As few might be knowing I’ve purchased a Dell Inspiron 1520. Here’s a short review on it.
- Processor: Intel Core2Duo T5250 @ 1.5 GHz, 2 MB L2 Cache
- Main memory: 2x1GB DDR2 667 MHz Dual Channel mode
- HDD: Fujitsu MHW2160BH 160GB SATA
- DVD-RW: TSSTcorp DVD+/-RW TS-L632H 8X
- Sound Card: Intel HDA ICH8(82801)
- Graphics Card: nvidia 8600m GT with 256MB RAM
- NIC: BroadCom BCM4401 100
- WiFi: Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG
- Bluetooth: BroadCom BCM2045
- System Chipset: Intel GM965
- Expansion & Misc ports: 4xUSB, 1xIEEE1394, 1xRJ-45, 1xRJ-11, 1xVGA Out, 2xExpressCard 54, 1xHeadphone out, 1xMicrophone In, 1xMedia Card reader(SD/MMC/MS Pro).
The packaging was really good, the laptop came in a Knee-length box with protective thermocol covering above and below the laptop. The box size really surprised me, and others too! People kept asking me if it’s a desktop, and were unwilling to believe that it’s a laptop! The box comes with Windows XP SP2Re-install CD, a Drivers and Utilities DVD, Dell MediaDirect Re-installation CD, Roxio Creator and MyDVD 9.0 DE CD, Dell Webcam Manager Installation CD.
The box also contains a Quick Setup Reference Guide, Dell MediaDirect installation manual, CompleteCover agreement booklet, and a rather thick 220 page Owner’s Manual. In addition, a pair of Creative’s Noise Isolation earphones(ie, in-ear canal ones), Dell MediaDirect remote, S-Video out cable(I’d ordered this) and of course, AC adapter.
Looks & Weight:
The Dell Inspiron really good, the RubyRed colour had a smooth satin finish. The insides was a matte-silver finish, which looks great but can be dirty real quick, especially at the touchpad and buttons area. The Inspiron isn’t light though, weighs in about 2 and a half kilos, maybe slightly more. The indication LEDs for NumLock, CapsLock, HDD access, power, WiFi and Bluetooth and the MediaDirect keys all are Blue in colour and they look awesome at dark. The keyboard isn’t illuminated though and may cause a bit of problems if you work or play late night and your room-mate does like to sleep with lights on(my case) But overall the looks are fantastic!
Under Windows all the hardware worked great. On the left side there’s a switch, initially I thought I could use it to switch off WiFi and Bluetooth. However on sliding the switch Dell Network Catcher pops up, and allows you to choose any available networks (atleast that’s what I believe, I couldn’t check it). Sadly though, WiFi and Bluetooth can be switched off only through software.
Under Linux (I used openSUSE 10.3), All the components were detected and are working flawlessly out-of-the-box, including WiFi(though I’ve to admit, WiFi’s based on Intel 3945 chipset, and they are available of SourceForge, but the firmware drivers for this was provided on the openSUSE DVD). The Broadcom NIC, Bluetooth module, the inbuilt soundcard, nvidia’s 8600m GT were all detected. Even better is that the array of buttons near the laptop edge which control volume control, Forward/Next, Mute work, although only Volume Control and Mute work, that’s good enough for me as I’ve configure global shortcuts in Amarok for playback control. There’s a separate process running “dell-keys” which control the Volume Control and Mute keys. I was again surprised to see this, even under Windows only the Volume control and Mute keys work, that too some times they have a mind of their own, working sometimes, at times not responding at all. The rest of the keys are I guess for media direct. The integrated webcam also works great! The touchpad can be oversensitive at times, under both Linux and Windows, causing a bit of aggravation. Under Windows it’s recommended to Disable the “Tap to click” option, else you’ll have a lot of accidental clicks being registered.
Performance & Battery Life:
The initial performance wasn’t good. Although games would run smoothly, playing movies and even mp3s would result in stutters in between. The first boot was manageable, the second and subsequent boots were pathetically slow, taking over 2 minutes! Upon investigation choices in BIOS, I found that the SATA mode was set to ATA, instead of AHCI mode. Switching over to AHCI mode resulted in a tremendous boost in performance. The bootups were much faster and the stuttering problems vanished. I can’t understand as to why Dell have set the SATA mode. Me being technically inclined, I checked out the BIOS options and was able to figure it out. What would an ordinary user do? The person would definitely be flabbergasted with the slow bootup! I seriously hope that this was an isolated event. Otherwise the Inspiron is a fast performer.
I tried out Oblivion at my Laptop’s native resolution of 1280×800, and the nVidia 8600m GT performs great, giving about 50 fps indoors with all details set to Max, 4xAF and HDR Enabled, and about 25 fps Outdoors. I also tried out Carbon(for lack of any other games), Carbon didnt support any resolution above 1024×768, so I tried it with all details set to max, 4xAA, 4aAF and again everything was really smooth, no hiccups anywhere. I’ll update the status once I get my hands on ProStreet.
The LCD has a native resolution of 1280×800, the viewing angles are pretty good, as long as colour is being displayed. For scenes containing lot of dark images, the viewing angle can cause a bit of problem.
Sound Quality from the inbuilt speakers is top-notch, it’s a bit light on bass but mids and highs performed really well, and is really loud, with no distortion even at max volume. The bundled Earphones are also very good, except for the really annoying hissing sound when nothing is being played. Otherwise it’s just great.
Battery wise, I’d opted for a 9-cell battery, and both under Windows as well as Linux, battery easily lasts for about 3 hours 15 minutes, for normal Wordprocessing, Web browsing and media playback, though under Linux batteries tend to last for about 15-20 minutes more, under the same set of tasks. Switching off nVidia’s PowerMizer and running games resulted in battery backup of about 2 and half hours.
The Inspiron is a great VFM laptop. It looks great, performs excellently Although it’s bulky, it’s an ideal desktop replacement, especially if you dont have space for a desktop.
Great sound quality, excellent screen, fantastic looks, good performance
Oversensitive touchpad, a bit bulky, S-Video out cable length is shorter than your palm, SATA mode set to ATA instead of AHCI resulting in extremely long boot up time
Some screenshots(please pardon the poor quality of images, VGA Cam :| )