by June 16, 2001 0 comments

Dell recently introduced its Inspiron 4000 and 8000 series of notebooks in the Indian market. Like with other Dell products, you can define the specs for your notebook with the options available on their website These include a variety like amount of RAM, processor, hard drive, modems/network cards, OSs, and even things like a carry case and external keyboard. The website gives you the rupee price for every configuration, giving you the benefit of choosing the best one within your budget. The configuration for the unit that we got for review showed a price tag of Rs 135,370 on the website, which is pretty good.


The notebook we reviewed has a mobile PIII/850 MHz processor and is equipped with Intel’s Speed Step technology. This reduces the processor’s clock speed from 850 to 700 MHz when the notebook is running on batteries so you can get more battery life while on the move. It has a single 128 MB SDRAM module, and an extra slot for adding more if need be. This is easily accessible by opening up two screws at the bottom of the notebook. Other components include a 10 GB hard drive and an 8x DVD drive. The bay for the DVD can also be hot swapped with the floppy drive or even an extra battery in case you plan to be on the road for long durations. 

The Inspiron’s graphics department is taken care of by an ATI RAGE Mobility 128 video graphics card with 8 MB SGRAM. This, together with a 14.1” TFT XGA display gives you clear and crisp images. It supports a maximum resolution of 1,024×768 with 16 million colors, which is perfect for this screen size. You can increase the resolution further but the display goes off the screen, making it useless. An ESS Maestro audio chip, together with two built-in speakers on both sides, provides the sound. If you’re a music lover, you can opt for external Harman/Kardon speakers. It has two audio jacks for headphones (can be used as line out also) and a microphone.


Price: Rs 135,370 (Prices subject to revision by the end of June 2001)
Features: PIII/850 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 14.1” TFT screen, 8x DVD drive, 10 GB hard drive, ATI 
RAGE Mobility with 8 MB SGRAM, Windows Me
Pros: Attractive price tag, good performance
Cons: A little heavy
Contact: Dell India. 
Tel: 080-5586110 
Fax: 080-5586107 
Toll free number: 1-600-338-0400. 
4th Floor (west wing) 
26-27 Raheja Towers
MG Road
Bangalore 560001.  

The notebook not only has a connector for monitors, but also an S-Video out so you can get the display on a TV. Other standard ports include serial, parallel, USB, PS/2 and an infrared port for wireless devices. Unfortunately, the model we got did not have a modem or network port. You’ll have to shell out extra for these. It has two PCMCIA slots for adding these or other devices to the notebook. 

Working on the notebook is comfortable as you have plenty of space for resting your hands. It has both a touch pad and a track ball, so you can use the one you are more comfortable with. One disadvantage of the Inspiron is its weight. With the DVD drive installed, the notebook weighed around 2.8 kg. When we weighed it with the power supply and the floppy drive the weight went up to 3.6 kg. You’ll probably go in for a notebook bag that weighs around 2 kg, bringing the grand total to 5.6 kg. So it isn’t exactly the lightest notebook around. 


Moving on to performance, we found that the notebook performed well and passed all our performance tests with flying colors.

Since the notebook came pre-installed with Windows Me, we tested it with this OS. To test its battery life, we ran BatteryMark 4.0, which simulates a typical working environment and notes the time for the battery to drain out completely. We did this test with Speed Step disabled to make sure the processor was running at full speed. The notebook managed to last for just over three hours, which is very good. While recharging, the notebook took nearly two-and-a-half hours to charge fully. This is average, considering the best charging time we’ve got so far was an hour and 46 minutes for the Dell Latitude CPx reviewed in our notebooks’ shootout in November 2000 (see Dell Latitude CPx, page 127). 

Next we ran 3DMark Max 99, which tests the overall graphics performance of the system and gives an overall score. It managed to get a score of 4,042, which is excellent. To put this in perspective, the IBM T20, which was a winner in our November 2000 notebooks’ shootout, got a score of 2,599, which was the best amongst notebooks tested then (see IBM T20, page 126, PCQuest November 2000). The IBM, however, was running Win 98 and had a PIII/700 MHz. Coming back to the Inspiron, in Videomark2000 also the notebook got a very good score of 2,483. Finally we ran Businness Winstone 2001 to test for overall performance of the system while running productivity applications such as MS Office, Netscape Navigator, etc. Here it got a score of 21.1, which is the kind of score you would get in a PC of similar specs. So you don’t have to sacrifice on performance, even when working on a notebook. 

The Inspiron comes with a video cassette to help you with its setup, although a VCD might have been a better media for this. We also got several software with the notebook, including Norton AntiVirus 2001, WinDVD, and MS Works Suite 2000. Apart from this it also had two CDs containing the OS and the Inspiron system software in case your notebook crashes. A price tag of just Rs 135,370 for this configuration makes this notebook an attractive purchase considering its performance and features. 

Sachin Makhija at PCQ Labs

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