Dell Latitude X1
Once chock-full of chunky, stodgy business systems, Dell's Latitude lineup now boasts one of the slimmest and sleekest notebooks around. The new Latitude X1 packs the latest components and a wide-screen display into a thin, featherweight case that's based on Samsung's breakthrough Q30 (sold only overseas). Don't let the small, stylish case fool you--the Latitude X1 serves up the features and the power that business users demand.
The Latitude X1 weighs just 2.5 pounds (3.1 pounds with its tiny AC adapter)--on the lighter end of the ultraportable spectrum. It's just a couple of ounces heavier than the and about 10 ounces lighter than the Fujitsu LifeBook P7010, and its screen is the largest of the three. The notebook measures 11.2 inches wide and 7.7 inches deep; its front edge is an inch thick, though the battery widens the rear to 1.3 inches.
Designed for maximum portability, the Dell Latitude X1 exacts some sacrifice with an undersize keyboard. The 18mm keys--just barely big enough to type on--took some getting used to; you wouldn't want to write the great American novel on this laptop. The touch pad has a wonderful, textured surface that makes it easy to move the cursor accurately, though it lacks a scroll bar for scanning through documents and Web pages. While we like the magnesium case and the no-latch lid, the single speaker underneath the case is inadequate for anything but listening to system sounds; bring headphones.
Sonoma architecture brings PCI Express to the Latitude X1, though the notebook lacks an XPress card slot for future high-speed expansion; cards are not expected to show up until 2006, and we're not convinced that this is a feature you'll regret not having. Intel's 915 integrated GPU, which can borrow up to 128MB of system memory, powers the wide-screen 12.1-inch WXGA screen; we found the screen big enough to show two or three data windows at once and even adequate for DVD viewing. The rest of the components are among the smallest and the most battery friendly available: a 1.1GHz ultra-low-voltage Pentium M processor; a big 60GB hard drive running at a slow 4,200rpm; and 512MB of 400MHz DDR memory. On the downside, none of these components is easily removable, so upgrades and component swaps will be difficult, if not impossible. Our $2,002 test unit, priced toward the high end of the Latitude X1 line, also featured a self-powered external CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive that connects to the laptop via a pair of USB 2.0 cords.
CNET Labs' benchmark tests showed that, despite its small size, the Latitude X1 is a heavy hitter. It scored a 167 in our MobileMark 2002 test, 25 percent faster than IBM's less expensive ThinkPad X40 and slightly ahead of both the less expensive Fujitsu LifeBook P7010 and the pricier Sony VAIO VGN-T150P/L.
After using the system for about an hour, we found that the bottom of the laptop got hot, likely due to the fact that the Latitude X1 does without a cooling fan. In addition to keeping the laptop quiet, the lack of a fan also helps conserve battery life: the Latitude X1 ran for 3 hours, 2 minutes in our drain test, enough to work during shorter flights but way short of the 5-plus hours offered by the LifeBook P7010 and the Sony VAIO VGN-T150P/L. If you're often away from a wall socket, we recommend Dell's $129 high-capacity battery pack, which will bolster battery life and add 5 ounces to the Latitude X1's travel weight (CNET did not test this battery).