Dell Inspiron e1705 Review (pics, specs)

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The Dell Inspiron e1705 is a 17″ widescreen notebook and the first Inspiron to be released with the new Intel Core Duo processor.  The “e” in e1705 stands for “Entertainment”, with various media features available, fast Core Duo processor, a generous amount of ports and the option for a high-end graphics card in the form of the nVidia Go 7800 the e1705 certainly can be a lot of fun.

Dell e1705 17″ screen notebook (view larger image)

An important note on the e1705 is the fact that the Dell Inspiron 9400 sold via the Dell Business site is the same notebook as the e1705 offered through the Dell Home online store.  The only difference is that the Dell e1705 offers Windows Media Center Edition as an OS, along with an external USB TV Tuner option.  Prices and offers may vary between each Dell online purchase channel, so you’d be wise to configure and price similar notebooks on each site to see what the better deal is at the time you order. 

That note aside, let’s focus on the Dell e1705 under review, the specs for the notebook in hand are the following:

Specs of the Dell Inspiron e1705 Being Reviewed:

  • Processor: Intel T2500 2.0GHz Core Duo
  • Motherboard Chipset: Intel Calistoga i945GM/PM 
  • Hard Drive: 100GB 7200RPM SATA (Hitachi TraveStar)
  • Memory/RAM: 1GB (1,024MB) Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM (667MHz)
  • Screen: 17.0″ UXGA TrueLife (1900 x 1200 pixel resolution glossy screen)
  • Graphics: nVidia GeForce Go 7800 256MB
  • Optical Drive: DVD +/-RW with DL DVD+R write capacity
  • Battery: 9-cell (standard size 6-cell, 9-cell extended life optional)
  • Wireless: Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG (802.11 a/b/g)
  • User Input: Touchpad
  • Dimensions: 15.5″ x 11.3″ x 1.6″ (Width x Depth x Height)
  • TV Tuner: Optional external USB TV Tuner with remote control upgrade for $104
  • Weight: 8.1 lbs
  • Ports:
    • 6 USB 2.0 ports
    • IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
    • Digital Video Interface (DVI-D)
    • VGA out (monitor out)
    • S-Video Out
    • RJ-45 (Ethernet LAN)
    • RJ-11 (56-Kbps Modem)
    • Audio line out for headphone/speakers
    • Microphone
  • Slots:
    • 5-in-1 Multi Card Reader (MS, MS Pro, SD, MMC, xD)
    • 1 ExpressCard 54 slot
  • Buttons:
    • Power on/off
    • Volume up/down/mute (3 buttons)
    • Media buttons (play, forward, back, stop)
    • Battery charge test button
    • Battery lock and release
  • Price: about $2,200 for given configuration (as of time of review e1705 prices range from $999+ depending on configuration and current Dell.com site offers)
  • Click for Full Everest Hardware Report

Design and Build

The e1705 carries on the look of the Inspiron 9300 notebook that it replaces.  The brushed aluminum silver look is accented with a white panel surrounding.  The look is clean and minimalist, it’s quite a contrast to the equivalent HP dv8000z 17″ screen notebook that has a much busier look with lots of lights, buttons and a black finish.  I find the look to be okay, take or it leave it, certainly not as appealing as some of the sleeker carbon fiber top finish Acer TravelMate notebooks or the aluminum constructed MacBook Pro, but the e1705 isn’t ugly either.

Dell e1705 top view (view larger image)

The e1705 build is good.  There’s no flexing on the body and the keyboard is very firm.  The e1705 is what Dell calls “Road Ready” certified, meaning it has been tested thoroughly in their labs with millions of opening and closings of the screen lid to make sure hinges won’t give over time.  Furthermore, drop tests and extreme temperature tests have been done to ensure the notebook doesn’t “entropy” and come to pieces after a year, view more about Dell Road Ready tests here.

The Inspiron e1705 has a magnesium alloy construction on the lid and bottom of the notebook for extra protection.  This means that the lid provides very good protection for the screen, you can push in on the back of the screen lid and not get any funky ripples on the LCD that you’ll see with notebooks that are poorly constructed.  The protection on the bottom is obviously good for safeguarding from drops and bumps when the notebook is being carried.  The hard drive has shock absorbers so that during a drop situation there’s a good chance your hard drive will survive and data is preserved.

