- Excellent 3D graphics performance
- high-resolution 15in. display
- built-in wireless networking.
- Bulky and heavy
- moderate battery life.
Just over a year after the desktop Pentium III reached 1GHz, its mobile counterpart has reached the same milestone. Do you really need a gigahertz notebook? That's debatable, but what's certain is that the graphics processor in Dell's new 1GHz Inspiron 8000 1000UT, the nVidia GeForce2 Go, finally brings respectable 3D performance to the portable PC. Built-in 802.11b wireless networking was also a welcome feature in our review unit.
Externally, the 1000UT looks identical to other models in the Inspiron 8000 range, but there are significant differences inside. For a start there's Intel's new 1GHz Mobile Pentium III SpeedStep processor, which clocks down to 700MHz under battery power. Then there's the massive 15in. TFT display, which has a native resolution of 1,600 by 1,200 pixels compared to the 1,400 by 1,050 pixels of previous 15in. Inspiron 8000 models.
But the key addition is nVidia's new GeForce2 Go graphics processor, a 4X AGP chip that's supported by 32MB of DDR SDRAM. In our tests, the GeForce2 Go delivered three times the 3D graphics performance of the ATi Mobility M4 chip used in previous Inspiron 8000 models. This is desktop-level 3D performance, giving the 1000UT a strong claim to be a true 'desktop replacement' notebook.
The other highlight of our review sample was its built-in 802.11b wireless networking, located on a mini-PCI card with integrated antenna. This Dell TrueMobile 1150 unit worked literally 'right out of the box' -- when first switched on, the Inspiron 8000 1000UT automatically recognised a nearby 802.11b access point (from a different manufacturer) and provided instant Web access. Most impressive.
For storage, the Inspiron 8000 1000UT has a 32GB Ultra-ATA/66 hard disk, an 8-speed DVD-ROM drive in a fixed bay on the left-hand side, and a floppy drive in a front-mounted modular bay. The latter can accept a range of other modules, including CD-ROM, CD-RW, Zip 100, a second hard disk or a second battery. The main battery is a 3,800mAh Li-ion unit that delivered a somewhat disappointing 2 hours and 16 minutes in our tests. That said, you're unlikely to take this bulky 3.6kg notebook on your travels too often.
There are I/O ports a-plenty -- serial, parallel, VGA, PS/2, infrared, two USB, audio (mic in, line-in, speaker out), S-Video and IEEE 1394. RJ-11 and RJ-45 sockets are provided for an internal mini-PCI modem/NIC combo card, should you wish to specify this in place of the 802.11b option. If the mini-PCI slot is occupied, as in our review model, the dual stacked Type II/Type III PC Card slots must accommodate modem and network connectivity.
The 66-key keyboard and DualPoint pointing device both do their jobs well, while the quartet of AccessDirect buttons between the screen and keyboard give rapid access to applications and Web sites. These buttons also double as controls for the DVD or CD player. DVD playback is helped not only by the powerful CPU and graphics subsystems, but also by the ESS Maestro 3-driven audio subsystem, which outputs to a decent pair of built-in Harmon Kardon Odyssey II speakers.
Although the 1000UT's component benchmarks are exemplary and its 3D performance superb, it didn't deliver a significantly different overall performance score to the 850MHz model in the Inspiron range. The key difference between these notebooks, apart from the processor speed, is the display's native resolution, which is 1,600 by 1,200 in the 1GHz model and 1,400 by 1,050 in the 850MHz unit.
Supplied with Windows 2000 Professional and a software bundle including Microsoft's Works Suite 2000, the Inspiron 8000 1000UT is a very well-specified desktop replacement notebook. Of the two new processors it showcases, the most impressive is the GeForce2 Go -- so it's a shame that it won't be available in shipping systems until the middle of April.