3.0 star rating

Dell Inspiron 1501 Review

Pros: Strong wireless performance; Solid battery life; Nicely designed touchpad
Cons: Lacks multimedia controls; Substandard dual-core multitasking power
The Verdict: Dell's first AMD machine dives into the budget pool with a starting price of $549.



When we last reviewed the Dell Inspiron E1505, the notebook's rich multimedia features, wireless performance, and strong battery life garnered it an Editors' Choice award. Now, Dell follows up the E1505 with the 1501 ($844, as tested here), a low-priced alternative and the first Dell machine to house an AMD processor. It's also Vista capable and Premium ready--something you're not going to find with run-of-the-mill value notebooks. The 1501 gives you solid performance at a decent price, but what you gain in savings you lose in functionality.
In terms of design, the 1501 is identical to the E1505. Both measure 14 x 10.4 x 1.4 inches and have speakers integrated into the front bezel, air vents flanking the left and right sides of the chassis, large touchpads with built-in scroll areas (that make for easy Web page navigation), 80GB hard drives, and non-offensive, silver-and-white color schemes. Although the 1501 weighs slightly less (6.4 pounds vs. 6.2 pounds), the lack of dedicated CD/DVD controls is a glaring omission, even in a budget mainstream machine. When we wanted to raise or lower the volume of a DVD or skip chapters, we had to use the software's far less intuitive controls.
The 15.4-inch widescreen produced strong colors when playing a DVD, but the viewing angles were tight on our TrueLife anti-glare display. Staying centered in front of the screen is the only way to truly enjoy the visuals, so watching a movie with a friend may be out of the question.
With the 1.79-GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Dual-Core TL-56 processor powering the machine, the 1501 churned out a MobileMark 2005 score of 196-only four points lower than the E1505's ho-hum results. We tested the machine's multitasking mettle by simultaneously running a virus scan and playing a DVD, and the E501 experienced occasional stuttering, which we attribute to the low-end AMD processor. The ATI Radeon Xpress 1150 chipset with 256MB of shared memory produced a meager 3DMark03 score of 1465, which makes the 1501 less than ideal if you wish to engage in graphics-intensive activities.
The 1501 came configured with a six-cell battery, which enabled us to go unplugged for a solid 3 hours and 16 minutes of life with Wi-Fi on, and an additional two minutes with the wireless connection off. Wireless throughput measured a robust 12.6 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point, and 13.2 Mbps from 50. This is a slight improvement over the E1505's measurements of 12 Mbps and 9.9 Mbps from the same distances.
Despite the missing multimedia controls, the 1501 offers plenty of other ports and jacks: four USB, VGA, headphone and microphone jacks, and a 3-in-1 memory card reader. This is a step down from the E1505, which featured all of those connections plus S-Video, FireWire, a 5-in-1 card reader, and optional Bluetooth. You'll also find an ExpressCard slot, but nothing for a PC Card.
The 1501 comes preinstalled with XP Media Center 2005 for convenient organization and access to photos, music, and video. It comes with Dell's Entertainment Pack for digital music, photos, and games, as well as Adobe Acrobat, Sonic, Cyberlink, Microsoft Works 8, and a six-month trial version of America Online. Unlike the Dell E1505, the 1501 cannot connect to a TV tuner, and it lacks Dell Media Direct, which means that you have to boot into Windows to access media.
Although the Dell Inspiron 1501 demonstrated stronger wireless performance than the Dell Inspiron E1505 and has a lower price point, we can't recommend the notebook over its far more functional predecessor. If you're looking for a decent machine that won't break the bank, it's worth a look. Just remember, you get exactly what you pay for.

Tags: Dell Inspiron 1501, notebooks, reviews, laptops

Technical Specifications
Dell Inspiron 1501

The central processor unit, or CPU, is the brain of your notebook.
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1.79-GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Dual-Core TL-56
Operating SystemMS Windows XP Media Center
The amount of memory our reviewed configuration comes with.
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The maximum amount of memory this notebook supports.
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RAM Upgradable to
Amount of data your storage drive can hold.
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Hard Drive Size
The rotation speed of a mechanical hard drive.
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Hard Drive Speed
Your notebook display is the primary viewing device for your laptop computer.
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Display Size
The number of pxiels (wxh) displayed on your screen at once.
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Native Resolution
An optical drive allows you to play or record to DVDs, CDs, or Blu-ray discs.
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Optical Drive
CD Burner/DVD Combo Drive
The speed of the optical drive.
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Optical Drive Speed
Graphics chips are responsible for processing all images sent to your computer’s display.
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Graphics Card
ATI Radeon Xpress 1150
The amount of memory available for graphics processing.
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Video Memory
Wi-Fi connects you to a router or hotspot for wireless Internet access.
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Ports allow you to connect to external devices such as monitors, printers, MP3 players, and hard drivse.
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Ports (excluding USB)
Headphone; Microphone; VGA
USB ports allow you to connect many external devices, from MP3 players to external hard drives.
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USB Ports
Card readers allow you to plug memory and expansion cards directly into a notebook.
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Card Slots
3-1 card reader; ExpressCard
Warranty/SupportOne-year/mail-in service, hardware warranty support, lifetime 24/7 toll-free
Size14 x 10.4 x 1.4 inches
Weight6.4 pounds
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