Dell Inspiron 6400 Review (Canada)
The Dell Inspiron 6400 (also sold as the Inspiron e1505 via Dell Home) is a laptop that meets you in the middle'. It's pretty light and portable (like the Inspiron e1405) and offers high performance and great media options (like the Inspiron e1705). Basically, you get the best of both worlds, at a reasonable price. Before we begin reviewing anything, here are the specs of my system:
Reasons for Buying
The Dell Inspiron 6400 really interested me because it had everything I needed for the price that I wanted. It's small and light enough to carry (even with the 9-cell) and is powerful enough for my needs. I chose Dell because of their quality, in my mind. I've only bought one Desktop, the Dell Dimension 8200. 6 years later, it's still running incredibly well with Windows XP (designed for Windows ME). Anyways, I was confident that the laptop I was about to purchase will last me a long time, and I have plenty reasons.
Where & How it Was Purchased
I ordered my laptop on Dell's Canadian website. I found that the site was fairly easy to navigate and didn't get lost too often. Dell's main advantage over their competitors is that laptops they sell are always highly configurable. Unfortunately, I had some credit card problems that were beyond my control, so my order was delayed. The sales representative was very polite and assisted me throughout the process. I got my laptop in 15 days. It would normally take about 10 days. Overall, I was pleased with the order process and order tracking is very helpful.
Build & Design
The Inspiron 6400 feels very sturdy. It doesn't feel flimsy, and doesn't look like things are going to get loose anytime soon. Opening and closing of the screen is not too loose or too tight. One hand is sufficient enough to move the screen, provided the notebook itself on a stable surface.
The notebook design itself is slightly above average. The silver paint looks very appealing, but not when combined with the white bumpers. I didn't really like the bumpers, but I guess it looks decent. Overall this laptop can't compare to the XPS series, but its design is good enough to catch some eyes.
I chose the lowest option, and I am still very impressed. The 15.4" monitor is great for playing games and watching movies. The wide-screen is very nice and is everything that I expected. The screen is good enough so people can gather around and watch a movie with no problems. Something to watch out for is fingerprints. They drive me up the wall so keeping it clean is definitely a priority.
I have noticed some light leakage at the bottom. As you can see in the screenshot below, its noticeable. It doesn't bother me too much because I plan to use this laptop for University so it isn't much of a problem.
Speakers & Sound Quality
I was very surprised with the quality of the sound and the loudness of the speakers. If you are not a professional DJ, I doubt that you would need external speakers. With volume set at half and variable external sounds, its loud enough to fill the general area of the laptop. At full, it can fill a whole room and enables you to have a group watch a DVD with no trouble hearing what's going on.
Processor & General Performance
If you are a multi-tasker, you will love the Core Duo. For example, I was installing software, playing a video, and chatting on Windows Live Messenger at the same time with no troubles. Considering I didn't get the highest processor, I was quite impressed. With 1 Gb of RAM, I had no problems. Start-up time is very quick once you get rid of the annoying stuff Dell includes. My start-up usually averages a minute.
I was surprised in terms of gaming performance. Users on various forums gave me the impression that it would be disappointing. I was pleased to see that games such as NFS Most Wanted and Battlefront 2 ran with maximum settings. In general I'm sure that high performance games should run great with medium to high settings.
Dell Inspiron 6400 (1.83GHz Core Duo)
Asus W3H760DD (2.0 GHz Pentium M)
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)
Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)
Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
3D Mark 05 Results
Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results Dell Inspiron 6400 (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 256MB) 1,763 3D Marks Asus W3J (1.86Ghz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 3,925 3D Marks Sony VAIO SZ2 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce 7400) 1,851 3D Marks Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 4,236 3DMarks Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB) 7,078 3D Marks Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,092 3D Marks Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB) 2,530 3D Marks Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,273 3DMarks HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB) 2,536 3D Marks Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3D Marks
3D Mark 05 Results
Dell Inspiron 6400 (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 256MB)
1,763 3D Marks
Asus W3J (1.86Ghz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)
3,925 3D Marks
Sony VAIO SZ2 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce 7400)
1,851 3D Marks
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)
Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB)
7,078 3D Marks
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)
2,092 3D Marks
Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB)
2,530 3D Marks
Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)
HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)
2,536 3D Marks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB)
2,090 3D Marks
HD Tune Results:
Noise & Heat
For the most part, the laptop is very quiet. When doing normal tasks such as word processing, email and Internet you don't hear it at all. Believe it or not, I can hear my Desktop PC in the other room and not the laptop sitting in front of me. When doing more intensive tasks or prolonged use, the fan kicks in. This fan isn't loud, but it isn't quiet either. It's not loud enough to bother you though (at least it doesn't bother me).
