Dell Inspiron 2650
When it's sunny, we'd all like to take our work to the park and bask in the sun as we type.
The problem is, many of us need the power and all the peripherals of a modern desktop PC. We need CDs (even DVDs), speed, power, a good screen and a comfortable keyboard. But wait: the new Dell Inspiron has all of these. So, boss and weather permitting, maybe you could be soaking up some rays after all.
The notebook's first striking feature is its weight: over 3.5kg. On the bright side, there is a good reason for this, as it's absolutely chock-a-block with features. The hard drive has 26Gb of free space - plenty of room for you to save MP3s, cartoons, funny pictures, or even some work. More importantly, this also leaves lots of room to install any software you want. Once it's installed you'll want enough RAM to run it without the PC having to crunch away at the hard disk every few seconds. Happily, the 256Mb installed is more than enough to cope. That's pretty impressive when you think that this is one of Dell's cheaper mobile PCs.
There are more pleasant surprises. Dell has also thrown in a combo CD burner-cum-DVD drive as well as a 10/100 network adapter. These goodies are hard to beat for the money.
A cracking set of features isn't all the 2650 has to offer, though. As well as packing some pretty impressive tackle for budget laptop it also has a kick that would make a mule proud. This is not just down to the 1.6GHz Pentium 4 processor, but the nVidia GeForce2 Go graphics chip, too. The GeForce2 Go was the very first mobile graphics chip from nVidia designed to let you play 3D games on your laptop with the kind of quality you'd expect from a desktop PC. If GeForce2 Go had been released when it was supposed to be, it would have been truly groundbreaking. But alas, it was late getting off the ground and ended up being well and truly overtaken by the GeForce4 Go. Don't let that put you off this little baby, though. If you want a laptop with a GeForce4 Go you'll pay over a grand more than you will for this system. And while the older graphics chip isn't as powerful as the new one, it's still miles better than the average laptop's, letting you play 3D games at fairly respectable frame rates.
So, great features, great performance - but what is it actually like to use? Well, on the whole, really good. I couldn't find any dead pixels on the screen, which was visible from pretty much any angle. The trackpad was sensitive enough to be accurate, but not over-sensitive, and not too close to the space bar either, so you're not constantly hitting one when you want the other. The perfect placing of the space bar aside, though, it's when you get to the keyboard that things start going a bit pear-shaped. The individual keys are very low-profile with little travel, even more so than on other notebooks. Taken together with the very compact layout, this makes it far too easy to hit the wrong key. It's also pretty uncomfortable to type on after a while - not a good thing if you're using this system for work.
When it comes to portability, we've already mentioned the weight, which, quite literally, gets you down if you're on the go for a long time. On the other hand, battery life, at one hour and forty eight minutes, is actually pretty good. What's more, this is actually our notoriously pessimistic estimate of how long a notebook's battery will run. Our tests are tough, bypassing any possible power-saving measures. If you're not playing heavy duty games or burning CDs you've got a good chance of getting over two hours out of this PC.