Dell Inspiron 1420 User Review

by phobos512 Reads (165,592)

by Matt Artelt

Introduction


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The Dell Inspiron 1420 is a new-to-market 14” Intel Santa Rosa platform-based laptop.  It is the successor to the previous Dell Inspiron e1405 laptop, and is the smallest in a new line-up of laptops from Dell.  It is available with a wide array of processor options, from the Core 2 Duo T5350 to the Core 2 Duo T7500, removable drive options up to and including a Blu-Ray drive, wireless-N internet, integrated or discrete graphics chipsets, and more.

Ordering

Ordering a computer from Dell can be a daunting experience.  The Dell website offers up a seemingly endless array of computers and accessories to suit the needs of all different types of users, from the elementary school student through to the mobile professional.  The Inspiron 1420 is focused at the typical home user, but due to its size it will likely be popular with those individuals seeking a more powerful mobile platform than the Dell Latitude D430, or a more gaming capable platform than the Latitude D630.

Once I had decided upon an Inspiron 1420, I had to select first what class of 1420 I was interested in customizing.  Dell presents typical “Good”, “Better”, and “Best” configurations on its website.  As I consider myself a power user, I thought it best to start from the “Good” configuration as it offers the greatest number of choices to arrive at an optimal price/performance ratio.  Through the customization process, you select from a series of options, consisting of lid color, processor, operating system, amount of system memory, graphics card, removable drive, hard disk drive capacity, wireless networking, cellular networking, support options, and pre-installed software.  I chose the below configuration as it best suited my needs of a powerful portable computer to be used around the home and on travel for web browsing, e-mail, multimedia, and occasional gaming.

  • Lid Color: Jet Black
  • Processor: Core 2 Duo T7300 (2.0 GHz, 800 MHz, 4MB Cache)
  • RAM: 2 GB DDR2-667
  • Graphics Card: nVidia GeForce 8400M GS, 128 MB GDDR3
  • Hard Disk Drive: 160 GB, 5400 RPM, 8 MB Cache (Western Digital Corp.)
  • Removable Drive: DVD+-RW/DL (Optiarc, a joint venture of Sony Corp. and NEC Inc.)
  • Screen:14.1” Antiglare LCD with 1280×800 pixel resolution (Chi Mei Optronics)
  • Wireless Interface: Intel Next Generation Wireless-N 4965 802.11A/B/G, Bluetooth 2.0 EDR adapter by Dell
  • Battery: 9-cell 85 WHr battery
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Additional Software: None

In addition to the above options, I also selected an additional 90W Dell power supply as a spare, a 1-year Accidental Damage / Theft protection plan, and a Belkin 14” notebook sleeve in jet black and cabernet (red).  Through the use of a promotion granting free 3-5 day shipping, another granting 2 GB of DDR2-667 RAM and a 160 GB 5400 RPM hard disk drive for free, and a coupon granting $350 off the purchase of select Inspiron systems $1399 and up (before tax and shipping), I was able to purchase all the above for $1170 including tax.

I ordered my system at 4pm on Friday, July 6th 2007.  I received my system at 11:33am on Thursday, July 12th 2007.  The Belkin sleeve case and LoJack theft protection software shipped separately but they arrived on the same DHL truck with the laptop itself.

Unboxing

If your computer doesn’t survive the shipping process, then it is of little value.  Dell should be proud of their packaging as it stood up very well.  Upon opening the box I was greeted first by a copy of the most recent Dell catalog bearing a coupon good for 15% select electronics and accessories purchases, perfect for the SanDisk Extreme III SD Card I’m hoping to purchase.


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After removing this I next encountered the accessories box.  This contained the system Owner’s Manual (which I did not expect to receive a printed copy of), a Dell Product Information Guide, a guide on how to contact Dell, a set of reinstall discs for Windows Vista Home Premium, Roxio Creator and MyDVD SE, and the system drivers, as well as a disc to reinstall Media Direct should you ever need to, and my two 90W power supplies.


