Dell Inspiron e1505 Review (pics, specs)

by fsacj Reads (959,592)

The Inspiron e1505  is Dells 15.4″ widescreen notebook featuring the impressive new Intel Core Duo CPU.  A virtually identical Inspiron 6400 is available through their business site.  Outside it looks just like the Inspiron 6000 it replaces, but the new hardware inside makes for impressive performance.  In traditional Dell style, the E1505 is well rounded, quite customizable and available at a competitive price, but doesn’t offer anything radical.


Dell Inspiron e1505 (view large image)

The E1505 reviewed here was configured as follows:

  • Intel Core Duo Processor T2500 at 2.0 GHz per core.
  • 15.4″ Ultrasharp SXGA+ display with TrueLife
  • 512MB DDR2 533MHz RAM in dual channel mode
  • Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
  • 100GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • 8X DVD +/- dual layer recorder
  • 53 watt-hour 6-cell battery

Build and Design

The Inspiron e1505 matches much of the Dell lineup clad in painted silver with white trim on top and a black underside.  I’m not a fan of painted finishes because they seem more susceptible to chips and scratches.  The color scheme is simple, but I’m not a huge fan of the white trim “bumpers.”

The notebook is sturdy enough to feel comfortable lifting it by one corner.  However, I would like better overall build quality.  It is comparable to Sony and others but does not come near the solid (and expensive) IBM ThinkPad line.  Just like my Inspiron 9300, there is a gap at the bottom of the LCD.  This area also gets quite warm.  It must be where the LCD backlight or inverter is.  I wonder if the gap is purposeful to allow some heat to escape.


Left side view of e1505 open (view large image)

The back of the screen is plastic, but very sturdy and a hard push won’t make ripples appear.  The hinges seem sturdy and well damped.  The screen latch is plastic.  Some notebooks do away with latches entirely and use magnetic latching or nothing at all, which works surprisingly well.

Screen

I chose the highest screen option which is WSXGA+ (1680×1050) Ultrasharp with TrueLife (glossy).  The Ultrasharp screen is listed at having significantly higher viewing angle, higher resolution, and slightly higher brightness.  The wide viewing angle was my main interest.  However, it seems about on par with most other mid- to high-end notebooks.  It makes me think the lower screen options would be disappointing.

The screen is very sharp with nice saturated colors and high contrast.  It is close, but not quite as bright as others I have reviewed.  There is some light leakage near the bottom of the screen.


Screen shimmer / sparkle seen on the e1505 screen (view large image)

There is also a faint “texture” on the screen.  Some call it a “shimmer” or “sparkle” noticeable in the light continuous tones when you move your head and change your viewpoint.  It is not extreme, and most people probably would never notice it.  However, if you are sensitive to such things, you might consider a different screen option.  It is visible and exaggerated in the upper left of this photo.

Speakers

The speaker performance of the E1505 was actually a surprise.  In the world of notebooks, they are quite excellent.   Of course there is no bass but they seem to play low enough to make voices sound natural.  They also play loud, for a notebook, without distortion.  They point forward, and project the sound into a room so several people could easily watch a movie.

Processor and Performance / Benchmarks

There’s no doubt about it, the Core Duo is fast.  For example, CPU usage hovers around 10-15% while watching a DVD, and that’s with the CPU automatically clocked down to 1GHz to save battery life! 

While more and more software is being written to take advantage of multiple CPU cores, many common applications do not.  However, even software that is not “multithreaded” will benefit in a multitasking environment.  Tasks that previously all but locked up the computer until they completed now seem as though they aren’t running at all!  The overall responsiveness of the Dual Core machine is impressive.  In some cases, the actual measured performance is also very notable. 

My Photoshop tests reveal that the Core Duo is almost exactly TWICE as fast as a single core Pentium M of the same clock speed for common tasks photographers do.  Video editing and other high end tasks display similar results.

Below is the popular Super Pi benchmark result for calculating Pi to 2 million digits.  This program only uses ONE of the CPU cores, so I could do other tasks and barely affect the benchmark score.

  • Super Pi Run Alone: 1m 16s
  • Super Pi Run While watching DVD: 1m 16s

Notebook Time
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 16s
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 15s
 Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 18s
 IBM ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)  1m 36s
 Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)  1m 48s
 Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  1m 52s
 Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  2m 10s
 HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 39s
 HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)  1m 53s
 Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s

The big 5400 RPM drive performs well, although a 7200 RPM drive would be even better and a worthwhile upgrade to keep up with the fast CPU and load programs faster.  Below is the HDTune benchmark results for the e1505:


(view large image)

Even though it is not a gaming notebook, I wanted to see how the low cost integrated graphics Solution worked.  The E1505 scored 569 in 3dMarks05.

 Notebook  3DMark 05 Results
 Dell Inspiron e1505  (2.0GHz Core Duo, Intel integrated graphics)  569 3D Marks
 Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m (2.0GHz Pentium M, ATI X600 128MB)  1659 3DMarks
ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz, ATI X300 64MB graphics)  727 3DMarks
 Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI Radeon Mobility x700 128 MB)  2530 3D Marks
 Quanta KN1 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600 128mb)  2,486 3DMarks
 HP dv4000 (1.86GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)  2536 3D Marks
 Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)  4157 3DMarks

Noise:

The Dell E1505 is commendably quiet — most of the time.  Even while watching a DVD, the fan remained off.  With a low power integrated video card, only one fan is needed to cool this machine.  The hard drive makes a subdued, but noticeable hum.

