Well Frank's posted the various gadgets he's accumulated, as IT Pro, I've been accumulating a few things in the last month (a new LTO2 tape drive, a 5GB Toshiba PCMCIA hard disk, a Dell 24" monitor, and other boring stuff). One thing I do like is my new Dell XPS M1330.

There are plenty of reviews of the XPS M1330 out there on the 'net already. Here are some additional impressions beyond "the screen is bright" and "it comes with a finger print reader". I also compare it to the Sony SZ48 series, which is remakably similar (except for the price).

FWIW the specs of the Dell XPS M1330 that I bought are:

  • Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 200GB 7200 RPM hard disk
  • LED backlit screen (with 0.6 MP webcam built in)
  • Wireless N, Bluetooth, 5520 WWAN option (Vodafone)
  • Everything else standard (DVD burner, fingerprint reader, nVidia 8400M GS card etc)

Dell XPS M1330 -vs- Sony SZ48
Figure 1 - both laptops closed

The Sony, with its carbon fibre case, seems marginally lighter than the Dell (at least in the configuration that I bought). However the Sony has a much larger power brick than the Dell. After combining these two together, the weight seems similar. Physically, both are remakably alike. The Sony has a thinner screen (even though both boast LED backlighting), but the base is marginally thicker, leading to an overal similar thickness. Both boast a 13.3" screen, giving the same width,

XPS M1330 -vs- Sony SZ48
Figure 2 - both laptops open

Once again, it's remarkable how similar the form factors are. The Sony has the fingerprint reader between the two trackpad buttons (making the buttons too small to be usable IMHO). On the other hand, the Dell has both the Wireless-N and 5520 WWAN (Vodafone in my case) mini-PCI cards under the trackpad making it *very* hot and unusable.

Spec wise, the two are very similar:

  • 13.3" screen, 1280x800 maximum resolution,  LED backlit screens, 0.6 MP built in camera
  • Core 2 Duo CPUs (currently available up to 2.4GHz)
  • Up to 4GB of RAM
  • Only 2 USB ports, but both have Firewire ports
  • nVidia 8400M GS GPU

The Sony as the following benefits:

  • Both PC-Card and Express Card (only EC34) support
  • Much thinner screen
  • Lighter laptop body
  • Memory stick slot (no SD card slot, but comes with an ExpressCard SD adapter in box)
  • EDIT: So far, no calls to Sony support required to keep this thing running

The Dell has the following benefits:

  • WWAN support (Dell 5520 card) - no need to carry around a separate card or USB dongle for WWAN access
  • ExpressCard 54 slot (but no PC-Card slot
  • HDMI output (in addition to VGA)
  • Wireless-N Intel WiFi card
  • Comes with a 200GB 7200 RPM drive (or a 5400RPM 320GB drive for the same price). There is an option for an SSD drive as well (but at $1000 more)
  • Ability to enable Intel VT support in the BIOS (important for running VMs)
  • About $1000 cheaper than the corresponding Sony, even with the extended warranty (Australian pricing)
  • Higher end graphics card (8-series -vs- 7-series) - but does that really matter much in a laptop? C&C3 - Tiberium Wars plays flawlessly on both :-)
  • If you want to upgrade the hard-disk you unscrew a single screw on the bottom of the case. Upgrading the Sony requires a bit more work
  • EDIT: Onsite support as standard. However I've had to have Dell support out twice to fix issues (the second time because of the support guy breaking the LCD bezel the first time he was out)
  • EDIT: Dell will give you a regular Vista installation DVD, and an additional DVD for installing drivers and apps. The Sony recovery DVDs install a whole bunch of Sony apps (including a SQL Server 2005 Express Edition installation). You need to spend a fair bit of time uninstalling/removing what you don't want.

Both have drawbacks:

  • Only 2 USB slots. After using one USB slot for you mouse, you are limited in what you can attach. I've been forced to use the Microsoft Wireless Presenter 8000 Bluetooth mouse to keep the USB slots free for other devices.
  • Low resolutions screens (1280x800). After using a minimum of 1400x1050 for the past 4 years, this is a real downer. Running multiple virtual machines is difficult at this resolution.

XPS M1330 -vs- Sony SZ48
Figure 3 - The Sony has a much thinner screen (2mm or so)

Compared to my work supplied Dell Latitude D830, the 1330 is a small child. That said, the D830 supports a 2nd hard drive (via the modular D-Bay), as well as 1920x1200 resolution. Unfortunately, it weighs more than a kilo more than the XPS1330

XPS1330 -vs- Latitude D830
Figure 4 - the Latitude D830 -vs- the XPS M1330

Various Laptops
Figure 5 - various laptops

In Figure 5, I tried to capture the various sizes of these laptops, but it didn't quite work out how i hoped. From bottom to top: Latitude D830, Apple Macbook, Sony SZ48, Dell XPS M1330, and my trusty Toshiba M400 tablet PC.

Various laptops
Figure 6 - Various laptops

An older shot, showing the Sony SZ48, Toshiba M400 tablet, and Toshiba Tecra M5 on the same table. HP ML330 in the background.

After all's said and done however, I'm happy with my purchase. The Dell XPS M1330, even in a top-of-the-line configuration, is quite cheap (compared to what we were paying a couple of years ago), is thin and light. It's a good complement to the fully featured (but heavy) Latitude D830. The only downsides to my previous personal latop (the M400) are:

  • no inbuilt tablet functionality (but I have a Wacom Bamboo to compensate)
  • low resolution screen (not sure what to do about that, except move more stuff across to the D830)