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Upon removing this I was greeted by the quick setup poster for the Inspiron 1420, and the laptop itself secured in a thick styrofoam casing.


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Inside the Styrofoam casing, the laptop was wrapped in a large plastic bag bearing a comical pictogram warning of the suffocation hazard inherent to such large plastic bags.


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Meeting the Inspiron 1420 for the first time

On handling the laptop for the first time, I found it to be a bit heavier than I had expected, but not too unwieldy.  It is definitely an attractive piece of gear.  The base and the lid are, in my configuration, a matching black.  The screen bezel, keyboard, and base are all a silver / aluminum color.  The Dell logo at the base of the screen bezel is done in a mirrored silver color.  This laptop means business.

After removing the laptop from its packing materials, I set out to take a series of pictures of the laptop for the consumption of the online community.


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Facing the laptop, you first notice the large chrome piece that allows you to get a good grip on the lid/screen.  In the center of the bezel rest the dual 3.5mm headphone jacks, so that you and a friend can listen to your tunes or, alternatively, you can get multi-channel sound out, and the single 3.5mm microphone jack.  To the left of these jacks you will find the 8-in-1 card reader (Secure Digital (SD), SDIO, MultiMediaCard (MMC), Memory Stick, MemoryStick PRO, xD-Picture Card, Hi Speed-SD and Hi Density-SD) and the wireless radio switch / Wi-Fi catcher.  For those curious, a full-size SanDisk MemoryStick Pro inserted in the card reader sticks out 7/16” from the bezel.  Above the radio switch and card reader are indicator lights showing power state, hard drive activity, battery charging status, Wi-Fi radio status, and Bluetooth radio status (if installed).  All the indicator lights glow a bright blue.


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On the left edge of the laptop are, from the rear working forward, a laptop lock slot, the power supply connector, the processor fan exhaust port, an IEEE-1394 (Firewire 400 mbps) mini-port, two USB 2.0 ports, and above those the single 54 mm ExpressCard slot.


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On the right edge of the laptop, from the rear working forward, are the HD15 VGA monitor port, two additional USB 2.0 ports, an S-Video port, and the DVD+-RW/DL drive.


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On the rear of the laptop (facing the rear), the modem port is on the left, the 10/100 mbps Ethernet port is on the right, and in the center is the battery.


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The first thing I noticed upon opening the screen was the spring tension that helps to hold the screen in place when it is closed.  The Inspiron 1420 has no latch so the hinges and spring tension are all that hold it closed, though it seems to be plenty secure.  The spring tension releases after about two inches of vertical movement of the lid from the closed position.

The base of the laptop houses, from the rear working forward, the speakers, Media Direct button, power button, media control buttons (which light up blue when pressed), NUMLOCK, CAPSLOCK, and SCROLL LOCK indicators, keyboard, and touchpad.

Dimensions

System:           

  • Length – 13 1/8″
  • Width (not including 9-cell battery) – 9 5/8″
  • Width (including 9-cell battery) – 10 1/8″
  • Thickness (thickest point) – 1 5/8″ (including footpads)
  • Thickness (thinnest point) – 1 3/8″ (including footpads)

Keyboard:       

  • 12 1/8” long by 4 1/4″ wide

Trackpad:        

  • 2 15/16” long by 1 7/16” wide

Weights

I weighed the system at a shipper I use regularly on a certified postal scale.

  • Laptop without battery installed:  5.1 lbs
  • 9-cell 85 WHr battery: 1.04 lbs
  • 90W power supply: 1.06 lbs
  • Belkin sleeve case: 0.62 lbs

First Boot

I checked the status light on the 9-cell battery and found that it was indicating it was fully charged.  Not wanting to run a battery life check at that time however, I plugged in one of the power supplies and booted up.  The laptop sat for a little long on the BIOS screen and I got a little spooked.  However this is the only time this happened so I have brushed it off as a first boot issue.

After that the computer commenced booting Windows Vista for the first time.  It asked me to confirm some settings and then ran some performance tests to generate the Windows Experience Index score.  At that point, I was asked to create a user account, which I did, and then after some more first-boot setup I saw the desktop for the first time.