Only under heavier tasks does the fan does come on.  It has at least three speeds.  The lowest is very quiet, and more of a pleasing low pitched hum than an annoying whine.  Unfortunately, running benchmarks (which can cause sustained full processor usage, something most programs rarely do) will often cause the fan to quickly bypass first and kick into second and then third gear.  It seems that when the fan starts, the CPU continues to warm for a few moments while the cooling begins to take effect, triggering a higher fan speed that is not really necessary.  After a while it will slow back down and stay there.  If the fan is already running at a lower speed when the benchmark starts, it usually won’t speed up.  After 10 minutes of simultaneous 3DMark05 and Super Pi, the fan did go from the lowest to the middle speed.

Heat:

After about two hours of DVD watching, both sides of the palm rest became warm, but not at all hot.  The keyboard and area under the screen generated more heat.  The underside of the notebook was also slightly warm at the front and warmer, but not hot at the rear.  As with all notebooks, heat is more of an issue when used on an insulating/air-restricting lap.  Running heavier tasks does not generate noticeably more heat.  The computer will cool down almost as if it were off if allowed to sit idle for 15 minutes.

Battery:

With the smaller option 6 cell battery and a powerful new processor, I didn’t have very high hopes for battery life.  However, the Dell lasted longer than expected.  At maximum brightness, it played a DVD for 2 hours and 30 minutes.  Under normal light tasks, with WiFi on and almost maximum brightness, the battery lasted almost three hours.  Dimming the screen all the way and shutting wireless off squeezed almost 4 hours of total battery life.  I could burn the battery in about 90 minutes or less if I really tried.  Gaming would likely burn it this fast. 

The optional 9-cell battery, which is the same physical size as the 6-cell, should give about 50% more run time.

The battery charges fast for the first 80%.  At nearly 1% per minute, you could get a significant boost on a one hour layover at the airport.

A bigger battery might be a better choice than two batteries.  Lithium-Ion cells wear out even if you don’t use them.

Keyboard and Touchpad:


Dell Inspiron keyboard and touchpad view (view large image)

The keyboard has good tactile feel and is very firm.  There is almost no flex, except at the rear where the whole notebook casing flexes in when pushed hard.

The touchpad is slightly recessed so it’s hard to accidentally touch.  The two buttons feel pretty cheap, but respond well.

Ports:

The E1505 contains the standard array of newer, non-legacy ports.  The four USB 2.0 ports are split between the rear and right side of the notebook, which is much better than all in one place.  There is no old parallel printer port or serial ports.  Sadly, the E1505 lacks the DVI port of its big brother, although the external VGA connection is capable of driving a big 24″ LCD with 1920×1200 resolution.


Dell Inspiron e1505 left side view (view large image)


Right side view of e1505 (view large image)


Dell Inspiron e1505 back side view (view large image)


Dell Inspiron e1505 front side view (view large image)

Wireless:

The Dell wireless 1390 802.11g card picked up signals well and connected to a variety of local wireless networks.  Yes, even in Fairbanks, Alaska we have hotspots.

Operating System and Software:

This was my first experience with Windows XP Media Center edition.  As far as I can tell, everything is about the same as XP Home for most purposes.  It has some enhanced features for managing digital media.  Options I did not get are a remote control and a TV tuner. 

Dell also includes “Media Direct” software that can be accessed without booting into windows.  The advantage is very fast startup time if you don’t need full-fledged windows.

On the desktop and system tray there is a fair amount of “annoyware” — junk that many people won’t use.  Dell did install Google Desktop, which I find quite useful.  It finds file on your computer far faster than a windows search does, and includes other useful features.  One day, Google will rule the world.

Conclusion:

The Dell Inspiron e1505 is a fairly run-of-the mill notebook for a bargain price, but it offers a few surprises.   The 2 GHz Core Duo CPU is rockin’ fast.  Even with this performance, battery life was impressive, and 5+ hours should be possible with the optional 9-cell battery.  My only real gripe is with the screen.  The slight shimmer, light leakage, and brightness that seems like it’s turned down half a notch make it fall behind other notebooks.  Still, the screen is better than most bargain notebooks, and better than anything from a few years ago.  It’s also very sharp and high resolution.  This, along with the nice keyboard, makes for a positive ergonomic experience.

Pros:

  • Top-Notch computing performance in non-3D applications
  • Awesome for multi-taskers
  • Very respectable battery life
  • Quiet under normal use
  • Mostly cool running
  • Good keyboard
  • Surprisingly good speakers

Cons:

  • Build quality could be improved some.
  • Not available with high end graphics (yet?), must get spendier XPS line for that.
  • Best of three available screens is not that great.
  • No non-glossy option for high resolution or expanded viewing angle.

Pricing and Availability: The Dell Inspiron e1505 is available from Dell.com and price varies depending on configuration.  You can also buy the Inspiron 6400 from the Dell business site which is virtually the same as the e1505.


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