Manufacturer: Dell (product page)
Product specs: Intel Core Duo T2300 CPU (1.66Ghz), 1GB RAM, 100GB hard drive, Intel GMA 950 (integrated graphics), WiFi, extended 9-cell battery
Price as configured: US$800 + tax (shop for this item)
Dude, you’re getting a Dell
The Dell e1405 is a brand-new entry in Dell’s Inspiron line of entertainment notebooks (it’s also marketed as the 640m on the business side of Dell’s offerings). With a 14" widescreen display, a Core Duo CPU, a 100GB hard drive, and a gig of RAM, the machine’s no slouch in the performance department. But when you can get a system like this—including an extended battery—for US$800, corners have to be cut somewhere. Right?
To find out, we put the laptop through its paces for a few weeks in an attempt to answer the burning question: can such an inexpensive piece of kit really stand up to computers twice its cost? Think of this review as dialoguing with our earlier investigations of two other Core Duo machines: the Thinkpad X60 and the new Macbook. How does the e1405 stack up? The answer might surprise you.
You never have a second chance to make a first impression
Dell has finally received the memo—you know, the one that Apple has been circulating for the last few years, the one that argues for the importance of style to consumer electronics. Dell, as much as anyone, typified the “beige box” syndrome that afflicted PC vendors for a decade or more, but the company now tries to atone for past design sins with sexier laptops like the e1405. Whether you like the design or not is a notoriously personal decision, but I’m willing to go on the record with my own opinion: it looks pretty good.
Is that an extended battery, or are you just glad to see me?
The new Inspiron lineup will never be as hawt as the MacBook Pro, for instance, with all that shiny metal and that smooth silver underbelly, and it will never be as svelte as the X60. Most components are made of a silver-speckled plastic and the machine weighs in at around six pounds with extended battery, but the overall effect is quite pleasing. Looked at from above, the machine has fine lines and an attractive silver/white/black color scheme. It won’t be the slickest machine at your local Starbucks, but you’ll look pretty decent without dropping more than a grand—no small feat. And compared to the older generation of Dell machines, the e1405 is like an 18th-century allegorical painting about the Triumph of Design.
Take a closer look at the picture above. See that one-inch bulge protruding from the back of the laptop? That’s the extended battery. To my eyes, the bulge actually looks pretty decent, more like a beauty mark than a goiter, but opinions may vary on this. If you plan on getting the extended battery, make sure the machine still fits in your laptop case.
Detailed tech specsIntel Core Duo T2300 CPU (1.66GHz)14.1" WXGA LCD (1280×800)1GB DDR2 SDRAMIntel GMA950 integrated graphics100GB 5400rpm SATA hard driveWindows XP Media Center Edition10/100 BaseT EthernetCombo CD-RW/DVD-ROM optical drive802.11b/g wireless card85WHr 9-cell LiIon battery
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