touch. In a word, cool.


The media keys are a little close together, so people with large fingertips may find themselves pressing two buttons at once. (view large image)

The only thing remotely negative we can say about the pre-production M1330 keyboard is that the palmrests were noticeably warm even while the notebook was idle. The heat wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was certainly warm.

The touchpad provides excellent responsiveness and feels quite nice compared to the “cheap” touchpads found on many other ultrportable notebooks. The plastic touchpad buttons (made to look like brushed aluminum) are well cushioned with a near perfect amount of feedback. The fingerprint reader responds well with a firm, centered finger scan. In addition, the fingerprint reader is recessed so it won’t be accidentally triggered while you type.


The touchpad and mouse buttons (view large image)

The built-in speakers provided adequate sound performance. As with most built-in speakers, bass response was limited, clarity was good at lower volumes and there was some distortion at higher volumes.


The left speaker above the XPS M1330 logo (view large image)

Below is a video of the Dell XPS M1330 (hosted by Andrew) so you can see why the M1330 is so impressive:

 

 

Ports and Features

While some ultraportable notebooks are thinner and lighter than the new M1330, most of these thinner notebooks lack a built-in optical drive. The M1330 comes equipped with an impressive slot-loading dual-layer DVD RW drive which helps keep the notebook reasonably thin without sacrificing case strength. The loading and ejecting functions of the slot-loading drive were a little noisy, but the overall operation was silent.


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 front of 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)

The port selection of the M1330 is remarkably good for a notebook of this size. Above you can view a video that tours the ports on the notebook, and if you prefer to read here’s a quick rundown of what you get:

  • Two USB 2.0 ports (one on the left and one on the right)
  • IEEE 1394 / FireWire port
  • VGA monitor out port
  • HDMI port
  • Dual headphone / line-out ports
  • Microphone in port
  • ExpressCard slot
  • Ethernet LAN port
  • SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro/xD card slot reader
  • Biometric security/finger print reader

In addition, the M1330 comes with a two-megapixel web camera built in directly above the LCD. Unlike almost every notebook webcam currently on the market, the webcam built into the M1330 is a remarkable performer. Brightness, color and contrast are all near perfect, and the face tracking feature lets you keep your face front and center during video conferences.


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)

Performance

The Dell XPS M1330 comes in multiple build-to-order configurations based around the Intel Santa Rosa Core 2 Duo platform, base price starting at $1,299.

Since our sample M1330 was a pre-production unit our benchmarks should be taken with a grain of salt (your mileage may vary). That said, Dell was kind enough to allow us to publish the following benchmarks from our tests:

Super Pi comparison results:

Notebook Time
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:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,571 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) 3,079 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

 

HDTune results:


(view large image)

Overall our first impressions of the sexy (I can’t stop calling it that) Dell XPS M1330 are overwhelmingly positive. If Dell would have put this design on the market two years ago (even with previous generation processors) fewer people would have purchased HP notebooks in 2006. While our complete review remains to be finished, the M1330 is shaping up to be a remarkably well built and full-featured ultraportable notebook.


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