The XPS M1330 is unquestionably Dell’s best ultra-portable laptop to date, and quite possibly the best machine of its type on the market. One of the lightest laptops in its class and crammed with cutting-edge technology like optional embedded mobile broadband, slot-loading optical drive, AN HDMI connection, and biometric fingerprint security, the XPS M1330 makes working on the move a joy.

The system’s sleek lines and elegant form elevate it from the mass of boring products on the market. Available in either Midnight Blue, Crimson Red or Tuxedo Black, it’s even available with an optional (£50 extra) WLED display which uses 32 tiny, white LEDs for a super bright, super skinny screen. Whereas the standard 13.3-inch UltraSharp CCFL WXGA display offers a native resolution of 1280x800 pixels and brightness of 220 nits, the WLED WXGA display - also seen in the new 15-inch MacBook Pro - is 36 percent brighter at 300 nits, 118g lighter, and 2.5mm thinner.

Starting at just less than 1.79kg, the XPS M1330 offers a wireless bundle that helps you stay connected wherever you go. In addition to standard 802.11b/g, optional Wireless-N (802.11n) enables up to two times the range and up to five times the performance (in theory) of traditional Wi-Fi when used with a draft 802.11n router or access point. There’s even optional (£170 plus £25 per month contract) mobile broadband in the form of Vodafone HSDPA. Furthermore, the Wi-Fi Catcher is a neat hardware tool for checking the availability of a Wi-Fi hotspot without powering up the laptop. Bluetooth and infrared are both present.

Typical business applications - such as MS Office - and Web browsing aren’t exactly challenging for today’s powerful computers, but that needn’t worry the XPS M1330. Dell offers a choice of Intel Core 2 Duo processors - T5250 (1.50GHz, 2MB L2 cache, 667MHz FSB) or T7500 (2.20GHz, 4MB L2 cache, 800MHz FSB), and up to 4GB shared Dual-Channel 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM for blazing performance. It’s worth noting that up to 256MB memory may be allocated to support integrated graphics, depending on system memory size.

Storage comes in the form of a 320GB HDD with a 5400rpm SATA hard drive, more than adequate as long as you don’t go filling the machine with music and holiday movies. Standard graphics power is provided by Intel’s Graphic Media Accelerator 3100, but multimedia buffs and those who like to indulge in the odd recreational 3D game should opt for nVidia’s discrete GeForce 8400M GS with 128MB of dedicated memory.

A super-stylish slot-loading DVD+/-RW drive ships as standard, but sadly there’s no option to upgrade to HD DVD or Blu-ray drive - especially as there’s HDMI output on the system. With the XPS M1330’s built-in 2-Megapixel camera (the WLED display comes with 0.3-Megapixel camera) and noise cancelling microphone you’ll have the power to video conference, chat or blog. And a strip of touch-sensitive media playback buttons above the keyboard allow you to quickly shuffle through tracks or pause playback, as well as adjust or mute the speaker volume.

Connectivity is never going to be selling point of an ultra-portable laptop due to the physical size of the enclosure, but the XPS M1330 offers a practical array for day-to-day duties. There are two USB 2.0 ports, 4-pin FireWire port, 10/100 Ethernet port, analogue VGA, HDMI, 8-in-1 removable memory card reader, audio jacks (headphone and mic), and a 54mm ExpressCard slot. A neat feature of the ExpressCard slot is that it can be used to house the supplied remote control when not in use, and the HDMI output is perfect for connecting the laptop to a high-definition plasma or LCD TV - grab the included remote, lean back and control your system from the comfort of your favourite chair!

The primary 4-cell Lithium-Ion battery (37-WHr) comes as standard and should be good for around 2.5 hours, but a 9-cell Lithium-Ion battery (85-WHr) can be had for an additional £30, extending the operating time of the machine to around 4.5 hours.

Dell has pulled out all the stops with the XPS M1330. Its sleek design will turn heads and the hi-speed technology makes it a great all-rounder. Being so portable also means that you’ll be able to take it on the road and hook-up to either free Wi-Fi spots or Vodafone’s HSDPA service and do your work on the fly. The large brushed aluminium wrist rest not only looks good, but also helps to make the most of the M1330’s spacious keyboard. Unlike a lot of similar-sized machine, Dell has made no compromise and the full-sized keys stretch to the edges of the case and make typing for long periods as comfortable as possible. The 2.75-inch trackpad is a little on the small side, but it does have vertical and horizontal scrolling functions.

If you’re debating an ultra-portable Windows-based laptop or an Apple MacBook, Dell’s XPS M1330 has the edge.

OUR VERDICT

Portable computing doesn’t get much sexier than the XPS M1330, but you’ll have to stretch the budget for ‘essential’ extras. Why buy an Apple for style when there's more substance on this side of the fence?