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6 October 2010
After my previous laptop (HP DV6200 ) ended up as a giant paperweight I've now bought a new Dell Laptop. I wasn't sure about buying a dell after my previous bad experience with the Dell delivery and helpdesk, but this laptop was the best I could find for the budget available. Fortunately it arrived quickly with no problems this time.
I've only had the laptop a few hours so this review is based on first impression with the laptop.
One of the reasons for choosing this laptop was that it includes the new Intel i3 processor which is replacing the previous generation of laptop processors. In the past I've gone for AMD processors, but for now Intel does appear to have the edge on performance and value. I expect AMD will overtake again in future, but for now I went for Intel.
This laptop also includes a dedicated ATI graphics processor rather than the on-board graphics on most laptops. In the past I have always bought computers with dedicated graphics, mainly to help with performance when video editing. Dedicated graphics do add a lot to the cost of the laptop and as the processing capacity of laptops is now so fast so I think I could have managed without the dedicated graphics processor. This laptop cost £70 more than a similar laptop with on-board graphics, but it also had a bigger hard disk and more memory which tipped the scale in favour of the more expensive laptop.
This is one of the cheapest laptops to include both the i3 processor and dedicated graphics which was the main reason for choosing this laptop.
The laptop has a screen size of 15.6" which is slightly bigger than my previous laptop, but feels a lot bigger. Dell have managed to fit this into a laptop that is only a tiny bit bigger than the HP laptop.
The bigger difference is in the keyboard as the Dell has managed to fit a full keyboard with numeric keypad which occupies virtually the full width of the laptop, whereas on my previous laptop there was no numeric keypad and a large boarder around the keyboard. The keys don't feel as well shaped as on the HP which feels a little difficult when touch-typing, but I expect it's something that I'll get used to after a bit of use.
Unfortunately the Dell does not have any of the backlit multi-media keys across the top of the keyboard instead using the function key with the Fx keys on the keyboard.
There are the usual VGA and audio ports with an HDMI port for connecting to a HD ready TV. There are 3 USB2 ports and one shared eSATA/USB port. There is also a SD card port.
There is also 100M Ethernet network port as well as Wifi wireless and bluetooth.
There is no PCMCIA / PC Card or ExpressCard slot. These provide a means to add additional connections and are mainly used to provide additional connectivity in the form of USB / Firewire or networking. I suspect most people do not use these slots when installed, but I have used them on older laptops where they have been very useful.
There is no Firewire (iLink / IEEE 1394) port. Firewire was a popular way to connect to camcorders in the past, but has been dropped in favour of USB 2. My recent camcorder has USB 2 connections, but I also have an older camcorder which is Firewire based with a lot of old videos. Unfortunately with no Firewire or PC Card / Express Card slot there is no way of connecting my older camcorder to the laptop.
The laptop came with Windows 7 64bit pre-installed. This appears to be much faster than Windows Vista, but then that's not saying much as Windows Vista was incredibly slow and the processing power of this laptop should be quite capable running everything I've tried so far.
The Windows Experience Index score is 5.9 with the RAM, graphics card and hard disk transfer rate all having 5.9 subscore.
There are no Windows recovery disks supplied, but the Dell DataSafe application can be used to create recovery disks.
Unfortunately like Vista it still doesn't run some of the software that I had bought for Windows XP, but I expect to be mainly running Linux anyway.
I installed Kubuntu 10.10 linux onto the laptop. The final release is not due to be released for a few days so I used the Release Client version. The install went straight forward. There was only one issue in that the HDMI driver was selected as the default audio rather than the internal audio driver. This was easily changed and will hopefully be fixed by the time the final version is available this weekend.
So far I'm pretty impressed with the laptop. The only disappointment so far is the lack of Firewire or card expansion to allow a Firewire adapter to be installed. Fortunately I have a desktop machine (although very old) that can be used to capture the video then transfer it to the laptop.
I haven't really given it anything demanding to do yet, but I'm confident that it's going to be up to most tasks.