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Dell Inspiron 9400 review

Verdict:

Review Date: 27 Apr 2006

Price when reviewed: inc VAT

Reviewed By: Seth Barton

Our Rating 3 stars out of 5

Dell's desktop-replacement Inspiron 9400 is not the prettiest notebook. The sheer girth of its chassis detracts from the styling, although the white trim will blend in with any iPod-style accessories you may have.

The chassis is fitted with an excellent array of ports. There are six USB2 ports, which is the most we've ever seen on a notebook. It also has a card reader that supports SD, MMC, MS and xD formats. Seven short-cut buttons on the front of the chassis control audio and video playback.

Windows Media Center Edition is installed as standard, so you can take advantage of easy access to your audio, photo and video files. You could even add a compatible USB TV tuner and turn the computer into a personal video recorder (PVR).

The 17" widescreen display is bright and displayed very smooth greyscales in our image tests. Unusually for an entertainment PC, the screen doesn't have a gloss finish to increase contrast and improve blacks. Its anti-glare coating isn't essential for use around the home and leaves the screen looking grainy. What's more, it has a distinctly red hue, so colour-sensitive work is out. It's a disappointing screen, especially for a Media Center notebook.

Sound is far better, though, and the speakers built into the front of the chassis produce some very respectable and loud audio. They are fine for watching TV and listening to music, although you may want something with more bass for action movies.

The keyboard has a fair amount of travel, but the keys aren't firm enough, so typing soon becomes tiring. The keyboard is a decent size, though, and allows for full-size keys. The touch pad is accurate and has convenient scroll bars on the side and bottom. The buttons below have a bit too much travel, but you get used to them.

3D graphics power from Intel's GMA 950 chipset is minimal and will cope with older games only. Application performance is far more impressive, though. The Intel Core Duo T2600 runs at a speedy 2.16GHz and, paired with 1GB of RAM, it managed a stunning Shopper benchmark score. It's the fastest notebook we've seen so far, which is not surprising as this is the first time we've come across Intel's fastest Core Duo processor. However, this processor adds a hefty premium to the price, and we feel a T2400 or T2300 processor would have been more cost-effective.

Dell includes a three-year warranty with this model, which will provide plenty of peace of mind, particularly to novice users. This Inspiron 9400 is a very fast notebook, but its display and keyboard let it down, so we can't recommend it.

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