The hinges on the Dell e1705 are constructed of steel and surrounded in a plastic case.  The hinges definitely feel good and hold the screen in place well, there’s no wobble.  When opening the screen into position it does wobble a bit when you let go of it, but once you’re typing it’s not going to move.

Overall I’m really quite impressed by the e1705 build, it’s no slouch and will certainly hold up well as a desktop replacement machine.

Screen

You have two options for screens with the e1705, either a WXGA+ matte style screen or a UXGA TrueLife screen.  The e1705 I have is equipped with the UXGA TrueLife screen.  The TrueLife marketing term equates to a glossy screen finish that is the same as Sony’s XBrite, HP’s BrightView, Fujitsu’s CrystalView and so on.  The glossy finish is very popular for those that like to use a notebook for entertainment purposes, it provides very good color contrast and bold blacks with bright whites.  If you intend to watch a lot of movies on a notebook or view a lot of pictures, the TrueLife screen is a great option.  However, the UXGA resolution means the text and icons will be very small, those people that have poor sight or dislike small text would be wise to think twice about selecting UXGA.  The WXGA resolution will provide larger text and an easier time reading documents and web pages.

I have to say, the UXGA TrueLife screen on the configuration for this notebook is really a treat.  The screen is very bright, you can select between 7-levels of brightness.  The colors are amazing and images wonderfully crisp.  The backlighting is very even, there’s very little to no light leakage — only at the bottom on completely dark screens can you notice the slightest of light spill, and even then you have to look hard.  Overall, just a fantastic screen, big thumbs up.

The Dell e1705 17″ UXGA screen with TrueLife provides a gorgeous picture (view larger image)

An aside, if you’re a big fan of having multiple windows open, the UXGA is good for allowing you to easily have a couple of windows open at the same time and still see a lot of real estate in each window — this is great for viewing two spreadsheets alongside each other or comparing web pages.  But again, that’s accomplished via a higher resolution and thus smaller text/icons.

Another front view of screen on e1705 (view larger image)

Speakers

The e1705 speakers are located at the front bottom area of the notebook.  The speakers are very good for a notebook and easily get loud enough to comfortably hear a DVD movie from across a room.  The sound quality does deteoriate as loudness increases — more static and sound distortion becomes apparent at the loudest level.  Even at the louder levels though the sound is okay and you’ll get a bit of bass.  If you’re a real audiophile you might benefit from getting external speakers to provide more bass, or plugin some headphones.

Processor and Performance

The e1705 processor in this review machine runs at 2.0GHz with dual cores — meaning multi-tasking is what this machine is born to do.  There’s no lag on this notebook,  even when there’s a virus scan running in the background and I’m ripping a CD, have Word, Outlook, an HTML Editor and Visual Studio (a code development tool) open and flipping between them the e1705 is yawning and CPU usage is low.

Two processor graphs for two processor cores in Windows Task Manager

The T2500 processor coupled with the nVidia GeForce Go 256MB graphics card is  enough to play most any game.  As a demonstration of the processor and graphics card capability I installed Doom 3 and took it for a test run.  The game ran flawlessly on High Quality graphics settings without any problems — I didn’t try “Ultra Quality” as you’d really need more memory and a desktop class graphics processor for running in such a mode.  Given the fact Doom 3 runs well on High Quality graphics settings, Half Life 2 and other popular titles can be assumed to run well.

Doom 3 on the Dell e1705 (view larger image)

Benchmarks

All benchmark results are from a factory default setting e1705 notebook — no overclocking or driver upgrades were done.  Below are the results gained from running Super Pi (ftp://pi.super-computing.org/windows/super_pi.zip), a program that forces the laptop’s processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy.  As you can see, the new Intel Core Duo processor smokes any previous processor at this calculation, the e1705 and recently reviewed Acer 8204WLMi are pretty close on processor speed times.

