Dell Inspiron E Dell brings an entertainment focus to its midsize portable.
When we looked at the Dell Inspiron last March (and again last November), we were pleased, though not blown away: the laptop offered a very solid combination of performance, features, and design at a competitive price. Today, Dell announced an upgrade to that model, the Inspiron E, that places it more clearly in the company's line of entertainment-focused laptops (including the E).
Upside: The new model weighs pound less than its predecessor and contains a raft of upgraded components, including Intel Core Solo or Core Duo processors in speeds up to 2GHz; up to 2GB of swift MHz RAM; and a screaming 7,rpm, GB hard drive. In keeping with its multimedia bent, the E's inch wide-screen display comes in WXGA or WSXGA+ native resolutions. Like its larger sibling, the E, the Inspiron E includes Dell's MediaDirect feature, which plays CDs and DVDs and lets you access photos and other media files stored on your hard drive without booting up Windows first. There's also a full suite of ports and connectors, including FireWire, VGA, S-Video, and four USB ports, plus both PC Card and ExpressCard slots.
Downside: Much like the company's inch XPS M, the Inspiron E includes only integrated Intel graphics, with no option to upgrade to a discrete graphics card--surprising for a laptop that aims to be a multimedia hub. The system also lacks the TV tuner found in larger media laptops.
Outlook: With prices starting at $ (for an Intel Core Solo T processor, MB of RAM, and a 40GB hard drive), the Inspiron E could be a great choice for consumers who want a multimedia laptop but don't want to shell out $2, for it. We're eagerly awaiting a model of our own in CNET Labs, so stay tuned for a full review.
Dell Inspiron e Review (pics, specs)
The Inspiron e is Dells widescreen notebook featuring the impressive new Intel Core Duo CPU. A virtually identical Inspiron is available through their business site. Outside it looks just like the Inspiron it replaces, but the new hardware inside makes for impressive performance. In traditional Dell style, the E is well rounded, quite customizable and available at a competitive price, but doesnt offer anything radical.
Dell Inspiron e (view large image)
The E reviewed here was configured as follows:
- Intel Core Duo Processor T at GHz per core.
- Ultrasharp SXGA+ display with TrueLife
- MB DDR2 MHz RAM in dual channel mode
- Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator
- GB RPM SATA Hard Drive
- 8X DVD +/- dual layer recorder
- 53 watt-hour 6-cell battery
Build and Design
The Inspiron e matches much of the Dell lineup clad in painted silver with white trim on top and a black underside. Im not a fan of painted finishes because they seem more susceptible to chips and scratches. The color scheme is simple, but Im 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 , 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 e open (view large image)
The back of the screen is plastic, but very sturdy and a hard push wont 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.
I chose the highest screen option which is WSXGA+ () 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 e 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.
The speaker performance of the E 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
Theres no doubt about it, the Core Duo is fast. For example, CPU usage hovers around % while watching a DVD, and thats 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 arent 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
|Dell Inspiron e (GHz Core Duo)||1m 16s|
|Acer TravelMate WLMi (GHz Core Duo)||1m 15s|
|Sony VAIO FS ( GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|IBM ThinkPad Z60m ( GHz Pentium M)||1m 36s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N ( GHz Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Dell Inspiron D ( GHz Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Dell Inspiron M ( GHz Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|HP Pavilion dv ( GHz Pentium M)||1m 39s|
|HP DVus (Pentium M GHz)||1m 53s|
|Sony VAIO S ( GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
The big RPM drive performs well, although a 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 e
(view large image)
Even though it is not a gaming notebook, I wanted to see how the low cost integrated graphics Solution worked. The E scored in 3dMarks
|Notebook||3DMark 05 Results|
|Dell Inspiron e (GHz Core Duo, Intel integrated graphics)||3D Marks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m (GHz Pentium M, ATI X MB)||3DMarks|
|ThinkPad T43 (GHz, ATI X 64MB graphics)||3DMarks|
|Asus V6Va ( GHz Pentium M, ATI Radeon Mobility x MB)||3D Marks|
|Quanta KN1 ( GHz Pentium M, NVIDIA GeForce Go mb)||2, 3DMarks|
|HP dv (GHz Pentium M, ATI X MB)||3D Marks|
|Acer TravelMate WLMi (GHz Core Duo, ATI X MB)||3DMarks|
The Dell E 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 wont speed up. After 10 minutes of simultaneous 3DMark05 and Super Pi, the fan did go from the lowest to the middle speed.
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.
With the smaller option 6 cell battery and a powerful new processor, I didnt 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 dont 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 its hard to accidentally touch. The two buttons feel pretty cheap, but respond well.
The E contains the standard array of newer, non-legacy ports. The four USB 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 E lacks the DVI port of its big brother, although the external VGA connection is capable of driving a big 24 LCD with resolution.
Dell Inspiron e left side view (view large image)
Right side view of e (view large image)
Dell Inspiron e back side view (view large image)
Dell Inspiron e front side view (view large image)
The Dell wireless g 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 dont need full-fledged windows.
On the desktop and system tray there is a fair amount of annoyware junk that many people wont 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.
The Dell Inspiron e 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 its 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. Its also very sharp and high resolution. This, along with the nice keyboard, makes for a positive ergonomic experience.
