Frustrated by bulky laptops that proved trying on long trips and even on strolls through office hallways, I fixed my eye on the ultra-portable laptop market—and specifically, the Dell Latitude X1—as the solution to my muscle-weary woes. The moment I took this diminutive marvel from its box, the coolness factor set in. Everyone around me coveted this sleek little machine. With power and storage capacities that equaled or exceeded those of desktop machines, the Latitude X1 gave me exactly what I needed—almost.
In its test configuration, the Latitude X1 boasted a 1.1GHz Intel Pentium M ULV 733 processor, a 30GB hard disk, 256MB of RAM, and a bright 12.1" 1280 x 768 WXGA display—all at 2.5 pounds and measuring a wee 11.3" x 7.7" x .98". The unit also came with native 802.11b/g and Bluetooth wireless capability, obviously designed with the needs of the road warrior in mind. You also get the standard connectivity options, such as USB, FireWire, VGA, and audio ports, as well as Secure Digital (SD) and CompactFlash (CF) card slots. You can choose to have your unit preloaded with Windows XP Professional or XP Home, and you get PowerDVD preinstalled—a nice touch.
One of the first tests I subjected the Latitude X1 to was movie watching. (The unit came preloaded with Power DVD and Sonic RecordNow!) With the included external DVD+/-RW drive, video playback was smooth, with admirable image quality. Do, however, keep in mind that if you venture into the ultra-portable market, you must accept some sacrifices. The Latitude X1 offers a nice wide-screen display, but the necessarily smaller screen will probably strike power users or systems administrators as problematic. Overall, this WXGA image is impressive. However, the mono speaker is woefully inadequate, virtually requiring either headphones or a separate sound setup. Battery life is respectable if not extraordinary. In my tests, I averaged just over 3 hours of battery life on the default battery, but my Latitude X1 included an optional backup battery that provided double that lifespan. In my lap for this extended period, the bottom of the laptop grew quite warm.
Although the keyboard itself doesn't feel overly cramped, typing over long periods leads to mild discomfort: This is a small, shallow work area. But these are the sacrifices you make for such extreme portability. I can't deny the sheer coolness of this dandy little powerhouse.
Carrying the Latitude X1 from office to home was a pleasure, and keep in mind that the inherent technology just keeps improving. Although Dell has relegated the CD/DVD drive to external functionality, other vendors are finding ways to integrate that vital component.
Is the Dell Latitude the right machine for you? Can you handle the sacrifices made to image size, keyboard, and CD/DVD integration? Think hard about the features that are important to you in a laptop. How often do you need to lug that thing around? If you've got a severe case of business-traveler's elbow, take a look at the Latitude X1.