Dell Inspiron e1505 with Core 2 Duo Review (pics, specs)

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by Andrew Baxter

The Dell Inspiron e1505  is a 15.4″ widescreen notebook now available with the impressive Intel Core 2 Duo processor.  The Inspiron 6400 is available through the Dell Business site and is the same as the e1505.  The e1505 is a well rounded mainstream notebook, highly customizable and available at a competitive price.  Now that it comes with the Core 2 Duo at similar prices to the original Core Duo you’ll be getting even more value for your dollar.

 


Dell Inspiron e1505 (view large image)

The e1505 reviewed here is configured as follows:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T7200 at 2.0 GHz per core.
  • 15.4″ Ultrasharp WSXGA+ display with TrueLife
  • 1GB DDR2 667MHz RAM in dual channel mode
  • ATI X1400 256MB graphics card
  • 120GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • 8X DVD +/- dual layer recorder
  • 9-cell lithium-ion battery
  • Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition
  • Dell Wireless 1500 (802.11n)

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.  The color scheme is simple and there’s nothing to rave or rant about honestly, I’m not a huge fan of the white trim “bumpers” though.

The notebook is sturdy enough to feel comfortable lifting it by one corner.  It’s not rugged or as well built as many business laptops, such as a ThinkPad or Dell’s own Latitude line — the screen latch is plastic as opposed to metal on a Latitude for instance.  But the e1505 is not flimsy by any means, the only real flex I could find on the casing was at the top just above the keyboard.


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.  As mentioned before, the screen latch is plastic, but I’d rather have a plastic latch than the magnetic opening mechanism that some manufacturers are using — they’re so invariably hard to open.

Screen

The screen on this e1505 is the WSXGA+ (1680×1050) Ultrasharp with TrueLife (glossy).  The Ultrasharp screen is listed at having significantly higher viewing angle, higher resolution, and slightly higher brightness.  Overall the screen is very sharp with nice saturated colors and high contrast.  Brightness is excellent, next to my everyday ThinkPad T43 it certainly stands out as being much better.  There is some light leakage near the bottom of the screen, but nothing major.  The backlight in use must be quite strong because I can actually feel quite a bit of heat coming from the bottom of the screen.  You could bump the brightness down (using Fn + Arrow Down) to level four of seven and still have very comfortable viewing.

Speakers

The speaker performance of the e1505 is fine.  In the world of notebooks, they are quite good even.   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.

Intel Core 2 Duo Processor and Performance / Benchmarks

The Core 2 Duo is fast, no doubt about it.  It appears to be about 10% faster than the proceeding Core Duo.  That’s probably not enough benefit to rush out and get a new processor if you already have Core Duo, but if you’re using a Pentium M machine the extra performance and 64-bit capabilities of the Core 2 Duo might tempt you to upgrade sooner or later.

The Core 2 Duo processor in the e1505 is the T7200 that runs at 2.00GHz.  For the sake of comparison I’ll use a ThinkPad T43 using a Pentium M 760 that also runs at 2.00GHz.  Below are the laptops relevant stats that are being compared:

Dell Inspiron e1505 relevant stats

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7200
    • 2.0GHz
    • Dual Core
    • 32-bit or 64-bit support
    • Front Side Bus: 667 MHz
    • L2 Cache 4MB
  • ATI X1400 256MB graphics card
  • 120GB 5400 RPM HD

IBM ThinkPad T43 relevant stats

  • Intel Pentium M 760
    • 2.0GHz
    • Single Core
    • 32-bit support
    • Front Side Bus: 533 MHz
    • L2 Cache 2MB
  • ATI X300 128MB graphics card
  • 80GB 5400 RPM HD

PCMark05 CPU Test Suite Detailed Results

Test Dell e1505 Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz ThinkPad T43 Pentium M 2.0GHz
File Compression  8.93 MB/s  8.47 MB/s
File Decompression  132.11 MB/s  111.28 MB/s
File Encryption  54.94 MB/s  48.43 MB/s
File Decryption  55.19 MB/s  48.12 MB/s
Image Decompression  28.31 MPixels/s  23.06 MPixels/s
Audio Compression  2,546.99 MPixels/s  2,034.17 KB/s
Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression  8.9 MB/s  4.36 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption  53.71 MB/s  24.16 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression  65.7 MB/s  28.67 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decryption  27.29 MB/s  12.02 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 2 / Audio Decompression  1023.78 KB/s  425.93 KB/s
Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Decompression  14.16 MPixels/s  5.91 MPixels/s


Not surprisingly, notice that when we start dealing with Multithreaded benchmark tests (highlighted in aqua) the Core 2 Duo trounces the Pentium M.  In the single core CPU tests we see about 10% performance boost from the Core 2 Duo.  In Multithreaded tests it’s a 100%+ performance increase in every case.