- 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
- 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 e is available from Dell.com and price varies depending on configuration. You can also buy the Inspiron from the Dell business site which is virtually the same as the e
Dell Inspiron E Notebook Computer (Core 2 Duo T GHz/GB/2GB) review: Dell Inspiron E Notebook Computer (Core 2 Duo T GHz/GB/2GB)
Our Windows Vista-based Inspiron E review unit costs $1, for a competitive mix of the latest components, including a GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T processor, 2GB of fast MHz RAM, a discrete ATI Mobility Radeon X graphics card with MB of dedicated memory, and a GB hard drive spinning at a fast 7,rpm. That's a pretty strong setup that we'd expect to perform really well, but it appears that the new operating system dragged the Inspiron E down on several of CNET Labs' performance benchmarks. On all but one test, the Inspiron E lagged behind a Dell Latitude ATG D running Windows XP on an arguably lesser configuration (the same processor but less RAM, a slower hard drive, and integrated graphics). The Inspiron E did come out on top on our Photoshop test, most likely because of its ample allotment of RAM. Benchmarks aside, the laptop did not feel at all sluggish during our anecdotal use, when we performed basic tasks, such as checking e-mail, listening to music, and performing a quick system scan with Windows Defender. We think most home users will find the Vista-based Inspiron E to have enough oomph for their everyday computing needs, provided they aren't heavy multitaskers.
The Vista-based Inspiron E's battery ran out of juice at the 2-hour, minute mark of our DVD battery-drain test. That's not bad for a laptop that isn't particularly portable, although the smaller battery on the inch MacBook Pro (which includes a slower hard drive) lasted almost half an hour longer. The Dell Latitude ATG D, with a smaller screen and less-power-hungry components, outlasted the Inspiron E by 1 hour, 21 minutes.
Find out more about how we test Windows notebooks.
Apple MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo inch
OS X ; Core 2 Duo GHz; 3,MB DDR2 SDRAM MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon x MB; GB Hitachi HTSJ9SA00 5,rpm
Dell Inspiron E
Windows Vista Home Premium; GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T; 2,MB DDR2 SDRAM MHz; MB ATI Mobility Radeon x; GB Hitachi 7,rpm SATA/
Dell Latitude ATG D
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T; 1,MB DDR2 SDRAM MHz; MB Mobile Intel GM Express; 80GB Toshiba 4,rpm ATA/
Windows XP Media Center Edition; GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T; 1,MB DDR2 SDRAM MHz; MB Mobile Intel GM Express; 80GB Hitachi HTSG9SA00 7,rpm SATA/
Lenovo ThinkPad T60p
Windows Vista Business Edition; GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T; 2,MB DDR2 SDRAM MHz; MB ATI Mobility FireGL V; GB Hitachi 7,rpm SATA/
If you're on the hunt for a notebook that offers multimedia functionality without the usual multimedia premium, the Dell E (or the inch E)may be just what you're looking for. This notebook's dual-layer DVD burner, playback controls, and Windows XP Media Center OS make it a highly attractive, feature-rich package for students or cash-strapped professionals.
Weighing in at a relatively hefty pounds and measuring inches thick, the E sports a roomy full-sized keyboard that makes prolonged typing comfortable. Air vents flank the left and right sides of the chassis for keeping the machine cool during extended use. The large touchpad with built-in horizontal and vertical scroll areas make navigating Web pages a breeze. Beneath the touchpad, embedded in the bezel, are DVD/CD controls that illuminate when pressed.
The inch UltraSharp widescreen display delivered strong colors when watching DVDs, even from a variety of angles. The speakers, which are located on either side of the playback controls, produced surprisingly good sound, even though the bass was a bit weak. This configuration has an 80GB hard drive for storing your digital music collection, along with gobs of photos and videos.
Powered by a GHz Intel Core Duo processor, the E turned in a MobileMark score of , which is decent but a bit below average for a mainstream notebook. However, the CPU managed well under multitasking pressure; we performed two system-taxing activities-watching a DVD while running a virus scan-and the Dell breezed through our test.
The ATI Mobility Radeon X graphics included in this configuration flexes more muscle than Intel's integrated graphics, but not much more. This system notched a respectable 3DMark03 score of 2, and managed to run F.E.A.R. at 80 fps using the autodetect settings ( x pixel resolution). However, when we bumped the resolution up to x , the frame rate dropped to an unplayable 7 fps.
Also included in this configuration is a nine-cell battery, which lasted a very good 5 hours and 4 minutes with Wi-Fi on and an additional three minutes with the wireless connection off. We got a healthy average throughput of 12 Mbps from 15 feet and Mbps from If you want to add mobile broadband capability, you're limited to Dell's expensive EV-DO Express Card, since this notebook doesn't have a PC Card slot.
Preinstalled software includes Corel Photo Center and Windows Digital Media Enhancements, which includes Windows Party Mode, a full-screen skin that transforms your computer into a jukebox. Dell MediaDirect allows users to access movies, music, photos, and video without needing to boot into Windows. If you want a TV tuner to complete the multimedia experience, you'll need to fork over an additional $, which also gets you a remote control.
Connectivity options abound: four USB ports, S-Video, FireWire, a 5-in-1 media card reader, and a VGA connection are available for attaching peripherals. The E also features optional Bluetooth ($49) for syncing with certain phones and for pairing a wireless headset with the notebook for making Skype calls.
Although the design is starting to show its age, the Dell E is a solid investment for those looking for a dual-core system that knows how to have some fun.
Don't miss our Top Ten Back to School Notebooks
Update:Dell Inspiron E (dual-core)
Dell Inspiron E Specs
|CPU||GHz Intel Core Duo T processor|
|Card Slots||card reader, ExpressCard|
|Graphics Card||ATI Mobility Radeon X|
|Hard Drive Size||80GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||5,rpm|
|Operating System||MS Windows XP Media Center|
|Optical Drive||DVD+R DL|
|Optical Drive Speed||8X|
|Ports (excluding USB)||S-Video, Modem, Microphone, Headphone, Firewire, Ethernet, VGA|
|RAM Upgradable to||2GB|
|Size||14 x x|
|Warranty/Support||One year limited warranty/mail-in service, hardware warranty support|
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