Where outward appearance is concerned we're still in two minds about the M1340. Its two-tone black and silver combination is a complementary one, but the abundance of glossy plastic is always a tad irritating and doesn't feel as luxurious as the brushed metal and 'microsatin' found on its predecessor, the excellent M1330. Clearly Dell realised this and added the leather on the lid, but it still seems a slightly incongruous addition.
However, even with this caution voiced, the M1340 is still a nice looking laptop. Its angular lines look fresh in a market dominated by machines with rounded 'tapered' edges, the backlighting around the hinges is a very nice touch and visually it's clean and unfussy. In some ways it's the very antithesis of HP's design ethic, which is generally a little more flamboyant - a fact that will no doubt attract many. We also love the power adapter, which is very thin and weighs less than 300g including the wires.
This time around the M1340 is much better bolted together, too. Gone is the irritating and frankly shoddy rocking base, as well as any hint of flexing or poorly connected panels. Whatever issues Dell had with the early production runs have clearly been eradicated, so you can buy with a lot more confidence now.
This is particularly true of the keyboard. Keys have a far more even action, not tilting quite so much when hit off-centre, resulting in fluent and error-free typing. It's a fact aided by the excellent layout, something that didn't need changing. Our only remaining niggle is keyboard backlight bleed, which is visible from certain angles. While Dell might deem it following the crowd to use an isolation keyboard, using one would have eliminated the problem entirely.
As highlighted earlier the M1340 offers more connectivity options than most, particularly with its trio of VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort video connections. These can be found on the left edge nestled among an Ethernet port and a USB port. Then, on the front where they can be easily accessed, are dual line-out jacks, a line-in and a memory card reader. There's also an infrared receiver here, but unlike the HP Pavilion dv3 and the XPS M1330, no remote is supplied as standard - a baffling oversight to us.
Finally, on the right, there's a mini-FireWire port, a 54mm ExpressCard slot, and below the slot-loading DVD drive, a USB and eSATA combo port. This is a slightly precarious place to have it and you may also have noticed that this leaves just two USB ports, which seems a tad stingy. It's a problem you can probably work around, but a third port wouldn't be asking a great deal.