Dell Inspiron 9400 review
Dell's Inspiron 9400 notebook is aimed at the home entertainment market.
The first thing that strikes you about it is the excellent screen, which is particularly important for an entertainment PC. It displays crisp text, bright whites and smoothly graduated colours.
The 17" screen has a massive 1,920x1,200 resolution, which is high enough to display 1080p High Definition video. There's little HD content available now, but it's good to know that in the future you won't need an external monitor to do it justice. The large display area and high resolution are also ideal for working on complicated applications, with enough desktop space to display multiple windows and toolbars side by side.
Like nearly all notebook speakers, the 9400's lack bass, but they're bright and clear, with plenty of volume and no obvious distortion. We were disappointed to find no S/PDIF audio output, though, as the combined headphone and line-out socket won't let you connect surround-sound speakers. However, there are six USB2 ports, one FireWire and one DVI port and a memory card reader with support for SD, MMC, MS and xD formats.
The 9400 has a fast Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 1GB of RAM. It performed well in our benchmarks, including processor-intensive video-editing tasks. The Nvidia GeForce Go 7900 chipset was particularly impressive. It managed a blistering score in our Doom 3 notebook test, so we gave it a more taxing workout with our desktop Call of Duty 2 benchmark. It managed a playable 27.7fps, which is faster than many desktop graphics cards.
This notebook comes with Windows XP Media Center Edition. Dell supplies a Media Center remote control but no TV tuner as standard. You can buy a USB tuner for as little as ?7, which would let you take advantage of Media Center's great electronic programme guide (EPG).
For a notebook with such a large screen, the 9400's three-hour battery life is respectable. It's fine for a spot of computing in the garden or on the sofa, but the notebook's size and weight make it an impractical travelling companion. While you may like to use a mouse with a desktop replacement notebook, this PC's touch pad is accurate so it isn't a necessity. Its keyboard could be a little firmer, however.
The Inspiron 9400 is keenly priced given its high specification and performance, so it's a good deal for anyone who needs a portable gaming computer. Its stunning screen helps to make it a good media PC, but the lack of other entertainment features such as an S/PDIF output and TV tuner means it isn't perfect, and it just misses out on an award.