If you're on the hunt for a notebook that offers multimedia functionality without the usual multimedia premium, the Dell E1505 (or the 14-inch E1405)may be just what you're looking for. This notebook's dual-layer DVD burner, playback controls, and Windows XP Media Center OS make it a highly attractive, feature-rich package for students or cash-strapped professionals.
Weighing in at a relatively hefty 6.8 pounds and measuring 1.4 inches thick, the E1505 sports a roomy full-sized keyboard that makes prolonged typing comfortable. Air vents flank the left and right sides of the chassis for keeping the machine cool during extended use. The large touchpad with built-in horizontal and vertical scroll areas make navigating Web pages a breeze. Beneath the touchpad, embedded in the bezel, are DVD/CD controls that illuminate when pressed.
The 15.4-inch UltraSharp widescreen display delivered strong colors when watching DVDs, even from a variety of angles. The speakers, which are located on either side of the playback controls, produced surprisingly good sound, even though the bass was a bit weak. This configuration has an 80GB hard drive for storing your digital music collection, along with gobs of photos and videos.
Powered by a 1.66-GHz Intel Core Duo processor, the E1505 turned in a MobileMark 2005 score of 204, which is decent but a bit below average for a mainstream notebook. However, the CPU managed well under multitasking pressure; we performed two system-taxing activities-watching a DVD while running a virus scan-and the Dell breezed through our test.
The ATI Mobility Radeon X1300 graphics included in this configuration flexes more muscle than Intel's integrated graphics, but not much more. This system notched a respectable 3DMark03 score of 2,350 and managed to run F.E.A.R. at 80 fps using the autodetect settings (640 x 480-pixel resolution). However, when we bumped the resolution up to 1024 x 768, the frame rate dropped to an unplayable 7 fps.
Also included in this configuration is a nine-cell battery, which lasted a very good 5 hours and 4 minutes with Wi-Fi on and an additional three minutes with the wireless connection off. We got a healthy average throughput of 12 Mbps from 15 feet and 9.9 Mbps from 50. If you want to add mobile broadband capability, you're limited to Dell's expensive EV-DO Express Card, since this notebook doesn't have a PC Card slot.
Preinstalled software includes Corel Photo Center and Windows Digital Media Enhancements, which includes Windows Party Mode, a full-screen skin that transforms your computer into a jukebox. Dell MediaDirect allows users to access movies, music, photos, and video without needing to boot into Windows. If you want a TV tuner to complete the multimedia experience, you'll need to fork over an additional $130, which also gets you a remote control.
Connectivity options abound: four USB ports, S-Video, FireWire, a 5-in-1 media card reader, and a VGA connection are available for attaching peripherals. The E1505 also features optional Bluetooth ($49) for syncing with certain phones and for pairing a wireless headset with the notebook for making Skype calls.
Although the design is starting to show its age, the Dell E1505 is a solid investment for those looking for a dual-core system that knows how to have some fun.
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Update:Dell Inspiron E1505 (dual-core)