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Dell Inspiron 9400 review

A powerful dual-core laptop, but multimedia is a mixed bag

Our Verdict

There are more powerful laptops with better multimedia support but the Dell offers outstanding usability and connectivity

For

  • 17in screen

    Performance

    Powerful dual core laptop

    Battery life

Against

  • Weight

    Multimedia ability

As Intel continues to phase-out its singlecore Pentium M processors in favour of the Core Duo mobile range, Dell now takes its turn to join the dual-core laptop market in the form of the Dell Inspiron 9400 (£1549 inc. VAT). Designed in the now familiar silver and white colour scheme of Dell's Inspiron range, the 9400 is built primarily for desktop use.

Measuring 394 x 281 x 46mm, the chassis weighs 3.5kg and won't suit any degree of long-term mobility. Compensating for this are its 17-inch screen and powerful performance. Despite shipping with a standard TFT screen, the sharp WXGA resolution provides decent images. A high-resolution WUXGA Super- TFT can be added at purchase for £94 (inc. VAT) to further improve quality.

Although a larger keyboard could have been fitted to the chassis, the usability of the Dell is excellent. Strong and responsive keys allow for comfortable typing at all times, and the 74 x 42mm touchpad mirrors the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio of the TFT display.

Powered by an Intel Core Duo T2500 processor running at 2GHz, a gigabyte of DDR2 memory is in support. Generous storage space is provided by a 100GB hard drive, and its 5400rpm rotational speed allows data to be quickly accessed. Scoring 261 points from MobileMark tests the Dell provides excellent home performance.

While more powerful dualcore laptops can be bought, the Dell remains at the top end of current mobile ability. This is supported in no small part by an excellent battery life. Sold with a 9-cell extended battery as standard, the Dell was able to run for a huge 295 minutes under test conditions.

Surprising for such a powerful laptop is its lack of multimedia ability. While the 1611 points scored from 3DMark 2003 is sufficient for its integrated Intel 945GM chipset, high-powered 3D gaming isn't possible. However, users will be able to watch DVDs.

Improving usability is the inclusion of comprehensive high-speed networks and peripheral compatibility. Wi-Fi networks can be set up at home or abroad via 802.11a/b/g connections and home networks can be connected at Gigabit speed.

For connecting external peripherals, six USB 2.0 ports accompany a single mini-Firewire option. Built-in Bluetooth technology allows users to set up wireless peripheral connections over short distances, which is ideal for wirelessly connecting keyboards or printers.

While more powerful laptops can be bought that provide stronger performance and greater multimedia capability, the usability and outstanding connectivity of the Dell Inspiron 9400 makes it a promising entry into the dual-core market and worthy of a test run.