On arriving at the Windows Vista desktop for the first time, I was greeted by several things.  On the right hand side the default-configured Windows Sidebar was sitting there with the analog clock, picture viewer, and RSS headline reader active.  The notification area was chock full of activity.  I had the default Windows Vista here’s what’s new on your computer window pop-up, as well as McAfee Security Center trial.  I also had a pop-up in my right hand corner from McAfee requesting access to the internet for Google Desktop.

I first cleared out the security pop-up and moved on to enable my wireless network.  This was painless with Vista.  It immediately found my wireless network and I entered my pre-shared key for WPA2, and I was off and running.  Once the network connection was active Internet Explorer popped up and showed me the Google Desktop / Toolbar EULA, which I declined, the Dell support page and the Dell start page.  If you like homepages with lots of information on them, the Dell start page isn’t bad.  It has links to news, weather, Google, and more.  Personally, I prefer a blank start page, so I changed that.

I went right over to Google and got the link to my preferred antivirus software, and also went and got Windows Update working on getting my operating system current.  Once that was done I restarted, installed my antivirus, and uninstalled McAfee.  Then I set about making my usual computer configuration.  I activated file sharing from the Network menu in the Windows Logo / Start menu so that I could download files from my desktop system.  I installed a suite of Windows Sidebar gadgets that I figured would suit me on the laptop (list is included below).  And I downloaded and installed a bevy of utilities and programs to run diagnostics of the 1420 to answer mine and other peoples’ questions in the online community.

I’ll discuss briefly the major user interface components – the screen, keyboard, and trackpad.

The Screen

Having used many laptops and recently being bombarded with the shiny-screen epidemic, I knew that for me there was no choice but to option the anti-glare screen.  I wasn’t as much concerned about resolution as I was ability to use the laptop in a bright room with windows or lights as I would find in my apartment, office, or in random hotel rooms across the United States.

When the invoice for my machine became available, I was immediately concerned that I would be receiving a problem screen.  My computer had received its 14.1” anti-glare 1280×800 display from Chi Mei Optronics, which I had read online provided a less than stellar experience in the Latitude D630.  My concerns were unfounded, however.

I found the laptop screen to be bright and the colors good.  The default settings do leave some colors, especially bright greens, somewhat washed out, but that is easily fixed by the multitude of tweaking options available in the nVidia control panel.  A forum member asked me if the screen is clear or is grainy like other Dell Inspirons.  I have limited experience with other Dells but I have not experienced anything that I would call graininess.  As you can see, there is some light leakage.  I took the picture in a darkened room so it probably looks worse than it is.  I didn’t find that this impacted my enjoyment of the visuals any.


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The horizontal viewing angle is, for my planned usage, excellent.  I don’t have a protractor to measure the angle, but I can position myself to look across the laptop from the front left corner of the base to the bottom right corner of the screen and I can still easily see the text onscreen, although it is somewhat darker.


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The vertical viewing angle is more limited.  If you try to look down on the screen from above, the screen quickly becomes unviewable.  The story is much better from below, where you can open the screen completely and, from a normal sitting position, still read the text onscreen, though again the screen fades noticeably.


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The Keyboard

The keyboard on the Inspiron 1420 is a full-size keyboard, which I understand is the same keyboard as used on the new XPS M1330 laptop.  Having used it to type this document, I can say confidently that it has absolutely no flex whatsoever.  The keys are not loud while typing, but they are not soft-touch either.  I could imagine people with longer fingernails encountering issues with catching their nails under the keys while typing quickly if they are not careful.  I don’t have that problem, however.

The Fn key, used to access special functions like screen brightness, video output, and volume, is located inboard of the Ctrl key on the left hand side of the Space bar.  Across the top are a smaller set of keys for Esc, F1 – F12, Num Lk, Prnt Scrn, Insert, and Delete.  On the right hand side of the keyboard is a beyond the typical Backspace, Backslash, Enter and Shift stack are an additional vertical row of keys housing the Home, Page Up and Down, and End keys.  In the bottom right corner of the keyboard are a set of arrow keys in the usual inverted-T layout.

