Dell Latitude X1
- Lightweight, good keyboard design
- Cumbersome PDF user manual, poor battery life
Spring for the extra battery (at an extra charge) to add needed life to this otherwise fine and very light travelling companion.
Price$ 2,663.40 (AUD)
Aimed at inveterate business travellers, the 1.1-kilogram, silver Dell Latitude X1 is one of the lightest laptops around. Its no-frills ultraportability (there's no integrated optical drive, for example) struck me as seriously insubstantial at first--especially given the price tag--but a closer look revealed a pretty good design.
The generous 12.1" WXGA wide screen lets you do serious work on the go. The keyboard has an extremely short, hard stroke, but the keys' size and layout permitted me to touch-type at a rapid clip. I was pleasantly surprised to find a full set of dedicated arrow, Page Up, and Page Down keys; and my favourite keys, Delete and Ctrl, were conveniently placed in opposite corners. Only the undersize Shift key bothered me at first. My review unit had a slow-to-respond touchpad, but I easily fixed that problem by increasing the tap sensitivity. Interestingly, the touchpad has a coarser feel than most, almost like fine-grade sandpaper. The extra tactile feedback was novel during the short time I used the X1, but I'm not sure how I would adjust to this touchpad after a few weeks. An external mouse would obviate the problem for people who couldn't get used to the touchpad.
Besides offering basic business connections--network and modem jacks, microphone and headphone mini-jacks, and a VGA port--the X1 features a FireWire port and separate SD and CompactFlash card readers. With built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi circuitry, the X1 can handle short and long-range wireless communications with equal aplomb. One of the two USB 2.0 ports is powered, for connecting an external optical drive. Our test unit included a combination DVD-ROM/CD-RW USB optical drive; for extra, you can get a DVD burner. (An optical drive adds a little over half a kilogram to the X1's heft; total carry weight including the 280 gram power adapter is about 1.8 kilograms.)
The X1 is fully upgradeable, even if the process is not documented in the users' manual (a hard-to-search Acrobat document without hyperlinks). One memory slot and the unit's 4200rpm hard drive--60GB in our test machine--are within easy reach under the keyboard. Just remove seven small screws on the bottom of the laptop, pop a couple of keyboard latches and extract a few more screws beneath to free the hard drive and a metal plate over the DIMM slot. An inaccessible base 256MB of RAM comes built in.
Although no speedster, the X1 should have no trouble handling mainstream work. Armed with a 1.1GHz Pentium M Ultra Low Voltage 733 processor and 512MB of RAM, the X1 posted a WorldBench 5 score of 60, which is good for its class. A similarly-configured Sony VAIO VGN-T150P earned a score of 56.
But the X1 suffers from one major drawback: poor battery life. Its standard three-cell battery lasted just 2.6 hours on a charge, dismal for a laptop light enough to take anywhere. A replacement six-cell battery should provide some relief, though we did not test it. The X1's other problem is lack of compatibility with Latitude docking stations--a sticking point for companies standardised on this line. Dell sells several universal USB docking stations.
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