Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
The haves and the have-nots.

The haves and the have-nots.

I finally got time today to revisit the package complement on my new Dell XPS M1330, and to put it through its paces doing some daily work. My early impressions are as follows:

  • PRO: Bright. The slim display is incredibly, mind-blowingly bright at the top setting — too bright, in fact, for use indoors. I’ll bet it looks great outdoors, so I’ll be sure to try it there, once the weather cools down again from the unseasonable 85-88F expected for another few days.
  • PRO: Light. Even with the super-big extended-life battery, which gives me 5+ hours of working time, the Dell weighs at least a pound and a half less than my ThinkPad T60p with its extended-life battery.
  • PRO: Fast. This one is a Core 2 Duo T7500 (2.2GHz/800MHz FSB/4MB L2), and it’s screaming using F8 Test 3 x86_64. Once I take out the silly services I don’t use, boot time is short and sweet. I got the SATA-II 7200rpm 160GB drive, and it flies through document builds with the greatest of ease.
  • PRO: Open (at least somewhat). I went with total Intel, including the Intel “X3100” 965 graphics, HDA sound, and 3945ABG wireless. Using the “intel” Xorg driver and hints from Jesse’s helpful M1330 page on the wiki, almost everything Just Works.
  • PRO: Well-packaged. Looks sharp as a tack, with a nice protective sleeve and many geegaws included such as the IR control, which lives neatly and invisibly inside the express-card slot, and form-fitting earbud headphones with their own carrying bag. I also picked up the air/car power adapter as well, which has plenty of connecting cords for every situation and an extender for longer reach, too.

And by the way, it Just Works in Fedora 7 as well. I did a goofy torture-test by swapping my ThinkPad’s hard disk into the Dell. Once I ran system-config-display and tweaked the configuration, and then redetected the soundcard once the desktop was up, everything was golden… almost.

  • CON: Sound from the speakers does not work. I tried combinations of switches available through the desktop mixer, as well as other multimedia servers, but no luck. Headphones work fine, but that’s not much consolation since I can’t keep earphones on while I’m working in the office. I understand there are kernel patches that may be related to fixing this.
  • CON: I’ve lost about 33% of my desktop real estate. My ThinkPad’s 1400×1050 screen is gloriously expansive. If only the M1330 had come in a 1440×900 variety! I really do miss the space, but I suppose I can get more aggressive about using virtual desktops, which I use frequently already with my ThinkPad.
  • CON: With the extended-life battery in, the laptop doesn’t sit in a stable fashion on a flat surface, which makes typing on the slightly spongy keyboard a bit of a challenge.
  • CON: With the bigger battery in place, due to the curve of the display, you can’t open the screen past about 135 degrees. This is a bit of a nitpick, but I need just a bit more obtuse an angle for working at our kitchen counter to be completely comfortable. My ThinkPad lid opens up over 180 degrees.
  • CON: I really, REALLY miss the TrackPoint. If one is a touch typist, it makes no sense to have to move one’s hands so far from the keyboard to briefly use a pointer device. I guess this will force me to get more agile with the keyboard, even though I thought was doing pretty well already. Won’t someone bring back this device for mainstream laptops other than Lenovo?

All in all, I am pretty impressed with the M1330. I’m still trying to get used to its differences, such as the left Fn/Ctrl key placement, and those sorts of issues, but that’s just a matter of time and {un,}learning. It’s solid, fast, and performs great with Fedora. If you are considering a laptop, and don’t mind paying a pretty penny for high performance in an even more highly portable form, it’s a pretty sweet way to go.