I have noticed something odd about the keyboard on the Inspiron 1420, and this is echoed in some pictures from another user online.  At the top left of the keyboard, below where the Inspiron 1420 logo resides, there seems to be somewhat of a rise or bulge in the keyboard.  I’m not sure if this is an optical illusion, or if the keys are spaced further away from the base of the keyboard at that point, but it is present.  They keys in that location (contained within a square approximately from ESC to F4 horizontally and ESC to Tab vertically) don’t feel any different and the keyboard again does not flex in that area, but it is odd.

Trackpad

The Inspiron 1420 has an ever popular trackpad for controlling the cursor on screen.  The trackpad is nothing out of the ordinary.  It allows you to tap to select items on screen or double tap to open documents and programs.  On the right side and bottom of the trackpad are two areas that can be configured for vertical and horizontal scrolling.  Software included by Dell allows you to configure the width of the scrolling are and the pressure required to activate it.

Below the trackpad are two buttons for left- and right-clicking.  They have a raised bar about 1/8” above the bottom of the buttons.  I am not sure of the utility of the raised bar is, as the buttons are not flush with the surrounding case, but it is there nevertheless.

Speakers

The speakers on the Inspiron 1420 are, as I mentioned, located above the keyboard adjacent to the hinges for the screen.  I prefer this placement vs. locating the speakers at the front of the laptop as on the previous Inspiron e-series laptops, as they are not blocked by my hands as I work.  However it is my understanding that this placement is not replicated on the other new Inspiron models.

They can get quite loud, and offer decent sound for a laptop.  Bass is completely lacking, as expected for speakers of this side, but they will certainly be adequate for filling a hotel room full of sound.  You can always hook up a set of external speakers using one or both of the front headphone / speaker jacks if need be.

BIOS

Now seems as good a time as any to discuss the BIOS.  The Dell BIOS (a screenshot of it is shown in the LoJack section at the end of this review) offers nothing in the way of performance configuration options but other than that, it has everything a typical PC BIOS does.  It allows you to control all the radios in the laptop, the boot order, and the default screen brightness for example.  It has information on the processor, system memory, graphics card, and more.  But overall the BIOS on the 1420 puts the “Basic” in BIOS.

Performance / Benchmarking

This laptop has impressed me with its performance.  It boots nearly as fast as my XPS 410 desktop system.  Application performance is excellent.  Web browsers, Photoshop, Microsoft Office, all start up quickly – more so than I expected with a 5400 RPM drive.

There has been some controversy with the discrete graphics cards present in the new Inspiron laptops from Dell.  The Inspiron 1520, for example, was slated to come with an nVidia GeForce 8600M GT with 256 MB of GDDR3 memory, but they have instead shown up with GDDR2 memory at a much slower clock speed than expected.  This has caused some performance concerns.  I am sad to say that the situation has repeated itself on the Inspiron 1420, though not to the same extent.  RivaTuner indicates that the nVidia GeForce 8400M GS in my laptop does indeed have 128 MB of GDDR3 memory as was intended, but at a lower clock speed than the bandwidth information provided by Dell would lead one to believe.  It may be possible to make up the deficit through overclocking, but I have made no such attempt as yet.


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I ran several benchmarks on my Inspiron 1420, and they are discussed below.  I did not perform any tweaking or optimizations before running the benchmarks below unless otherwise noted.  I used the drivers included with the computer to run the benchmarks unless otherwise noted.  In general, I simply restarted the computer each time and once the system reached a steady state condition, I ran the benchmark.

Windows Experience Index

The Windows Experience Index (WEI) is supposed to be the new way to determine system performance uniformly over all Windows Vista running computers.  The WEI is calculated on first boot and needs to be recalculated whenever you make a hardware or driver change that might affect performance.

The WEI is determined by the lowest score of several different categories, including Processor, Memory, Graphics, Gaming Graphics, and Primary Hard Disk.