3DMark05 Overall CPU Results

Test Dell e1505 Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz, ATI X1400 256MB ThinkPad T43 Pentium M 2.0GHz, ATI X300 128MB
Return to Proxycon Graphic Test  9.2 frames per second  4.3 frames per second
Firefly Forest Graphic Test  6.3 frames per second  2.5 frames per second
Canyon Flight Graphic Test  8.3 frames per second  4.4 frames per second
CPU Test 1  3.1 frames per second  1.7 frames per second
CPU Test 2  4.8 frames per second  2.7 frames per second
3D Mark Score  1,958  907
CPU Score  5,753  3,155


To factor out the fact the e1505 has a better graphics card, we should deemphasize the graphics tests and look more closely at the CPU related scores.  In the CPU Test 1, CPU Test 2 and overall CPU Score we can see performance increase is about 75% in regards to the processor performance for 3DMark05.


Screenshot of final 3DMark Score for e1505 (view large image)

SiSoft Sandra 2007 CPU Results

SiSoftware Sandra is an information and diagnostic utility, and can be used to benchmark your PC.  We used two different benchmarks from Sandra 2007 — the Processor Arithmetic and Processor Multi-Media tests.  Only parts of the benchmarks that were comparable and use SSE2 instructions were used (the Core 2 Duo can support SSE4 while the Pentium M does not).

Test Dell e1505 Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz ThinkPad T43 Pentium M 2.0GHz
Processor Arithmetic Dhrystone ALU  18,150 MIPS  6,366 MIPS
Processor Multimedia Float x4 iSSE2  58,852 it/s  20,561it/s


The Core 2 Duo floating point operation dominance is quite clear in these numbers.


Screenshot of processor arithmetic results for e1505 Core 2 Duo(view large image)

Cinebench CPU Results

Cinebench is a good rendering benchmark tool based on the powerful 3D software, CINEMA 4D. Its rendering tasks can stress up to sixteen multiprocessors on the same computer. It is a free benchmarking tool, and can be found here: http://www.cinebench.com.  The basic CPU test provided the following results:

Test Dell e1505 Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz ThinkPad T43 Pentium M 2.0GHz
Single Core rendering mode  325 CB-CPU points  222 CB-CPU points
Dual Core rendering mode  592 CB-CPU points   not available


In single core mode the Core 2 Duo wins quite handily, in dual core mode utilizing both processor cores to render an image, the Core 2 Duo almost twice laps the Pentium M.


Screenshot of Cinebench benchmark results for e1505 (view large image)

Super Pi Results

And we won’t forget our perennial favorite benchmark, calculating Pi to a few million digits of accuracy.  Our usual calculation to 2 million digits shows the Core 2 Duo to be 42 seconds faster in calculating Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy than the competing Pentium M 2.0 GHz processor.

Pi Calculation Test Dell e1505 Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz ThinkPad T43 Pentium M 2.0GHz
 32K digits  0s  0s
 64K digits  1s  1s
 256K digits  05s  08s
 512K digits  11s  18s
 1M digits  25s  45s
 2M digits  1m 02s  1m 44s
 4M digits  2m 23s  3m 55s

 

 

Dell e1505 Core 2 Duo Super Pi Results

 

ThinkPad T43 Pentium M Super Pi Results

 

Noise:

The Dell e1505 is commendably quiet — most of the time.  Even while watching a DVD, the fan remained off.  The hard drive makes a subdued, but noticeable hum.

Only under heavier tasks does the fan come on.  It has three speeds.  The lowest is very quiet, and more of a pleasing low pitched hum than an annoying whine.  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 never got 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.  Overall the e1505 can be commended for keeping its cool.

In terms of processor heat, the Core 2 Duo actually stayed much cooler than the Pentium M in my T43.  The e1505 T7200 processor idle temperature was about 35 C, after running Super Pi it went up to 42 C, and the hottest I saw it get was 46 C (temperatures were taken using Notebook Hardware Control).  The Pentium M in my T43 hit 56 C after running Super Pi to 2 million digits.  Cooling and heat dissipation in the e1505 is easier since it’s a thicker notebook though, a lot of the heat buildup is as much a factor of the overall hardware design and cooling system as the processor itself.  Thin and light laptops with a Core 2 Duo will obviously run warmer as they’re notoriously harder to keep cool.

Battery:

With the 9-cell battery and a powerful new processor the Dell e1505 lasted longer than expected.  At maximum brightness, it played a DVD for 3 hours and 12 minutes.  With normal light tasks such as wi-fi on and the screen dimmed to half, I was able to eek out just over 4 hours of battery life.  The 9-cell is a greater capacity than the standard 6-cell, but this type of battery life in a 15.4″ screen notebook is excellent, so I highly recommend the 9-cell if you can afford it.  The 9-cell battery is flushed with the back of the notebook and does not stick out.

