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One of the more disappointing aspects of this M1340 is its audio visual performance. On the audio side nothing has changed, which is a problem since the integrated speakers are pretty mediocre. They're just about good enough for watching video on, but are too tinny and lacking in warmth for regular music duties.
However, in comparison to the previous system, it's the display that's more disappointing. In basic terms, it's still a perfectly decent display and its 16:10 aspect 1,280 x 800 resolution will please the purists, but not only does it lack the brightness of the LED backlit version, it also has a slightly watery, dull appearance that means colours lack vim and vigour. This weakness is very evident in low saturation colours, which are poorly handled. With this in mind, you might want to consider the LED backlit (but more expensive) version available directly from Dell.
Since the CCFL backlight consumes more power than an LED one, another factor to consider here is battery life. The difference isn't huge; the three hours, 42 minute Productivity runtime was only 13 minutes less than the previous M1340, but that difference increases to 28 minutes in the Reader test. It's worth noting, too, that neither can match the HP Pavilion dv3-2055ea, which managed an impressive four hours and 10 minutes in MobileMark 2007's Productivity segment.
However, the HP can't match the Dell where raw performance is concerned and since it has more RAM and a faster CPU than the model we reviewed earlier in the year, the PC World M1340 is quicker still. Overall, the M1340 is quick enough to be deemed a genuine desktop replacement, since it can chomp through CPU intensive tasks like RAW image manipulation and HD video editing with some gusto. This performance is only let down by the lack of a 64-bit operating system, which is bizarre given it costs no more and would put the 4GB of RAM to better use.
It's also a reasonable gaming machine provided your demands aren't too high. In Trackmania Nations it managed 47.2fps at medium settings, 27.3fps at the same level but with four samples of anti-aliasing, and a playable 21.7fps at high settings - all at the native 1,280 x 800 resolution. Ultimately the likes of World of Warcraft and Spore can be despatched comfortably, but more taxing titles will require more compromise like reducing the resolution. Under stress, the system gets warmer than most, but this is only really a problem during intensive tasks such as playing games or video editing - i.e. the kinds of things you won't be doing while sitting on your sofa at home.
One final factor to consider here is how the PC World system compares to buying directly from Dell. This can be difficult to measure since Dell's pricing tends to fluctuate, but at the time of writing the exact same system would set you back £913.99 from Dell, making this PC World version slightly cheaper.
Clearly Dell has rectified its issues with the Studio XPS M1340, which is a good thing. This retail system also delivers excellent performance and is slightly cheaper than the equivalent system from Dell, though it is held back by its 32-bit OS. However, while the CCFL backlit display is passable, knowing that the LED backlit version is so much better to view and is also lighter, makes it a near essential addition. This is still a great system, but if you're able to spend the extra, buying from Dell and getting the LED display is recommended.