The Inspiron 1420 scored a WEI of 3.7, and this was driven by the Graphics category.

 

3DMark06

The laptop scored a 1,354 in 3DMark06 with the default drivers.  Screenshots of the test are shown below.  I retested after installing the 162.13 Forceware drivers that I used during the Lost Planet: Extreme Condition testing and scored a 1419.  I then went as far as to shutdown the Sidebar and other unnecessary programs, and scored a 1,444.

 

 

PCMark05

The laptop scored a 4,397 in PCMark05.

HDTune

The minimum transfer rate was 16.7 MB/s, the maximum transfer rate was 45.6 MB/s, and the average transfer rate was 34.8 MB/s.  The access time recorded by HDTune was 18.9 ms, the burst transfer rate was 64.4 MB/s, and CPU usage was 5.1%.


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SuperPi

The laptop completed the SuperPi 2-million place calculation in 57.767 seconds.  For this test I restarted and then closed down the Windows Sidebar and all Dell helper applications (Dell Quickset and Dell Support).

System Temperatures

During my benchmarking runs I wanted to monitor the CPU temperature.  I inquired with the online community and was lead to download several different utilities.  The programs I used were i8KFanGUI, SpeedFan, CoreTemp, and Notebook Hardware Control (NHC).  Initially I was using just i8KFanGUI and SpeedFan.  I found that in both idle and load conditions, SpeedFan consistently was reading 15-20°C lower than i8KFanGUI.  After more discussion online I was lead to the other two utilities mentioned above.  Both CoreTemp and NHC read similarly to i8KFanGUI (within about 5°C most of the time) which leads me to believe these are more accurate utilities than SpeedFan.  However, it is possible that SpeedFan is simply reading a different sensor than the other utilities.

On average, under idle and light load conditions such as typing or browsing the Internet, I saw temperatures in the high 40°C to low 50°C range (except for SpeedFan which read in the high 20°C to low 30°C range).  Under benchmarking conditions, I saw temperatures average in the high 50°C  to low 60°C range (again, except for SpeedFan, which read into the low 50°C range as a maximum), though under one run of Orthos Stress Test I saw the temperature go as high as 77°C (I was only using i8KFanGUI at that time however).

I noticed through my usage of the different temperature programs that none of them could tell me what RPM the system fan was running at.  Also, none of the utilities could tell me the hard drive temperature.  I was able to read the hard drive temperature using HDTune however.  During the benchmark run it read a solid 36°C.  Additionally, CoreTemp had a specific problem in that it could not detect the correct CPU.  It thought the system was a Core 2 Duo T7000 running at 1.0 GHz.  These issues may relate to specific settings not being enabled in the utilities, or it might be due to changes in the computer that aren’t accounted for in each of these utilities. 

 

Battery Life

I have run two different battery rundown tests to look at different usage patterns.  In my first battery rundown test, I had the power profile set to “High Performance”, but I did modify some settings.  I turned off everything related to the laptop going to sleep or hibernate, and I changed the length of time that the laptop would wait before turning the screen off.  I also had the screen set to full bright.  I then engaged in a variety of different tasks.  I worked in Microsoft Word, I did some web browsing via Internet Explorer and Firefox, I did some file downloading both from the Internet and a computer on my home network, some driver updating, and I engaged in light gaming in Half-Life 2 and Lost Planet: Extreme Condition trial.  I used a shareware program I found online to measure the time it took for the computer to go from 100% battery to 5% battery, at which time the computer shut off.  This took place in 3 hours and 17 minutes.  At that time my Windows Sidebar battery gadget told me I had 15 minutes of additional life, though it fluctuated a great deal based on what I was doing due to the reserve capacity being so low at that time.