Notebook Time
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 16s
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 15s
 Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 18s
 IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s
 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

Screen shot of Super Pi calculation to 2-million digits result

Below are the results gained from running 3DMark05 on the e1705, interestingly the GeForce Go 7800 had a slightly lower 3DMark score than the ATI X1600 256MB card but the CPUMark was better for the Go 7800 — really though the scores are so close you can see these are equivalently performing graphics cards.

 Notebook  3DMark 05 Results
 Dell e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce 7800 256MB)  3837 3DMarks / 5849 CPUMarks
 Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB  2092 3D Marks / 4462 CPUMarks
ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz, ATI X300 64MB graphics)  727 3DMarks / 3414 CPUMarks
 Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI Radeon Mobility x700 128 MB)  2530 3D Marks / 3749 CPU Marks
 Quanta KN1 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600 128mb)  2,486 3DMarks / 4106 CPUMarks
 HP dv4000 (1.86GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)  2536 3D Marks / 3557 CPU Marks
 Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)  4157 3DMarks / 4812 CPU Marks

Below are the results gained from running PCMark04 on the e1705 and comparison results to the Lenovo T60, the higher end graphics card on the e1705 helps to provide the better results on 3D graphics benchmarks.

 Futuremark PCMark04 Scores
  Dell e1705 (2.0 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7800 256MB) Lenovo T60 (2.0 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression 6.7 MB/s 6.83 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption 57.53 MB/s 55.83 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression 51.71 MB/s 52.5 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing 23.4 MPixels/s 23.24 MPixels/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning 4372.55 MB/s 4450.72 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check 5.05 KB/s 4.88 KB/s
 File Decryption 58.97 MB/s 59.64 MB/s
 Audio Conversion 3018.91 KB/s 3062.34 KB/s
 Web Page Rendering 6.21 Pages/s 6.35 Pages/s
 DivX Video Compression 75.15 FPS 74.82 FPS
 Physics Calculation and 3D 204.17 FPS 212.51 FPS
 Graphics Memory – 64 Lines 1364.07 FPS 1514.98 FPS
Futuremark 3DMark05 Scores
3DMark Score 3837 3DMarks 2092 3D Marks
CPU Score 5849 CPUMarks 4462 CPUMarks
Gaming Tests
GT1 – Return To Proxycon 18.0 FPS 9.7 FPS
GT2 – Firefly Forest 10.8 FPS 5.7 FPS
GT3 – Canyon Flight 18.7 FPS 10.6 FPS
CPU Tests
CPU Test 1 3.1 FPS 2.5 FPS
CPU Test 2 4.9 FPS 3.5 FPS

Below is a graph generated from running HDTune on the e1705, a hard drive benchmarking application:

(view larger image)

Heat and Fan

The e1705 runs fairly cool when in a room of about 70 degrees F and sitting on a table, the fan is quiet and heat is able to dissipate out of the vents when using the notebook for basic office tasks.  However, if you start pushing the notebook and playing 3D games, video encoding, or even ripping CDs things start to get warm.  The bottom back area is especially prone to getting hot, I do not recommend putting this thing in your lap — it would be uncomfortable given the combined weight and heat.  With a 17″ screen that’s power oriented you’ve got to expect this type of thing though.

Input and Output Ports

The port selection on the e1705 is excellent, having six USB ports is borderline ridiculous for a laptop (in a good way).  More USB ports than that would be just plain nuts!  Here’s a visual rundown of what input/output ports you get on each side.

Here’s a quick visual rundown on the ports available again and what’s on each side of the notebook:

Dell e1705 front side view: Dell direct media buttons located in the front middle area, screen latch right above buttons, speakers on either side (view larger image)

Dell e1705 left side view: Two USB 2.0 ports and DVD burner (view larger image)

Dell e1705 right side view: ExpressCard slot, FireWire, Headphones, Microphone, Multi-card Reader, heat vent (view larger image)

Dell e1705 back side view: S-Video port, Modem, Ethernet, 4 USB 2.0 ports, DVI port, VGA port, heat vent (view larger image)

Dell Inspiron e1705 under side view (view larger image)

Keyboard and Touchpad

Dell e1705 keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)

The e1705 keyboard is fine, there’s no flex and it’s firm feeling.  Given the fact this notebook is 1.6″ thick it’s “fatter” than what I’m used to with a notebook (I usually use a thin-and-light notebook that’s 1.0″ thick) it takes some getting used to the ergonomics of having a thicker notebook base.  The keyboard keys are pushed back quite a bit from the front of the notebook and I can see that those people who have wrist problems might struggle with having simply no way to tilt the wrists.  This is an issue with any 17″ laptop that’s on a desk though, so just be aware, the good news is that if you want a tilted external keyboard there’s plenty of USB ports to plug one into.

