Dell Inspiron 8600c

  • Editors' rating
    8.1 Excellent


  • Excellent application and 3D performance
  • packed with features, including dual-band wireless
  • wide-screen 15.4in. display


  • Bulky and heavy

When Intel releases a new processor, it's an odds-on bet that Dell will be among the first to market with a showcase for it, and in the case of the new Dothan Pentium M chip, that showcase is the Inspiron 8600c. The Inspiron 8000 series is Dell's flagship range of desktop replacement notebooks for power users, and our top-end 8600c review model didn't disappoint: with its 2GHz Pentium M 755 CPU, 1GB of DDR RAM, 60GB hard disk and 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 Pro graphics chip, it turned in the best set of benchmarks we've recorded to date. At £1,349 (ex. VAT) it's no budget option, but if you need desktop-level power and features in a reasonably portable format, the Inspiron 8600c is an excellent choice.

Design-wise, the Inspiron 8600c looks almost identical to its Banias Pentium M-based predecessor, the 8600. That is to say, it's a big beast measuring 35.9cm wide by 27.4cm deep by 3.8cm high and weighing some 3.3kg without the AC adapter. The display is a wide-screen 15.4in. unit with a native resolution of 1,920 by 1200 pixels, its 16:10 aspect ratio ideal for viewing DVD movies or placing two business documents side by side. You get the same spacious and sensibly laid-out 88-key keyboard as in the 8600 model, but the latter's second navigation device, a keyboard-embedded pointing stick, has gone, along with its buttons just below the spacebar. That leaves a conventional two-button touchpad in the generous wrist-rest area for navigation. No doubt this saves a dollar or two on Dell's bill of materials. Other options such as the lid covers in various styles (Venice Blue, Burlwood, Bamboo and Graphite Swirl), the D/Port port replicator, monitor stand and notebook stand, remain as before.

Based around Intel's top-end 2GHz Dothan Pentium M 755 with 2MB of Level 2 cache, our Inspiron 8600c review model had a gigabyte of DDR RAM – half the maximum 2GB achievable by fully populating the pair of DIMM slots. Hard drives range in capacity from 40GB to 80GB, our system being fitted with a 60GB unit. The 8600c's single modular drive bay housed a DVD+RW drive in our review unit, although you can fit a variety of options here, including a second hard drive and a second battery. The 15.4in. WUXGA (1,920 x 1,200) screen is driven by ATI's 128MB Mobility Radeon 9600 Pro graphics chip, which delivers full DirectX 9.0 support, complex lighting and shading effects and dual-screen desktop capability if you attach an external monitor via the VGA port. For wireless connectivity, our review model had Dell's dual-band Wireless 1450 Mini-PCI card, which supports 802.11a/b/g networking at up to 54Mbps. Other options include the Centrino-qualified Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 card (802.11b), plus two 802.11b/g cards – Intel's PRO/Wireless 2200 and Dell's Wireless 1350. You can also specify an internal Bluetooth card for wireless cable replacement duties, but this is a factory install only. For I/O and expansion you get VGA, two USB 2.0 and S-Video ports at the back, along with RJ-45 (Ethernet) and RJ-11 (modem) ports. The left-hand side is home to FireWire (1394) and audio ports, plus a single Type II PC Card slot. If you need more connectors, you'll need to buy the optional D/Port Expansion Station, which carries serial, parallel, VGA, DVI, PS/2, S/PDIF, S-Video, USB 2.0 (4), audio line-out, RJ-45 and RJ-11.

Performance & battery life
As mentioned earlier, the Inspiron 8600c is the fastest notebook we've tested to date, at least under the application-based MobileMark 2002 test. Its score of 216 beats the only other Dothan-based system we've tested so far -- Acer's TravelMate 8006LMi, which scored 191 -- by a significant margin. Note, though, that the TravelMate 8006LMi had 512MB of DDR memory compared to the Inspiron 8600c's 1GB. As far as 3D graphics performance is concerned, the Inspiron 8600c's 128MB ATI Radeon 9600 Pro just fails to match the cutting-edge Mobility Radeon 9700 in the TravelMate 8006LMi, scoring 2,814 compared to the latter's 2,839. Basically, though, both systems are excellent 3D performers. Whether you're running mainstream applications, 3D games or demanding graphical programs, the Inspiron 8600c will cope admirably. This bulky and heavy desktop replacement isn't anyone's idea of a portable system, but if you do need to use it away from a source of mains power, you'll get well over three hours' battery life: running in desktop mode, the Inspiron 8600c lasted for 3 hours and 35 minutes, and more conservative power management settings would deliver much longer than that.

Service & support
As reviewed, the Inspiron 8600c comes with a one-year European collect and return warranty, but Dell offers a wide range of options on its Web site. Dell's Solution Center software provides a wealth of electronic documentation, Web-based tutorials and live chat links to Dell technical support staff. Dell's Web site also provides user forums and FAQs, so you should find help easily enough one way or another. NOTE: Dell's E-Value code for this review system is DMUK5-70R


Packaged Quantity 1
Platform Technology Intel Centrino
System Type Notebook
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Pentium M 725 / 1.6 GHz
Cache L2 - 2 MB
Chipset Type Intel 855PM
Features Enhanced SpeedStep technology
Cache Memory
Type L2 cache
Optical Drive CD-RW / DVD-ROM combo - removable
Type none
Read Speed 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD)
Type portable
Technology DDR SDRAM
Speed 266 MHz / PC2100
Form Factor SO DIMM 200-pin
Slots Qty 2
Memory Specification Compliance PC2100
Technology DDR SDRAM
Resolution 1280 x 800 ( WXGA )
Widescreen Display Yes
Display Resolution Abbreviation WXGA
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce FX Go5200 - 32 MB DDR SDRAM
Sound Stereo speakers
Hard Drive
Type HDD
Installed Qty 1
Type touchpad
Wireless Protocol 802.11b
Wireless Controller Intel PRO/Wireless 2100
Wired Protocol 10/100 Ethernet
CPU Type Pentium M
Processor Number 725
Manufacturer Intel
Optical Storage
Drive Type CD-RW / DVD
Type CD-RW / DVD-ROM combo
Form Factor removable
Floppy Drive
Type none
Technology lithium ion
AC Adapter
Input AC 120/230 V
Output 65 Watt
Connections & Expansion
Expansion Bays 1 x front accessible
Slots 2 x memory
1 x PC Card ( 1 free )
Interfaces 1 x IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
2 x USB 2.0 - 4 PIN USB Type A
1 x display / video - S-video output - 7 PIN mini-DIN
1 x microphone - input - mini-phone 3.5mm
1 x audio - line-out/headphones - mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
1 x display / video - VGA - 15 pin HD D-Sub (HD-15)
1 x network - Ethernet 10Base-T/100Base-TX - RJ-45
1 x modem - phone line - RJ-11
Brand Dell
Product Line Dell Inspiron
Model 8600c
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
Data Link Protocol Ethernet
Wireless LAN Supported Yes
Wireless NIC Intel PRO/Wireless 2100
Features security lock slot (cable lock sold separately)
Platform Technology Intel Centrino
Notebook Type notebook
Audio Output
Compliant Standards AC '97
Manufacturer Warranty
Service & Support 1 year warranty
Type 1 year warranty
Chipset Type Intel 855PM
Physical Characteristics
Form Factor portable
Type power adapter
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
Type Microsoft Works 7.0
Video Output
Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce FX Go5200
Video Memory
Technology DDR SDRAM
Expansion Bays
Total Qty 1
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Location pick-up and return
Full Contract Period 1 year

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