The second battery rundown test was more indicative of what someone working long term on battery power would encounter.  For this test, I chose the “Power Saver” power profile, but it was again modified to prevent the computer from sleeping or hibernating, and I again increased the amount of time before the screen would shut off.  I also changed the maximum allowed processor performance to 100%, as the default for this profile was 50% and I wanted to be able to game at full speed should I choose to do that.  My usage pattern was a little more typical of an office or mobile user.  I ran Firefox with an auto-reload plug-in that allowed me to simulating checking CNN.com every 10 minutes.  I ran iTunes in the background for the duration of the test with a pair of Shure E2C headphones connected, to simulate listening to music while working.  And I again ran Microsoft Word.  I also used Adobe Photoshop to do some light photo editing using an external USB mouse.  I used the same stopwatch program to time the battery capacity diminishing from 100% to 2%.  This took place in 4 hours and 51 minutes.

Gaming

And now for something completely different, what you’ve all been waiting for, gaming impressions.

One of the biggest, if not THE biggest, improvements to the Inspiron 1420 over the previous Inspiron e1405 is the inclusion of a discrete graphics chipset.  The Inspiron 1420 gives you the option of an nVidia GeForce 8400M GS graphics processing unit with 128 MB of GDDR3 onboard RAM, and the ability to use additional system memory if necessary.  A discrete graphics chipset has several distinct advantages over an integrated chipset like the Intel GMA X3100 that is standard with the new Santa Rosa platform upon with the Inspiron 1420 and its siblings are based.

It is much more powerful and will allow you to run games at the full resolution of the screen with many of the different quality options at higher levels.  It also provides for offloading video processing work from the CPU, which allows for smoother and higher quality video.  It will, however, use more power while gaming and will shorten the battery life.  But for the occasional gamers out there, this is a worthwhile tradeoff.

I played two different games and attempted a third for the review process.  I used World of Warcraft with the Burning Crusade expansion and all the most recent updates, and Half-Life 2, again with all the most recent updates.  I also tried to play the DirectX 10 trial for Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, but that didn’t work out so well.

World of Warcraft

I expected World of Warcraft to perform the best out of the games I tried because it truly is meant to run on a huge variety of computers of different performance levels.  I ran the game at 1280×800 resolution, with all quality options set to high except for antialiasing, which I turned off, anisotropic filtering, which I set to one click below max, terrain distance, which I set to the middle setting, the glow effect, which I turned off, soft shadows, which I turned off, and terrain highlights, which I turned off.  I also turned on triple buffering as the tooltip indicate this would increase performance.

These settings garnered framerates, as displayed by Fraps, in the mid 30s to 60 (with V-sync on).  I noticed however in combat that there would be what I would call hiccups in the gameplay.  When I would go to cast a spell or action, or otherwise cause additional data to be loaded from disk, there would be a distinct pause in the action while the information was cached to memory.

For a laptop however, I found the performance to be acceptable and look forward to being able to playing WoW when I am away from my desk.

 

Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2 was the surprise.  It performed very well, with none of the hiccupping I noticed in WoW.  I believe this is due to the loading screens, which place all the data into system memory ahead of time.  I again ran the game at 1280×800 resolution.  I had all settings to their maximum save for antialiasing, which I turned off, and anisotropic filtering, which I set to 4X.  I did not notice any slowdowns in the action except in large outdoor areas, but even then the performance was still acceptable, with framerates usually stuck at 60, but sometimes dipping as low as 30.

 

 

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (DirectX 10 trial)

Getting this game to run was a challenge.  It has been a while since I have encountered so many issues with a program.  After downloading and installing the trial, I was first met with an error saying that a particular DLL file relating to DirectX could not be found.  After searching online I found that I needed to download the latest update to DirectX 9 from Microsoft.  After doing so, I was met with a new issue.

Lost Planet would again error on start, stating “Invalid Display Mode 1280×720”.  This was curious as I was running in 1280×800.  I did some searching online and first discovered that this could be related to the video card driver being out of date.  So I headed to the LaptopVideo2Go website and downloaded the latest nVidia Forceware driver and the modified INF file to use the driver with my mobile video card.  After installing this, Lost Planet still gave the same error.  I did some more searching online and found a method that would work – a modified configuration file for the game that would force it into a particular resolution.  I downloaded the file and modified it for my resolution, and placed it into the appropriate hidden folder.