The travel on the keys is quite good, the feedback from each key and travel distance isn’t as good as the highly reputable ThinkPad, but for light touch typists they might prefer this anyway (light touch typists in general seem to like the keyboards Dell uses).

Battery

I have the 9-cell extended life battery with the e1705 being reviewed.  The standard size battery is a 6-cell.  With wi-fi off, screen brightness set to level 3 (of a possible 7) and using the e1705 for light tasks I got 2h 41m of battery life before the notebook went into forced hibernation which occurs at 5% battery remaining.  For a 17″ notebook that’s actually pretty decent, but given the fact usage was light (some typing of this review was done) and wi-fi was off it was a pretty gentle test.  If you were playing a DVD and had wi-fi battery life would likely fall to around 2 hours.  With a desktop replacement notebook using a fast processor and high-end graphics card you expect battery life to be slim though.  You could get bettery battery life by using an e1705 model with integrated graphics, brightness all the way down and wi-fi off — but what fun is that?  I say if you get a 17″ screen notebook just be aware you’ll likely be wanting to hangout next to a power outlet, and since these larger notebooks are mostly used as desktop replacements there’s no doubt you’ll be fine with that.

One nice feature worth mentioning is that there’s a button on the battery that can be pushed to show how much charge remains.  A series of 5 green LED lights on the battery will light up to show you how full the battery is, this is handy if you don’t want to have to boot the notebook just to see what amount of battery life is left.

Wireless

The e1705 uses the new Intel 3945 a/b/g wireless card.  Reception is fine, no troubles connecting to any wireless router within 150 feet, the antenna of the e1705 is in the screen to give extra range and avoid interference from internal notebook components.  All Dell notebooks standardize on this antenna location.

The e1705 can also come with Bluetooth if so chosen and configured, great to use with printers, PDAs and SmartPhones for transferring data wirelessly.

Service and Support

Dell offers 1-year parts and replacement as a standard warranty on the e1705.  There are several options for upgrading to longer coverage periods, such as 3-years, if you so wish.  Technical support is offered via chat, email, Dell.com discussion forums, online knowledge base or of course phone.  Dell has made improving support a priority of late and you can only imagine the challenge of supporting thousands of customers buying what might be their first laptop and all the issues with meeting a new customers satisfaction and expectations.  In general, Dell does a very good job with support and offers different ways to get that support.  Having dealt with various manufacturers as a part of this website and having had to return notebooks for repair that we’ve purchased, I can tell you Dell is one of the better ones and support is straight forward.  I won’t go into naming the manufacturers that have provided disastrous support results for us, but suffice it to say Dell is not one of them.  The website to start from if you need support for your Dell Inspiron notebook is found here: http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/product_support/en/inspiron.

Also of special note, in our own Dell forums there are great moderators and tons of very knowledgeable people that own Dell notebooks and can help answer many questions you might have regarding Dell buying or technical issues.

Software

The e1705 under review comes with Windows XP Media Center Edition.  This is Windows XP Home (Service Pack 2) with a lot of software features added on top to allow for such things as seamless integration with a TV tuner and recording of TV, organizing movies and pictures and the ability to easily synch content with external Windows based media devices.  If you order the optional TV tuner with the e1705 then you definitely need Windows Media Edition, and if you think you might get a TV Tuner down the road then might as well pay the extra few dollars ($20 or so) that it costs to upgrade to this OS.  If you have zero interest in TV on your notebook and are use other software to organize your media files, then just go with Windows Home.

