Notebook companies are scrambling to come up with notebooks that offer even more value for money than before as consumers grow ever more demanding and more cautious in spending their hard earned dollars. These days, having an unassuming notebook that adequately lets you check email, surf the web and chat no longer quantifies the amount of money spent to claim ownership to a portable computing machine.
The introduction of the Dell XPS line of notebooks is a sign that companies have realized that consumers want notebooks to pack good gaming and computing performance out of the box that could rival mainstream desktop computers while being totally affordable. This would have been an impossible equation to balance in the past, but with tremendous advancements made in the processor and graphics engine departments, Dell, among a growing number of notebook brands, is now able to put just that on everybody's lap, or more specifically the XPS M1210.
Traditionally, Dell notebooks are more functional than they are aesthetically endearing. The XPS series however, is supposed to change that, as its styling is a wide steer away from the company's Inspiron and Latitude notebooks. At 1.98kg, the M1210 is certainly heavy for a 12.1-inch notebook with the weight rising beyond 2kg if extras such as a Logitech camera and optional 9-cell extended battery are thrown in.
Looking at the layout does give the impression that Dell had really put in some serious thought with the M1210. First off, there is a row of multimedia control keys up front with cool-blue backlighting for use even in pitch-black conditions. We also had no issues with the overall layout of the M1210’s keyboard because it is just about the kind of layout and size as expected of 12.1-inch notebooks. At the top of the screen is a swiveling camera with a built-in microphone that should come in handy for video calls and quick photo shoots.
Despite being a 12.1-inch notebook, Dell managed enough space to squeeze in four high-speed USB 2.0 ports, which is quite a surprise considering some bigger notebooks don’t even have this many USB ports.
Users can also expect to find an integrated optical drive, a 5-in-1 memory card reader, a FireWire port and a VGA monitor out connector on the right side of the notebook.
Occupying the left profile of the M1210 are a modem, an S-Video out, exhaust vent, an ExpressCard slot, hard drive access door and a wireless switch. The wireless switch not only turns the wireless radio on or off, but it can also detect the presence of a wireless connection via an LED indicator beside the switch without you having to boot into Windows.
The 12.1-inch TFT LCD widescreen is outstanding as it has a maximum resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels and was extremely bright when maxed out. Watching DVDs on the M1210 was an experience as good as any because colors were vivid, bright and sharp. Speaker output on the other hand was a letdown but let's not forget about the engineering limit for a notebook of this dimension. This drawback is not much of an issue because users can simply make use of a pair of headphone jacks located at the front of the M1210 – yes, the M1210 allows two people to jack in and enjoy a movie session together. Finally, with the option of rigging the M1210 with a GeForce Go7400 graphics card, smooth 3D gaming is all but a certainty.
Our review set was configured with a T2600 Core Duo processor, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, a 7200RPM hard drive and a GeForce Go7400 graphics card. And while these specifications may be excessive for some, we feel users should really consider pumping in just that bit more money to get the most from the M1210 platform. For example, the base version only comes with an Intel GMA950 graphics, so gaming is effectively ruled out.
Overall, the Dell XPS M1210 is a nicely crafted and designed package that's favorably packed with features. If you are an executive who leads an exciting gaming life after 5pm, the Dell XPS M1210 is a fine notebook to indulge your money in. Even strict white-collar workers will find the portability, performance and value of a plainly configured M1210 too tempting to disregard.