If you don't want your budget notebook to look like one, the Dell Inspiron E1505 is for you. Silver and black with white edging, the design is retro-future chic. And with its blazing performance, there's a lot to like about this multimedia powerhouse.
The centerpiece of the nearly seven-pound unit is a gorgeous 15.4-inch glossy widescreen that delivered rich colors and nearly blur-free images during DVD playback. Add impressive sound quality from the built-in speakers and you'll be putting the included Media Center Edition OS (which is upgradable to Windows Vista Home Premium for free) to good use for music, photos, and imported video. There's also a multiformat DVD burner, so the only item on our multimedia wish list is an external TV tuner and remote for using the 80GB hard drive as a DVR (an $84 upgrade).
Dell MediaDirect enables E1505 owners to play multimedia files without booting into the OS. The Instant Office feature includes viewers for PowerPoint, Outlook, and Outlook Express that let you see a presentation or check your calendar or contacts without starting Windows. The screen's 1280 x 800-pixel resolution will disappoint those who prefer a high-res panel, but we found working on it very easy on the eyes, and we didn't have to strain to read smaller text.
The big screen allows room for a full-sized keyboard that was comfortable and quiet (no cost-cutting here). We also appreciate the oversized, near-silent mouse buttons that accompany the scroll-equipped touchpad. Handy multimedia control buttons are located on the E1505's front edge, and the usual ports, including a 5-in-1 memory card reader are spread around the other edges.
Dell includes a 15-month antivirus subscription in the price, as well as its own QuickSet utility for accessing Wi-Fi, hotkey, display, and power-management options. The E1505 is also configured with PC Restore preloaded on the hard drive.
Performance from the 1.6-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5500 CPU is good choice for a budget mainstream portable and performed thevery well onfive of the seven tests, with a score of 231 on MobileMark 2005. Battery life, at 4 hours and 51 minutes, is excellent for a mainstream notebook. The 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1300 graphics engine means you can even play 3D games. The E1505 delivered 85 fps on F.E.A.R., using autodetect settings. Although that was at lower resolution and with some eye-candy turned off, it's more than we expected from a notebook in this price class.
The Dell Inspiron E1505 is truly a dual-core bargain, delivering a very satisfying multimedia experience at a very good price.
Don't miss our comparison product roundup: Dual Core Notebooks Under $1000.