Dell must know that it’s on to a good thing with its Inspiron 5000 series notebook, since it improves the specification in various ways but doesn’t change the design. This is what’s happened with the latest version, which now features a punchy Pentium III/750MHz SpeedStep processor and a vast IBM Travelstar hard disk capable of holding 30GB of data.
The most obvious enhancement, however, is the screen, which has had its resolution boosted up from the usual 1024 x 768 XGA to an impressive 1400 x 1050, bettering the usable performance range of most desktop CRTs.
The Inspiron is best viewed as a desktop replacement rather than a full-time travelling companion, since it’s a fairly large machine and it weighs a noticeable 3.6kg. The build is solid throughout, including a moderately pressure-resistant screen lid to protect the delicate panel during transport, although we’d still have preferred magnesium alloy to plastic here.
The three-spindle design is also modular, and you can swap the existing 8-speed Toshiba DVD-ROM drive for a CD-RW or an LS-120, or if running time is the key issue, a second battery pack.
The Inspiron is well supplied with ports, including the essential connector for a port replicator or docking station, plus USB and a video output for use with a TV set. It comes as standard with an internal V.90 modem based on the popular Lucent chipset, and Dell sweetens the deal with a copy of Works Suite 2000, so you could treat this notebook as a ready-to-go home office in a box.
This notebook benefits greatly from a sensibly designed keyboard which is both a decent size and has large keys where you want them, notably for functions like Enter, Shift, Backspace and Tab. This means that you can do real work on the Inspiron, which is a serious consideration if it’s to be bought as an alternative to a desktop PC.
The very high resolution of the screen means that text and icons are quite small on the 15-inch panel, but not so small as to be a problem to most users. The increased workspace is a definite advantage over XGA screens, and it looks likely that higher resolution panels will quickly become standard on large, high-end portables like this.
Performance is impressive, and helped by the fact that Dell provides 128MB of memory as standard, so your 2D and business apps will fly. But as ever, 3D performance from the 16MB ATI Rage Mobility-128 graphics chipset is a long way short of desktop levels, and you still can’t really use even this notebook as a games platform.
Battery life is about three hours in normal use, which is fine for a brute like this, especially since it’s probably not going to be used on the move all that often as it’s rather hefty to be carrying around regularly.
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