The New Dell Notebook Hits the Sweet Spot
A throwback to designer notebooks by Apple and IBM, Dell's new Inspiron 5100 comes with a variety of snap-on colors, but is it worth your green?Notebooks below $1,000 may grab your attention, but features can get a bit light. If youre willing to let the price float up a few hundred dollars, youll get far more for your money. With the Dell Inspiron 5100 desktop replacement notebook ($1,456 direct, as tested), for instance, you get productivity software, decent multimedia abilities, and surprisingly good battery life. Our unit had a fair-to-good feature set, but included nothing that would push the price anywhere near $2,000. Thus the system came with a 2.4-GHz Pentium 4the slowest of four processors Dell offers, but still adequateand 256MB of RAM. The monitor was the midlevel Inspiron offering, 15 inches instead of 14, and XGA not SXGA+. All laptops in the 5100 line have a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, and an S-Video output for a TV set. Ours included 802.11b wireless Ethernet in addition to standard wired Ethernet and a modem, a fixed DVD/CD-RW drive, and a 16MB USB memory key instead of a floppy disk drive.
Theres a lot of real estate for showing off the striking finish, done in what Dell calls Moonlight Silver accented by Venice Blue. The system measures 1.8 by 13.1 by 10.8 inches (HWD), has a system weight of 8.2 pounds, and a travel weight with the transformer of 9.5 poundshefty even by desktop replacement standards. Some of the bulk comes from the 12-cell, 1.4-pound lithium ion battery; most batteries are 0.9 to 1.1 pounds. Nevertheless, the charge lasted 3 hours 41 minutes on our Business Winstone BatteryMark 2002 testcompeting systems are hard-pressed to break 2:30. The 21.4 on Business Winstone 2002 and 29.2 on Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2003 are in line with what wed expect from a 2.4-GHz P4 processor and about four-fifths of the scores newer Pentium M (Centrino) CPUs deliver.