Keyboard and Touchpad:


Dell Inspiron keyboard and touchpad view (view large image)

The keyboard has good tactile feel and is firm — there’s no mushiness to it.  The touch is light which allows for fast typing — but contrarily provides easy chance to mistype if you’re not accurate.  There is almost no flex, except at the very rear where the whole notebook casing flexes in when pushed hard.

The touchpad is slightly recessed so it’s hard to accidentally touch.  There is a vertical and horizontal scroll area.  The two mouse buttons respond well.  I miss having a pointing stick like I do on a ThinkPad, but such an input device is the realm of business notebooks and not consumer.

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 the e1705, although the external VGA connection is capable of driving a big 24″ LCD with 1920×1200 resolution.


Dell Inspiron e1505 left side view with optical drive (view large image)


Right side view of e1505: ExpressCard slot, SD card reader, microphone jack, headphone jack, 2 USB 2.0 ports, FireWire port (view large image)


Dell Inspiron e1505 back side view: Power jack, modem jack, ethernet jack, 2 USB 2.0 ports, S-Video port, VGA monitor out (view large image)


Dell Inspiron e1505 front side view: Multimedia buttons, speakers (view large image)

Wireless:

The Dell wireless e1505 under review came with the new Dell 1500 802.11n card.  802.11n is a new wireless range that is an improvement on current 802.11 technologies (such as 802.11b and 802.11g).   The faster speeds and increased range of 802.11n are enabled by a sophisticated antenna system that manages the transmission and receipt of multiple simultaneous data streams (Multi-Input, Multi-Output or MIMO).  Dell is using the Broadcom Intensi-fi implementation of 802.11n as their guaranteed compliance implementation.  Wireless routers, such as the Netgear WNR834B RangeMax router that Dell provided me with for testing, are already available that support the Intensi-Fi 802.11n implementation.


Netgear draft-802.11n wireless router with Intensi-fi compliance (view large image)

I don’t have much use for exchanging files fast over a home network, I just don’t transfer large files wirelessly between PCs or other devices that often.  For those that work with multiple computers networked wirelessly, 802.11n is the way to go for improving throughput and sharing files though.

What I do have use for is the longer range offering of 802.11n!  I just so happen to live on the top floor of an apartment building and have access to the roof on which I’ll sometimes sit and lounge to watch the world go by.  With my 802.11g router I’m not able to detect my wireless from the part of the roof I’ll sit on.  With the 802.11n I can — what a treat to surf outside on Wi-Fi! Well, if the sun isn’t too direct and bright thus washing out the screen that is.  I’d estimate I can get good range and download speeds on the 802.11n up to about 150 feet away, while on the 802.11g I’m limited to about 100 feet.  This will make a big difference for those in a house that really want strong Wi-Fi coverage throughout.  802.11n is definitely the way to go to make sure all the kids can get a wireless signal in their bedroom.  Make sure you get the right 802.11n router to work with your 802.11n card though.

If you opt for an 802.11n Dell 1500 card it will still work with 802.11 a/b/g wireless routers as well so your flexibility and future proofing is maximized.

Operating System and Software:

Dell includes “Media Direct” software that can be accessed without booting into Windows.  Media Direct allows you to play DVDs, access and play music files from the disk or simply to view images on your hard drive.  The advantage is very fast startup time if you don’t need full-fledged Windows.  This is a nice to have.

On the desktop and system tray there is a fair amount of bloatware — junk that many people won’t use.  Dell did install Google Desktop, which can be useful.  It finds files on your computer far faster than a Windows search does, and includes other useful features.  One day, Google will rule the world.  Overall though, I’d prefer to do without 90% of the preinstalled stuff.  Oh well, it indirectly keeps costs down for Dell to include this software so we can’t have our cheap laptop and eat cake too I guess.

Conclusion:

The Dell Inspiron e1505 with Core 2 Duo and X1400 graphics card is a great performer for the price.  If you can utilize this notebooks dual core capabilities for applications such as Photoshop and other rendering software, or if you do lots of multitaskng and gaming, then the Core 2 Duo offers a big advantage over the 2-generation old Pentium M.  If your only concern is how fast Internet Explorer opens when clicked, then you’ll notice little if any performance advantage because the Pentium M could already do that just fine.  At the end of the day, the greatest thing is that Dell is offering the faster Core 2 Duo e1505 but charging about the same price we saw on yesterday’s notebook configurations — and who can argue with paying the same but getting more?

Pros:

  • Top-Notch computing performance with the Core 2 Duo, great for multi-taskers
  • Very respectable battery life
  • Quiet under normal use
  • Mostly cool running
  • Good keyboard
  • 802.11n wireless offering

Cons:

  • Not much of a looker in terms of design
  • No non-glossy option for high resolution or expanded viewing angle
  • Some annoying pre-installed software (AOL, NetZero, MusicMatch etc.)
  • No DVI port

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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