IT Week Executive Editor Martin Veitch offers his long-term usability experience of using Dell's ultraportable
It’s been a little over a year and a half since I took delivery of my gorgeous little one and I’m happy to report that I’ve never once had cause to regret the moment that teeny thing came into my life.
Yes, that’s right, as usual when a man reverts to baby talk, I’m referring to a sweet piece of mobile technology. However, I’m not overstating matters in viewing the last 18 months spent with Dell’s Latitude X1 as life changing.
With a weight only a little over 1kg, the X1 fits squarely into the ultra-portable category, making it ideal for day-to-day travel, but it doesn’t skimp on key features. As well as packing a 1.1GHz Pentium M processor, 512MB RAM and 12in wide-screen panel, the X1 also has Bluetooth and both SD Card and Compact Flash readers. Usability is excellent. Despite being very light, the unit is well balanced and the keyboard and trackpad work nicely. The power pack is also small and neat.
The sacrifices involved in making the weight and size for the format have been tolerable. With Wi-Fi on, the X1 struggles to survive much more than an hour without resorting to mains power. That could be a big problem with users who travel long distances on trains and planes, but it’s fine for my 30-minute commute. In any case, the second battery option is elegant for those willing to pay extra.
The DVD drive is external but, again, that has represented no problems for me. I’ve used it only a couple of times - another sign that disk-based media is losing its grip on computing life.
The only caveats apply to fit and finish. By clumsily dropping the machine I managed to badly fracture the screen, necessitating a swap-out replacement. The same thing happened to the power pack. More recently, the underside case next to the SD Card reader enclosure cracked, and a couple of weeks ago, the Dell badge fell off the case.
Still, if you’re more careful than me, this is a laptop to delight in, and other X1 users I have met agree that this is an outstanding PC, if not a cheap one.
But there's a bitter twist in the tale of this story: Dell is now pushing the new Latitude D430 as its ultraportable option, and the X1 is no more. Maybe it's great but it will take loyal X1 users like me a lot to admit that there is a better model out there.
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