Dell Inspiron 8000

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Pros

  • Impressive performance
  • comprehensive set of features including IEEE 1394 connectivity.

Cons

  • An incompatibility between the 815E chipset, the BIOS and Windows ME currently prevents Intel's SpeedStep applet from loading.

Dell has managed to keep the weight of its latest desktop replacement notebook, the Inspiron 8000, under 4kg -- 3.58kg (3.98kg with the AC adapter) -- while at the same time delivering excellent performance and features.

Like all of Dell 's notebooks, the Inspiron 8000 is highly configurable. The system we reviewed -- which we tested under both Windows ME and 2000 Professional -- was a high-end configuration featuring an 850MHz SpeedStep Pentium III processor, 128MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive. However, the key difference between the Inspiron 8000 and other desktop replacement systems is that it uses a desktop chipset, the Intel 815E, that significantly boosts the system's performance in key areas such as hard disk throughput.

In our benchmark tests, the Inspiron 8000 was impressive, returning an overall Business Winstone 99 score of 37.2 under Windows 2000. The 815E chipset and the powerful 32MB ATi Mobility M4 graphics controller also ensured healthy component benchmarks.

We did run into one performance problem with the Inspiron 8000. Incompatibilities between the 815E chipset, the system BIOS and Windows ME meant that our BatteryMark 4.0 test failed to complete. Unfortunately, this isn't just a technical glitch: it's also an inconvenience for users because the power-saving SpeedStep applet is not loaded. So in order to switch between full-power and battery-optimised modes, you must select the mode in the BIOS and then either power down the notebook or place it in Suspend mode and then unplug the power supply.

Fortunately, Dell supplied us with a second hard disk with Windows 2000 Professional loaded, under which BatteryMark 4.0 reported a lifetime of 2 hours and 45 minutes.

The Inspiron 8000 supports simultaneous display on its built-in LCD and an external monitor, or you can use the external monitor for additional screen space. Not that you're likely to need it, as the massive 15in. TFT screen supports a resolution of 1,400 by-1,050 pixels.

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Despite the number of pixels that have to be moved around during video playback at this extremely high resolution, DVD movies were smooth and jitter-free. The tiny internal Harmon-Kardon speakers provide clear sound, but little in the way of volume.

When configuring the Inspiron 8000, you specify one built-in, non-removable optical drive -- CD, DVD or CD-RW -- on the left-hand side. The front-mounted Media Bay can house a floppy, Zip, or an additional optical drive, as well as a second hard drive or an additional battery. Because of this three-spindle design, you can have two batteries installed and still have access to an optical drive.

The case looks like a scaled-up version of the curvy Inspiron 3800. Rather than offering different colours for the entire shell, Dell sells snap-on colour wrist rests in grey, blue, purple, and yellow. The keyboard is comfortable and well laid-out, with a set of function keys above the keyboard for launching applications or for DVD and audio CD control. Conveniently, the Inspiron 8000 sports both a touchpad and a pointing stick, each with its own set of buttons.

The Inspiron 8000 doesn't skimp on connectivity either. All the requisite connectors are here, including a pair of USB ports, S-Video, and -- in a first for a Dell notebook -- IEEE 1394. A mini-PCI slot lets you choose between a 56Kbit/s modem only or a combo card that adds a 10/100 Ethernet adapter.

SpeedStep problems under Windows ME aside, the Dell Inspiron 8000 is one of the fastest and most capable desktop replacement notebooks available.

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