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Dell XPS M1330-126B review: Dell XPS M1330-126B

Dell XPS M1330-126B

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
5 min read

Note: This review is part of our Back to School 2008 roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.


Dell XPS M1330-126B

The Good

Thin, sexy design, decent battery life.

The Bad

Older CPU, overly glossy screen can be hard to read, touch pad is too small.

The Bottom Line

Dell offers a suitable competitor to the 13-inch Apple MacBook in its XPS 1330, but we wish this retail version had some more recent components.

While 13-inch laptops make up only a small part of the market, Apple's popular MacBook has made this form factor, which we call thin-and-light, a staple of college campuses and coffee shops everywhere. Just small enough to carry around and just big enough to use as your main computer, the 13-inch is the perfect choice for many students.

One of the few competitors to the MacBook is Dell's 13-inch XPS 1330, which we first saw in the spring of 2007. The system hasn't had a serious overhaul since then, but this fixed-configuration retail model, the $1,149 1330-126B, offers a decent mix of components and features for just north of the $1K mark, along with more than three hours of battery life.

It's still hard to beat the best-selling 13-inch MacBook, but XPS 1330 at least offers a stylish Windows-only alternative.

Price as reviewed $1,149
Processor 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250
Memory 4GB, 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 320GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel GM965
Graphics Intel GMA X3100 (integrated)
Operating System Windows Vista Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WxH) 12.5x9.4
Dimensions (Thickness) .87-1.4 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 4.5 / 5.2 pounds
Category Thin and light

Physically identical to the first XPS 1330 we looked at last year, the system is slightly wedge-shaped, going from 0.87-inches in the front to 1.4-inches in the rear. It also manages to come in about a pound less than the Apple MacBook.

The brushed metal keyboard tray has touch-sensitive controls for volume and media playback, an eject button for the slot-loading DVD drive, and a quick-launch button for Dell's proprietary Media Direct software. We'll repeat the complaint we made in the original 1330 review--the tiny, 2.75-inch touch pad is too small, especially given that there's plenty of room on the wrist rest for a bigger pad.

With a 1280x800-pixel native resolution, the same as on the 13-inch MacBook or a lower-end 15-inch system, you get the decent mix of screen real estate and readability. This version, however, does not have the LED-backlit display you can get as a $125 option when you use Dell's online configurator. The LED screen is slightly thinner, lighter, and better for battery life, but the trade off is that there's only room for a VGA-quality Webcam, instead of the 2-megapixel model built into the standard display.

One issue we ran into was that the overly glossy display was very hard to read in natural light situations, and made off-axis viewing especially difficult.

  Dell XPS m1330 Average for category [thin-and-light]
Video VGA, HDMI VGA-out, S-Video
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone (2x)/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, SD card reader 3 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, SD card reader
Expansion ExpressCard/54 ExpressCard/54
Networking modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive Slot-loading DVD burner DVD burner

With only two USB ports, some users may feel shortchanged, but the HDMI output and twin headphone jacks are welcome additions, and we're finding them on even the cheapest laptops these days. Bluetooth is included, a feature many retail laptops cut out, but the only way to upgrade to built-in mobile broadband would be to configure a version of the 1330 directly from Dell's Web site.

Many of the back-to-school laptops we've looked at in the $1,000-plus category have CPUs and chipsets from Intel's new Centrino 2 platform. The XPS 1330 was one of a handful with older parts, including a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 CPU. That's still the non-Centrino-2 medium-to-high-end default, and gave us decent performance all-around. Going forward, a refreshed version of the 1330 selling for the same price should have Intel's new P8400 CPU.

The XPS 1330 ran for 3 hours and 16 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, which tied for best performance in our high-end back-to-school roundup (although several of the other systems were 17-inch desktop replacements, which we wouldn't expect to have long-lasting batteries). We might have expected impressive power performance if the 1330 used Intel's Centrino 2 platform or a power-saving LED screen, but this system lacks both, so the battery score is even more impressive in that context.

Dell includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, and an extensive online knowledge base and driver downloads.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway P-7811FX
Dell XPS M1330-126B

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway P-7811FX
Dell XPS M1330-126B

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Gateway P-7811FX
Dell XPS M1330-126B

Video Playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Dell XPS M1330-126B
Gateway P-7811FX

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Sony Vaio VGN-FW140 E/H
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400; 3,072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel GMA 4700MHD; 250GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm.

HP Pavilion dv5-1015nr
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9200M GS; 320GB Western Digital 5,400rpm.

Gateway P-7811FX
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTS; 200GB Seagate 7,200rpm. HP Pavilion dv7-1025nr
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT; 320GB Western Digital 5,400rpm.

Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q701
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9700M GTS; 200GB Toshiba 7,200rpm.

HP Pavilion dv5-1004nr
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.1GHz AMD Turion X2 Ultra Dual-Core ZM-80; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon HD3200; 250GB Western Digital 5,400rpm.

Dell XPS M1330-126B
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 965GM Express; 320GB Western Digital 5,400rpm .


Dell XPS M1330-126B

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 7Battery 8Support 6