by Matthew To, Canada
The Dell Inspiron 9400 is the Canadian version of the Dell Inspiron e1705. For American's, this notebook is the business model of the e1705. There is almost no difference between the 9400 and an e1705, the only difference being the model number that is displayed on top of the keyboard. The 9400 is built as a desktop replacement, offering some of the most powerful laptop components on the market, some of which include the new Intel Core 2 Duo processors and the NVIDIA Go 7900 GS GPU.
Dell Inspiron 9400 17" screen notebook (view larger image)
Reasons for Buying:
I bought this notebook because I needed a notebook for university that was also good enough for gaming, as I am an avid gamer. I was looking for the cheapest, most powerful laptop on the market that would be able to play the latest games such as Oblivion and F.E.A.R. and run 3D intensive programs such as SolidWorks. I also needed a notebook that would run Vista with all the bells and whistles and would last me for the next 3-4 years.
Where I Bought the Notebook:
I initially purchased the notebook over the phone with a representative from Dell Canada, but the order was cancelled, more on that later. I then went to the actual Dell Direct Kiosk and ordered it from there.
Build and Design:
The design for the Dell is very nice and very sturdy. I have heard that the chassis of this machine is actually a magnesium alloy one. There is no flex at all on the body, if I push down hard on the lid, no ripples show up on the LCD. There is also no twist in the screen. In terms of looks, the 9400 does look very bland and doesn't stand out very much. But to be honest, I don't mind the looks of the 9400 at all.
Dell e1705 top view (view larger image)
There are two options for screens on the 9400. There was the 1440x900 WXGA+ screen that was matte or the 1920x1200 Ultrasharp WUXGA with True Life. The screen that I chose was the latter. The screen is superb; it is bright, clear and gives a crisp image. Movies and games truly stand out with this screen. In terms of light leakage, there was some very slight leakage at the bottom, but that was only visible in a very dark room on a completely black screen, other than that, I couldn't tell it was there. There were no dead pixels whatsoever. The 1920x1200 resolution is very nice in my opinion. The text is small, but not very hard to read.
The Dell Inspiron 9400 17" screen with TrueLife provides a gorgeous picture (view larger image)
The built in speakers are top-notch for a laptop. There was almost no break-up at higher volumes and there was no tinny sound that most laptops have. There was a built in subwoofer at the bottom which gives the bass a nice oomph. The speakers also provide great directional cues, I can tell where gunshots are coming from in games before I can see the shooter. However, the Sound Blaster Audigy HD Software Edition that I also got as an extra doing configuration is pretty much so worthless. It's just a piece of software that is supposed to make everything sound better (which may be the reason why I love the speakers?) but I thought it was going to be an actual soundcard that was capable of using 5.1 speakers. On the upside, at least it was a relatively cheap extra option at $30 CDN. The speakers are truly exceptional, I couldn't be happier with them.
Processor and Performance:
The processor that I got was the new Intel Core 2 Duo T7400. The clock frequency was a blazing fast 2.16GHz. The new Intel Core 2 Duo gives a 15% performance over the Intel Core Duo's. Here are the Super Pi results.
Super Pi results:
The time to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy came to 1 min and 1 second, and the load on the cores was only at 54% throughout the whole test
|Notebook||Time to calculate Pi to 2m digits in SuperPi|
|Dell Inspiron 9400 (2.16GHz T7400 Intel Core 2 Duo)||1m 01s|
|Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E)||1m 18s|
|Rock Pegasus 665-T72 (2.0GHz T7200 Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
|Toshiba Satellite P105-S9722 (2.0GHz T7200 Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
As you can see, the T7400 is a blazing fast processor.
