If cutting-edge tech is what you're after, consider the Dell XPS M1330, which performed near the top of its class.

Our test unit came with an extra-cost red lid, an optional LED-backlit display, and integrated mobile broadband. All of those trimmings add up, however: a tricked-out Dell Inspiron XPS M1330 Laptop is expensive.

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At a 2.1kg minimum weight, the Dell Inspiron XPS M1330 Laptop is one of the lightest 13.3in laptops we've seen. The design is satisfying overall. This complete overhaul of the 12in XPS M1210 has a bigger screen yet weighs less, and it's no taller than its predecessor because of new dropped hinges.

One of the nicest features is the Dell Inspiron XPS M1330 Laptop's edge-to-edge keyboard; although the keys don't depress far, their large size makes typing comfortable. One heads-up: the Dell Inspiron XPS M1330 Laptop lacks a modem port. While such an omission is not surprising on a notebook of this size, it's still something to be aware of.

Our test Dell Inspiron XPS M1330 Laptop came with the optional, stunningly thin LED-backlit screen. Even with the brightness cranked up, however, the 0.87-inch-thick screen was not as bright as the LED-backlit screens of other notebooks we've tested (such as the Toshiba Portege R400-S4931, Asus U1F, and Fujitsu LifeBook P7230), which enjoy a higher brightness specification (measured in nits).

The Dell Inspiron XPS M1330 Laptop, which has an HDMI port and a remote control, delivers a good multimedia experience for such a small laptop. The speakers are loud (although not stellar), and a bevy of buttons add convenience. You can use the Dell Media Direct button to bypass Windows and launch a movie or CD, and then use the backlit touch-sensitive controls to adjust the volume or change tracks. These controls are similar to the touch-sensitive control panel of HP Pavilion notebooks, but they have the added advantage of visual feedback in the form of a blue LED that briefly pulses around each selected area.

A TV tuner and remote come in an extra-cost kit. The Dell Inspiron XPS M1330 Laptop's slot-fed DVD drive, while more convenient than a tray, is as noisy as other slot-feds when accepting discs. Unfortunately, Dell gives no option for a Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD drive to take advantage of the high-definition, widescreen display.

Performance, though, was superior. Equipped with a 2.2GHz Core Duo T7500 chip and 2GB of RAM, our review machine produced a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 82, putting it in third place among all-purpose notebooks and on a par with other similarly configured systems. We saw very good results upgrading from the standard four-cell battery to a nine-cell unit. Although it accounts for half a pound of the laptop's weight, the better cell had a very healthy battery life.

Dell Inspiron XPS M1330 Laptop: Specs

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T5250 Processor (1.5GHz, 667MHz, 2MB L2 cache)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Tuxedo Black & 2Mp Camera for CCFL Display
  • 13.3in UltraSharp WXGA (1280x800) CCFL Display (220nits) with TrueLife
  • 1024MB 667MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM [2x512]
  • 120GB (5400rpm) SATA Hard Drive
  • Integrated Intel Graphic Media Accelerator X3100
  • fixed 8x DVD+/-RW Slim Slot Load Drive, including SW
  • Primary 4-cell Lithium-Ion Battery (37 WHr)
  • Intel Pro Wireless 3945 802.11a/b/g Mini-Card
  • Microsoft Works 8.0
  • Intel Core 2 Duo T5250 Processor (1.5GHz, 667MHz, 2MB L2 cache)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Tuxedo Black & 2Mp Camera for CCFL Display
  • 13.3in UltraSharp WXGA (1280x800) CCFL Display (220nits) with TrueLife
  • 1024MB 667MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM [2x512]
  • 120GB (5400rpm) SATA Hard Drive
  • Integrated Intel Graphic Media Accelerator X3100
  • fixed 8x DVD+/-RW Slim Slot Load Drive, including SW
  • Primary 4-cell Lithium-Ion Battery (37 WHr)
  • Intel Pro Wireless 3945 802.11a/b/g Mini-Card
  • Microsoft Works 8.0

OUR VERDICT

The Dell Inspiron XPS M1330 Laptop is available in black or the Crimson Red version we tested. And if you want a thin and light notebook that makes a visual impression as strong as its performance, the flashy colour will do the trick.

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