The amount of trial-ware (third party trial versions of software) you get with the e1705 is rather annoying.  You can’t go 2 minutes without some trial software application popping up a balloon from the system tray to try and get you to register and buy it.  McAfee, Wild Tangent Games, AOL, EarthLink, Corel Picture Studio will all annoy you at some point to register and buy their product that’s been placed on your hard drive — insert any CD with images and Corel Picture Studio will recognize the file as an image and try and get you to purchase the Corel application.  Google Desktop search and toolbar are also now installed by default and your homepage will be a Dell branded Google search page (Google and Dell signed a billion dollar deal recently so that Dell will be including certain Google applications with every Dell PC that ships).  With all these applications installed from the beginning there is certainly some benefit if you’re tech savvy enough to doing a clean Windows install to simply get rid of all this stuff (view here for instructions), but if you’d rather not mess with that or are less technically inclined and don’t have the Windows CD (note: you have to pay an extra $10 to Dell when configuring your notebook to get an actual CD copy of the XP OS you’re buying to do this clean install) then just use the Windows Add/Remove programs feature and remove what you can.  Few people these days are signing up for AOL or Earthlink for internet access and certainly not both at the same time, so your guaranteed to have programs on there taking up wasted space and, even worse, unnecessarily running in the background everytime you boot the e1705 and thereby stealing processor resources.

On an up note regarding software, the Media Direct feature that Dell provides with the e1705 is very nice.  What this feature does is enable you to quick boot your notebook into a non-Windows OS so you can play back media files (movies, music, pictures) either on your hard drive, CD/DVD drive, media card reader or even an external USB connected hard drive.  Simply push the Media Direct button to quickly turn on the machine and be able to use your media files.  The first time using takes a little bit of time for setup, but subsequent uses of Media Direct will mean you can get to playing media files in around 15-20 seconds and not the usual 30 – 45 seconds it takes Windows to boot.  Furthermore, using Media Direct is more battery life efficient so if you just want to watch a movie then definitely use Media Direct to play the movie and not some Windows program.

Dell e1705 Media Direct launch button (view larger image)

Conclusion

The e1705 does a great job of carrying on everything that was good about the Inspiron 9300 and adding some serious performance enhancements to the Inspiron 17-inch line of notebooks.  The speed boost from the Core Duo processor is proving rather significant.  Major kudos to Dell for offering a high-end graphics card option in this size notebook, something their top competitor HP simply doesn’t offer in the dv8000z 17″ notebook.  Dell has always been great at providing the latest technology at an enticing price.  With the e1705 they have done this again and thus provide probably the best price to feature ratio 17-inch screen notebook on the market.

Pros

  • Great 17″ TrueLife WUXGA screen provides vivid colors, lighting is even across the screen
  • Fantastic selection of ports available, 6 USB 2.0 ports is tops for any notebook
  • Good solid build, no flexing of the body and magnesium alloy material for lid and bottom for extra durability
  • Core Duo processor provides very snappy performance, combined with nVidia Go 7800 graphics card you’ve got a pretty serious gaming machine
  • Great price to feature ratio, easy ordering production/shipping tracking on Dell.com
  • Media Direct for quick boot and access to media file viewing is great, allows you to access files on DVD, media card reader, hard drive and any USB connected storage device.

Cons

  • No PCMCIA slot, if you have old accessory cards that use this expansion slot you’re out of luck
  • Being a desktop replacement notebook, this is a heavy machine, just over 8lbs with a 9-cell battery
  • Battery life is short unless you take measures to increase life such as turning off wi-fi, keeping screen brightness low and avoiding DVD usage.
  • Gets quite warm on the bottom towards the back, not good for usage in the lap
  • Lots of annoying preinstalled trial-ware that trys to get you to register and purchase licenses for software

Dell e1705 Pricing and Availability: Buy the Dell Inspiron e1705 at Dell.com

You can never have enough pictures right?  So here’s a few glamor shots of the e1705 in an urban setting a few stories above the city — drop tests from this altitude were not conducted.

Glamor shot 1 (view larger image)

Glamor shot 2 (view larger image)

Glamor shot 3 (view larger image)

Other Dell Inspiron NotebookReview.com Reviews:


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