3DMark05 is a program that benchmarks the 3D capabilities of the system.
|Dell Inspiron 9400 (2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 256 MB Nvidia Go 7900 GS)||6,572 3D Marks|
|Dell Inspiron 9400 (2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 256 MB Nvidia Go 7900 GS) With Slight Overclocking||7,639 3D Marks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia GeForce Go7800 GTX)||7,078 3D Marks|
|HP dv4000 (1.86GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)||2,536 3D Marks|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||4,157 3D Marks|
|WidowPC Sting D517D (Core 2 Duo 2.33GHz, Nvidia 7900GTX 512MB)||8,715 3D Marks|
As you can see, the 9400 has one of the most powerful cards on the market for a laptop. The 7900 GS is one of the best value cards, it is capable of running most new games on high settings without a hitch. I have overclocked my card and flashed the 7900 GTX bios onto the card, boosting the performance of my card substantially. After the overclock, my card gets 7,639 3D Marks. This is only a minor overclock, however, my system does not run much hotter, and I plan on overclocking more once I have acquired a notebook cooler. There have been people that have achieved over 10,000 3DMarks with an overclocked 7900 GS! That is much faster than the 7900 GTX, but the 7900 GTX costs at least $200 more than a 7900 GS. Be warned though, overclocking your system does void your warranty.
Above you see screenshots from Oblivion, the game looks gorgeous when running on this Inspiron 9400!
Heat and Noise:
The 9400 has two fans, one for the video card and the other for the CPU. The fans are programmed to come on at certain temperatures, so during light usage (word processing, email, etc.), the fans rarely come on, and if they do it's only at low speeds, so the noise is barely noticeable. However, during gaming, the laptop does get very hot and when the fans come on, they are very noisy, so headphones are a must.
Keyboard and Touchpad:
Dell Inspiron 9400 keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)
The keyboard on the 9400 is a full size keyboard, however, Dell didn't include a number pad on the system, and there is more than sufficient room for a number pad on the side. Other than that, I love the keyboard, it has a great feel and the keys have a nice clicky response to them. I wouldn't trade this keyboard away for anything.
The touchpad on the 9400 is a wide touchpad, because of the widescreen display. The touchpad feels nice, tracks fine and since I use a mouse most of the time, I really haven't encountered any problems with it.
Input and Output Ports:
The 9400 comes with the following ports:
Front side: Just media buttons on the front (view large image)
Left side: 2 USB ports, DVD drive (view large image)
Right side: MultiCard Reader, Expresscard slot, Audio out, Microphone and Firewire (view large image)
Back: S-video, Ethernet, Modem, 4 USB 2.0 ports, DVI, VGA, and AC adapter (view large image)
The 9400 does come with a whopping 6 USB ports, so, rest assured, you'll probably never run out of USB ports to plug your gadgets into. The one thing I don't like is the lack of a PCMCIA slot. Since there are almost no Expresscard products from most companies, the lack of the PCMCIA slot is troublesome. However, Expresscard is supposed to be the future accessory expansion slot for notebooks.
The 9400 comes with an Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 802.11a/g Mini Card (54Mbps), which works fine, I can get a strong, consistent signal throughout my entire house, including the basement. However, the configuration I got did not have Bluetooth.
I got a 9 cell battery for the 9400 and surprisingly, the battery does last quite long for a 17-inch screen laptop. On maximum brightness, and word-processing/email/etc, the battery lasts about 2:15, however, on the lowest brightness and Wi-Fi off, the battery does last for around 3 hours.
Operating System and Software
The OS on this 9400 is Windows XP Media Center Edition, and Dell shipped a reinstall CD also. There have been a lot of complaints about the bloatware that comes with Dell computers, however, I didn't have a lot of bloatware when I received my system. There was only one program that I got rid of, a music playing program, but other than that, the system only came with MCE, Dell support and Nero burning software.
Here is my biggest complaint about Dell, their customer support. I ordered my laptop on September 19 and it didn't arrive until October 10, 20 days later. During that time, my order got cancelled and I had to reorder it. I initially ordered on the phone, but the salesperson recorded my phone number, address and postal code wrong! I had to phone Dell to find out about what happened to my order, I didn't receive any call from them, but I think that's because they had the wrong number. I then went to the Dell kiosk to order it, and because of the previous problems, they did give me a good deal, better screen and 3 year accidental warranty for only $150, the original price would be around $300. But other than having to wait 3-weeks for my computer, I really don't have that much to say about customer support.
The Inspiron 9400 is definitely one of the best desktop replacement laptops on the market for the money I paid. It is powerful and fast, plays the latest games and can outperform most laptops.
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