Though it's a hair larger and heavier than its predecessor, Dell's Latitude X300 is handsome and fast, and it's backed by an impressive three-year warranty. Improvements include a 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M processor, the Intel 855 chipset, standard integrated wireless, and the ability to use the Latitude D-series external modular bay to reduce IT overhead. We loved our hands-on time; the keyboard, the touchpad, and the screen are a joy, as is the notebook overall. While the Latitude X300 offers a wide variety of affordable upgrade and docking options, its memory, as with that of many companies, is overpriced; we recommend buying a base 128MB configuration and upgrading it yourself.
The Latitude X300 is a bit larger than the older Latitude X200. It's now 10.8 by 0.9 by 9.2 inches (W, D, H). Weighing about three pounds sans AC adapter, it still fits easily into the ultraportable category. Styled in two shades of silver, the Latitude X300 has an understated elegance. The input devices on the Latitude X300 are top-notch. The touchpad is responsive; the mouse buttons have just the right amount of stiffness. The keyboard has crisp tactile response. We also liked its layout, which doesn't shrink important keys, such as right-Shift and Backspace. The Latitude X300 runs exceptionally cool, too, so there's no finger-in-the-frying-pan effect.
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|The keyboard doesn't shrink important keys.|
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|The mouse buttons have just the right amount of stiffness.|
The front edge of the Latitude X300 sports two tiny speakers and a set of status lights. The speakers lack bass response and volume, but they're adequate for system sounds. The right side houses infrared and USB 2.0 ports, plus an external VGA connector. The left side offers a single type II PC Card slot, an SD memory slot, headphone and microphone jacks, a mini four-pin FireWire port, a D-series external modular bay connector, an AC jack, and the modem and 10/100 Ethernet ports. The back is occupied by only the unit's dual-latched, 28WHr battery (a larger, 65WHr battery is available for $129). A single, two-screw panel on the bottom of the unit opens to the Latitude X300's SoDIMM memory slot, mini-PCI slot, and modem. You can increase the number of ports with the bottom-mounted Media Base dock, a $120 option.
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The bigger battery sticks out the back about an inch and a half.
Our test unit came with a USB 2.0 external modular bay (D-Bay) that can house several removable storage devices, such as a CD-ROM, CD-RW/DVD combo, or DVD-rewritable drive. Because it's the same external bay used by the Latitude D series, businesses can save money by using existing D-series peripherals instead of the X200's proprietary FireWire modules.
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Increase your options by snapping the X300 into the docking station.
The Latitude X300's configuration options range from a bare-bones, $1,599 model to a jam-packed, $3,971 model. There's only one CPU available, but it's a good one: a 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M processor. A 12.1-inch, 1,024x768-pixel screen is the only display offered; it's a bit on the small side, but the picture is crisp, the colors are vivid, and it's viewable from wide angles.
Intel's 855 chipset handles both I/O and graphics chores, dynamically allocating up to 64MB of system memory for graphics. The standard 128MB on the Latitude X300 isn't enough; we recommend 384MB minimum. But you can save a hefty chunk of change by upgrading on your own: we found both 256MB and 512MB SoDIMM modules on the Web for half what major vendors, such as Dell, charge.
Dell prices its hard drive upgrades (from the standard 20GB) more reasonably: $49 for 40GB and $149 for 60GB. Secondary storage choices for the Latitude X300's docking station or the external media bay include floppy, CD, DVD, DVD/CD-RW, and DVD+R/RW.
The Latitude X300's standard integrated wireless is Intel's Pro 802.11b, making this a true Centrino notebook. However, we recommend using Dell's TrueMobile 1300 802.11b/g, which is the free alternative, so that you can have two bands for the price of one. You want three bands? Pay $69 for Dell's TrueMobile 1400 with 802.11a/b/g.
The Latitude X300 comes with your choice of operating system: Windows XP Professional, XP Home, or Windows 2000. Choosing XP Home will save you $80. No productivity software is offered--Dell assumes that the Latitude's mostly business customers will buy their own.
The Latitude X300 performed fastest among this small test group. We tested it first with its small main battery, then combined it with the optional larger battery. The notebook performed nearly identically with both battery setups, but more importantly, its performance rivaled that of Pentium M systems as fast as 1.6GHz. The Latitude X300 houses more RAM than either of its competitors and also has a fast, 5,400rpm hard drive. These two factors help the system beat the IBM ThinkPad X31. The ThinkPad X31 also houses a 5,400rpm hard drive, but the system's relatively paltry 256MB of RAM hurts its performance.
Mobile application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).
Find out more about how we test notebooks.System configurations:
Dell Latitude X300
Windows XP Pro; 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M; 640MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 Graphics Controller-0 (up to 64MB shared); IBM Travelstar 40GB 40GN 5,400rpm