Dell's entry-level multimedia laptop, the XPS M1210 has some excellent show-biz genes, such as media buttons and a TV tuner option. But it's also a strong, well-designed, and highly mobile performer. The Windows Vista refresh only enhances the earlier XP version's strong points.

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The 2kg M1210 is not the lightest laptop in its class, but it's still quite travel friendly. Pricing is flexible, starting at £749, and the design is excellent. The M1210 has four USB ports, among other connections, ports, and card slots. Its 12.1in WXGA screen is extraordinarily bright and inviting, and the well-laid-out keyboard requires no ramp-up time. And with the unit turned off, one press of the keyboard's MediaDirect button launches a movie, music file, video clip or photos slideshow located anywhere on the notebook. Although the M1210 is a small notebook with small-sounding speakers, it comes with two headphone ports on the front so two people can plug in and listen at the same time.

Last year Dell added an 'Instant office' option to the MediaDirect menu; after selecting it, you can flip through your PowerPoint slides, contacts, and calendar entries, without waiting for Windows to load.

The Mobile Media Guru configuration further broadens your entertainment and communications horizons. An external USB TV tuner and a remote control enable you to watch and record live TV on the M1210's small screen. Dell also includes an excellent Webcam and an integrated broadband antenna at this price level. (An integrated Cingular or Verizon cellular broadband card and Bluetooth cost extra, however.)

The notebook's 'WiFi Catcher' switch makes it easy to scan for any type of wireless signal - Wi-Fi, broadband, or Bluetooth.

Configured with Windows Vista Home Premium, a 2GHz Core 2 Duo T7200 processor, and 2GB of RAM, our review unit earned a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 real-world speed score of 76, which is pretty swift.

Our XPS M1210's 256MB nVidia GeForce Go 7400 graphics controller supported basic 3D gaming; the notebook could run both Doom 3 and Far Cry with antialiasing switched off.

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