Dell is often derided for embodying all that is bad about faceless corporate PC makers: they churn out an endless supply of boxy, unimaginative PCs that, while functional, are about as exciting as rush-hour traffic. But with the help of its XPS brand, it's now arguably as funky as any PC maker.
We're huge fans of the, we love the , and now we're about to go doolally for the new XPS M1330. It's easy to see why: Dell says it's the thinnest 13.3-inch laptop in the world. It's also lighter than equivalent Apple MacBooks, and is arguably just as sexy.
Dell reckons the M1330 is the thinnest 13.3-inch laptop in the world. In a sense, that's true -- the thinnest edge of the wedge-shaped chassis measures just 25mm. Unfortunately the fatter rear edge is a comparatively bloated 36mm. So, yes, it's the thinnest in the world, but it's arguably also the thickest.
Despite this, the wedge shape gives the M1330 a very sleek appearance -- it's a far cry from the lardy-looking XPS M1210. The three colour options (Tuxedo Black, Pearlescent White and our favourite -- Crimson Red) make a welcome change from the norm. The inside portion of the laptop is, predictably, silver, but it's a slightly futuristic gunmetal silver, which makes the laptop look somehow more expensive.
The keyboard itself feels very good to type on. Each key provides good feedback so you always know exactly when keystrokes are registered. The mouse trackpad is a little small, but this solves more problems that it causes: there's little likelihood of accidentally touching the pad while typing, and you can increase the trackpad's sensitivity to avoid using multiple finger strokes.
Dell has done a lot to make the M1330 look sleeker than its predecessor, the XPS M1210. Notably, the rotating webcam at the top of the screen has been replaced with a less-intrusive non-rotating model. The resolution has also been boosted from 0.3 megapixels to 2 megapixels on select models, so it can be used for legitimate self-portraits as well as Web conferencing. The optical drive has been replaced with a gorgeous slot-loading DVD drive, and the PC Card slot is home to a tiny remote control, which can be used to access and control your music and video from a distance.
The M1330 is its first consumer laptop to include a fingerprint reader. This is located to the right of the laptop below the keyboard and is intended, primarily, to allow secure logins. It has another trick up its sleeve, though -- it can launch different Windows applications depending on which finger you swipe. This feature is so clever we wonder why nobody has ever thought of it before. Our only gripe is the fact the laptop only has two USB ports. By the time you add a USB mouse and one other device, you'll have wished you bought a USB hub.
The XPS range is all about high performance, so it's no surprise to see the XPS M1330 uses the fastest available Intel Core 2 Duo mobile CPU. Both cores on the T7700 run at a heady 2.2GHz and are backed by 4MB of level 2 cache memory. Other CPU options are available, including a 2.2GHz T7500, 1.8GHz T7100 and 1.5GHz T5250, which save you £176, £387 and £517 respectively.
The M1330 has 1GB of 667MHz DDR2 memory as standard, but this can be upgraded to 2GB for an extra £111 or 4GB for an extra £581, although we suspect this would be overkill. We'd recommend saving some cash to upgrade from the standard Intel GMA X3100 graphics card to the faster Nvidia GeForce Go 8400M GS. It's by no means the fastest graphics card in the world, but it'll let you play games -- something many 13-inch laptops can only dream of.
Two types of display are available -- an LED lit model and a traditional CCFL version. If you have an extra £82 to spare, we'd recommend the LED version. Not only is it brighter than the CCFL version (300cd/m2 versus 220cd/m2), but it should, in theory, enable longer battery life and is kinder to the environment. Both have a native resolution of 1,280x800 pixels, which is par for the course for a screen of this size. The aforementioned 2-megapixel webcam is only available with the CCFL screen -- the LED version only has a 0.3-megapixel camera, for some reason.