At this point I was finally able to get Lost Planet to start up, but attempting to use it was like slogging through a vat of molasses.  Everything was in slow motion, and all I was doing was changing menu options!  After failing to get the game working again I went back to the configuration file and set every option that had a quality level choice to low, and then tried again.  This time the game was far more responsive, and I could even get into the first level.  However, upon looking around with the mouse, a grid would appear on the screen and tell me that my system wasn’t meeting the minimum performance requirements.  It was at this time that I gave up trying to play Lost Planet.  I did some more searching online and found that the performance of the demo is in no way indicative of the full release version of the game, so take this information with a grain of salt.

DVD Viewing

Another of the features of the Inspiron 1420, at least when configured with Windows Vista Home Premium, is the ability to play DVD movies (or if you selected the Blu-Ray removable drive, high definition Blu-Ray content).

As I often find myself in the air with nothing to do, I figured that being able to watch a movie of my own selection would be an enjoyable way to pass the time.  So I set about making testing the DVD playing ability of the 1420 with a copy of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean.  I’ve included some photographs of the screen.  I found the video to have a slightly grainy quality to it, but this is not unlike what I notice when I watch DVDs on my desktop and its 24” display.

As I mentioned in the initial Screen section above, at default settings the colors are a bit washed out but with a bit of moving sliders in the nVidia control panel, you can achieve quite a beautiful picture.

The colored banding you see in some of the screenshots is not visible on screen during viewing – rather it is a side-effect of my digital camera.

HD Content Viewing

I also tried playing some HD video.  I downloaded two different HD movie trailers from Apple’s movie trailer website – one for The Bourne Ultimatum and the other for Hairspray.  I chose the 720p format for each of these downloads as that is the closest resolution to the 1420’s screen.

The quality was flawless as I expected.  Playback was smooth, and the graininess I had experienced in the DVD video was nowhere to be found, thanks to the higher resolution HD video offers.

Again you’ll note some graininess in the pictures.  I have included a screen capture of one of the frames from the Bourne trailer to compare.  As you’ll note the screen capture is much higher quality than the photo.  Pictures aren’t always worth a thousand words, but it can take a thousand words to explain away a picture.

1 Year Accidental Damage / Theft Protection Warranty (Dell CompleteCare)

I wanted to mention the CompleteCare concept separately, specifically as it relates to the theft protection aspect.  Theft protection on the Dell Inspiron line of laptops is provided by the use of LoJack for Laptops.  This is the same LoJack that provides protection for your car or motorcycle using a radio transponder.

LoJack for laptops works differently.  Separately from your computer you receive a disk containing the LoJack software.  From several articles I have read online, once installed the software will periodically contact the LoJack center and let it know that it’s around.  Should your laptop be stolen, you call or go online and let them know, and when your laptop goes online, it will say “Hi, I’m here” and LoJack and the appropriate authorities will be able to go get it.

Additionally, the LoJack software apparently provides the ability to, solely at the request of the theft victim, erase files or indeed the entire hard drive remotely.  So not only will someone know where your laptop is at all times, they can remove data from it remotely.

It is for the reasons above that, at least for the time being, LoJack for Laptops will not be installed on my Inspiron 1420.

 

Conclusion

The Inspiron 1420 is an excellent all-around platform for the home user all the way through to what I would call the mobile power user.  It offers a huge variety of options that allow you to customize the system to suit your needs.

Aside from being a bit on the hefty side with the optional 9-cell battery, there is very little not to like about the 1420.  With a fast Core 2 Duo processor and a discrete graphics card courtesy of nVidia, it even has the ability to do occasional gaming, which is a very valuable talent to me and I’m sure it is so for many other professionals out there, young and old alike.

Hopefully this review has given you a good idea of what to expect and what not to expect when you receive your Inspiron 1420 from Dell.  I have learned a great deal about my system in writing it and I hope you’ve learned more about yours as well.

And as there has been much discussion about the black lid being of a slightly different texture than the other colored lids, and its predilection to picking up fingerprints, I thought I would mention that the black lid does indeed easily pick up the oils from my skin.


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