Heat is a small issue for me. After a while, the laptop gets noticeably warm. I can't back up this claim, but I think the bigger battery may have something to do with it. I haven't tried yet, but maybe accessing the fans and having them run more frequently may solve the problem. It's worth a try.
The Intel Wireless card (Intel Pro Wireless) is very good using my standards. Dropped connections were limited and it was easy to use. You can easily shut it off when you are not using it by pressing Fn + F2. For this card, you can use the software Intel provides or the one Windows has, Windows Zero. I personally prefer Zero because it's easier to use.
Battery life on the 6400 is very respectable. I wasn't expecting much and I almost ordered an extra to go with it. Under normal tasks (WiFi on, 75% brightness, Windows Media Visualizations), the battery lasted about 3 hours and 15 minutes. With WiFi off, and playing games with low brightness, I was able to get about 3 hours and 34 minutes. I bet that you can squeeze 4 hours if you really wanted.
Keyboard & Touchpad
The keyboard is very user friendly and I have no problems with it. There is very little keyboard flex, which is good. Also laptop-oriented buttons, such as Standby and WiFi, are placed conveniently. The touchpad is very responsive and is good enough to use if you don't have a mouse nearby. The scroll feature on the right and bottom side of the touchpad is very useful. They replicate the scroll wheel most standard mice have.
Also, there is a MediaDirect button (to boot into Media Center without Windows), Power, and
Status Lights (Num, Caps, Scroll Lock, and WiFi)
This laptop carries most of the standard ports. There are 4 USB 2.0 ports split between the back and the right side. This is very useful to plug in devices such as Mice and Presentation Pointers. There is an S-Video port and VGA for external display. Ethernet and Model port is also at the back, when close to a Router/High Speed Modem. When discussing Ports/Buttons, the feature I love the most are the media buttons in the front. You can close the laptop and have the ability to change songs. The next best thing is the TV Tuner w/ remote!
Operating System and Software
Windows XP Media Center is what came with my laptop. It's basically the same thing as XP Pro, but with great multimedia functions. If you plan to watch a lot of movies, listen to music, and use a TV Tuner than I recommend you get Media Center. Backup disks cost $10 when you order and its worth the investment. My 6400 came with the XP Recovery Disk, Drivers and Utilities, Sound Blaster Software, and a few others I can't remember.
Dell had to cut corners somewhere. The laptop comes with a lot of pre-loaded applications that many find bloat' their system. McAfee is one of the main trouble makers. Startup time doubled and general performance was decreased. If you can, I would recommend looking for another. I personally use Avant and Trendmicro. Not all the software was bad though. Some useful Applications I found were PowerDVD, Sonic Digital Media, and Word Perfect.
Dell Sales Representatives were very helpful and understanding, even when I bogged them with obvious questions. They helped me throughout the ordering process. Overall, I was quite pleased here.
The Dell Inspiron 6400 is a very good notebook with decent options at a reasonable price. The Core Duo 1.86 is perfect for multitasking. Gaming on the 6400 with the x1400 should be fine for the occasional gamer, not for hardcore gamers. The lowest option for the screen was impressive, which means higher options should be excellent. Battery life is decent, but could be better. I may be looking into buying a spare battery soon. The layout of the keyboard is perfect for typing and should fit your lifestyle. Overall, I recommend this notebook for anyone looking for a great performing laptop for a reasonable price.
I hope this review has been helpful. I hope that you will be able to find the laptop that fits you best! Good Luck!
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