Judging a Book by its Cover
The design of the M1330 is immediately eye-catching with its sleek silhouette and impressive soft textured lid that is unlike anything Dell has ever come up before. Closed, the notebook has a streamlined teardrop-like outline and measures in at only 2.21cm thick at the front. Its magnesium allow body feels sturdy and lightweight, though its plastic sides are a dead giveaway even with metallic paint finish; the only part of the notebook that cheapens the whole premium feel of the M1330.
Opening the M1330 reveals more design goodies like the unique rounded hinge at the edges of its frame. A similar hinge design can be found on the new Sony Vaio TZ series and one of the advantages of this design is that it preserves the one-piece look of the lid. Inside, the M1330 sports a 13.3-inch WXGA LCD screen, up from the 12.1-inch of the M1210. Better yet, the M1330 can be configured to include a LED backlit screen instead of a regular CCFL lighted one. The benefits of an LED backlit LCD include a more uniform lighting across the screen, better overall contrast, longer lifespan and is thinner and lighter as well. The LED screen measures just 6mm in thickness and again, this helps keep the weight down on the M1330. As with most notebooks the M1330 comes with an integrated webcam. This time, there is a twist though. If you choose to have a regular WXGA screen, you get a 2MP camera. If you get the LED screen, you only get a VGA webcam. Still, the only good a fixed webcam is for conferencing and video calls and for this purpose, VGA will do just fine. The LED screen is one of the features that make the M1330 special and we highly recommend keeping this in your configuration.
The M1330 sports a brushed metal palm rest that is similar to the one on the BenQ Joybook S41 that we reviewed some time back. This gives a touch of class to the interior of the notebook, and we actually think the Dell has better synergy here with a color matching keyboard. However, like the plastic sides of the notebook, the metallic paint has a tacky look to it. Luckily, the M1330 features a full-sized keyboard that is well spaced and firm enough for a pretty comfortable typing experience. Besides the lack of a proper keypad, there shouldn't be any learning curve to get used to the M1330.
To the top of the keypad, you'll find the power button, a media center button and a series of touch sensitive media keys. The media center button launches Dell's Media Direct application, which is basically a front for Cyberlink's tools. Dell Media Direct is a default install for the M1330, which works out well if you get any other version of Vista, but if you configure for Vista Home Premium or Vista Ultimate, you'll probably want to use Windows Media Center instead. In this case, make sure to uncheck Dell Media Direct off your list or you'll end up with two media center applications. The media control buttons aren't too hot either. They light up on touch, which is pretty cool, but their use is limited. For one, there still aren't any fast forward/rewind buttons, just next/previous track. This means no scrolling of songs or video, one button just skips the whole file, or in the case of DVDs, jumps immediately to the next chapter. Secondly, the buttons are more or less limited to Microsoft and Dell's media applications only and may not work with your preferred player.
The largest problem with the M1330 in our opinion has to be the in-built speakers. Although we never had much expectations from a thin and light notebook, the sound coming from the M1330 was hollow, tinny and breaks up for anything with heavier bass notes even at half volume.