Christmas came early this year in the form of a brand new Dell M1330 XPS laptop. Being a staunch IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad devotee, switching to a Dell is a big jump for me. So far I’ve been nothing but impressed. The build quality is superb, it runs Vista like a champ, and the battery life has been good despite having the smaller of the two battery options. Most surprising is the minimal amount of bundled crapware installed when it came out of the box.
My group has been using one of these as one of our Windows 7 demo machines (the Windows 7 bits we released at PDC 2008 work quite nicely on this machine) so I’ve been eyeing this laptop in anticipation of the Windows 7 Beta release. Vista has been performing great on this machine, and with all of the fundamental performance improvements coming in Windows 7, it’s really going to rock.
The machine I purchased was configured with an Intel T8300 (Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz/800Mhz FSB/3MB cache), 4GB RAM, 320GB (7200 RPM) HD, and the "Slim and Light" LED display. The additional goodies include a VGA webcam, fingerprint reader, the Dell Wireless-N card, Mobile Broadband Verizon Wireless cellular modem (EVDO Rev A), and a Bluetooth card that supports Wireless USB. All said and done, the price came out to be fairly reasonable for a thin and light laptop.
The hardware build quality is great: the thin display makes the laptop very portable, the keyboard is responsive and comfortable to type on, and the display itself is just so crisp. Even when I’ve got the backlight cranked low it is very readable, and the viewing angle is great. I just wish it weren’t so glossy.
The only negative things I have to say about the hardware is that the CD drive can be very loud and the soft-buttons that control the volume and music playback are not backlit, so they’re hard to find in the dark. And I miss my old IBM T41 "trackstick" mouse-nubbin. I’m suspecting that I’ll eventually get used to the trackpad, or purchase a small bluetooth mouse.
The initial experience is great right out of the box, mostly because there are very few installed programs from Dell that I wanted to remove. In fact there were only three programs that I had to uninstall: the "Dell Dock" which is an imitation Apple Mac program launcher, the "Google Desktop", and the "Google Search Bar" in Internet Explorer. This was great because I was expecting to have to do the standard format and reinstall of the entire OS that most geeks do when they get a new machine. This is a huge improvement over the array of craptastic software that Dell used to install.
A note on the the Google Applications: they just don’t make sense on a Vista machine. All they do is provide the ability to add gadgets to your desktop and perform search over your documents. Vista already both types of functionality built in. You don’t need another set of programs to do the same thing, particularly since having them is going to reduce the performance of your machine and drain battery life. My experience has been that the Vista search works better anyway, particularly since I can search for applications directly from the Start bar.
Now I’m debating if I want install the version of Windows 7 given out at PDC or just wait for the Beta release…